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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Four Questions with Upson-Lee statistician/historian Jim Fowler

GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is Jim Fowler, statistician and historian for Upson-Lee football. He has kept stats for Upson High (1974-75), R.E. Lee (1976-1991) and Upson-Lee (1992-present). He wrote a book called "Taking It To the Limit Every Time - A History of R.E. Lee Football - The Cavan Perdue years - 1953-1991."

Jim Fowler, Upson-Lee statistician/historian 

1. Has your method for stats changed over the years? "I still use the old pen-and-paper method and operate in the press box. I was taught this method by local sports editor Charles Gordy and still use it today. I see folks walk into the press box with laptops and iPads to keep stats, but I refuse to give up on my tried-and-true method. I also will not keep stats on the sideline unless I am refused admittance to the press box, which has happened on a few occasions." 

2. Do you have any interesting stories of game-night stat-keeping? "There haven't been very many strange things to happen to me through the years. I did have to go down on the field in a driving rain storm to keep stats in overtime in Upson-Lee's first-ever game against Riverdale. UL won, so it was worth the wet clothes and papers. I also had to climb up a ladder attached to a very small press box at Taylor County one night, and when I got to the roof, I found an 18-by-24-inch overhang that I had to navigate with no rails or any other assistance. I was younger then. I couldn't handle that today. 

"About three seasons ago, I passed out in the press box at Griffin's Memorial Stadium at a Spalding game. The press box had no air conditioner, and the heat was oppressive. I was also not hydrated properly. The EMS folks were super as they carted me down about 30 rows of the stands, and I am not a small guy. The press box now has air conditioning." 

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3. What are some of the most memorable games and/or players you've seen over the years? "I've seen numerous great games over the years. R.E. Lee's 17-16 win over Washington-Wilkes in the 1988 AA state championship game was super. Lee drove the length of the field to win on a field goal in the game's last minute. Lee's 17-16 win over arch-rival Upson High in 1986 was a great game. Lee again managed a long drive to tie the game on a last-play TD pass and kicked the PAT for a dramatic win. A huge 27-20 Upson-Lee win over Colquitt County in the state playoffs in 1993 was also a thriller. 

"I could never mention all of the great players that I have seen in the over 500 high school games where I have kept stats. I remember Willie Gault of Griffin, Michael Hicks of R.E. Lee, Jaquez Green of Peach County, Keith Brooking of East Coweta, Hines Ward of Forest Park, Alvin Toles of Mary Persons, Scott Woerner of Jonesboro, David Marshall of Upson-Lee and many more. I believe that Mike Cavan of R.E. Lee was the best high school player that I ever saw, but he played when I was in high school, not when I was a stat keeper." [Fowler is a 1965 graduate of R.E. Lee.] 

4. Why do you believe you've done this all these years? "Stat-keeping is not an easy job. First of all, you have to attend every game. Then you have to watch every play. You don't have time to go to the concession stand, go to the restroom, or carry on a conversation with friends. Your attention is always directed to the field. I don't know how many more seasons that I have left in me. I threaten to quit every year. I swear that these high schools are adding steps to their stands every year. It just takes longer to get up to the press box. I have visited over 70 different stadiums over the years, all the way from Banks County to Ware County, and add to the list every year. I still enjoy stat-keeping because I enjoy the process and feel that I am contributing to the football team. The coaches don't have to go through the game film and add up all of the stats because I do it for them. I have developed the Upson-Lee stat and records program from the very start, and the kids love knowing where they stand in the UL record books. I have worked with some outstanding coaches like Tommy Perdue, Mike Earwood, Hal Lamb, Mike Majors, Doug Mills, Tommy Parks, and others. Just being a small part of the football program keeps me going after 45 years." 

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