Remembering Chappell Rhino’s estimable Georgia Tech legacy

Randy Rhino was a football star at Georgia Tech who played for Bill Fulcher and Pepper Rodgers. He played as a professional in the CFL for Marv Levy, who was in the midst of a coaching career that led to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But his father Chappell, Rhino said Friday, “was the greatest coach I ever had.” Chappell Rhino, who died Aug. 15 at the age of 88, was demanding, Randy Rhino recalled, “and he didn’t mince words.” His methods in coaching his four sons and their youth sports teammates also were evidently quite effective. All four Rhino brothers played collegiately on scholarship. Randy became the only three-time first-team All-American in Tech history, the middle link in the only family to have three generations to play football for the Jackets.

“He would push us, but push us in a good way,” Randy Rhino told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I can remember him making me run laps at football practice and hating it then, but you know the drill. You’re hating it then, but you look back on it, and it made you a little bit tougher.”

Chappell Rhino was a star athlete himself. A graduate of the Marist School, he played football and baseball at Tech, and was a member of the 1951 and ’52 football teams that were a combined 23-0-1. The latter won a share of the national championship. With an injured knee that limited his speed, Chappell did his greater work for the baseball team, eventually earning a spot in the Tech sports Hall of Fame.

In later years, as he worked for Johnson & Johnson, Rhino coached Randy and his three brothers in youth leagues in football, basketball and baseball, first in Charlotte, N.C., and then in Atlanta. Randy’s brother Danny also played football for Tech. Tim played football at South Carolina and Dave played baseball at Florida State. Had more opportunities been available for Chappell and Julia’s only daughter, Vicky, she might have earned a scholarship as well.

Chappell reared the children on Tech, growing up watching the Jackets and hearing their father’s stories about Bobby Dodd, for whom he played. On the morning of their sons’ games, he woke them up with the Tech fight song.

Boosted by his father’s tutelage, Randy Rhino surpassed his achievements at Tech, and in 2002 was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. He and Danny started one season together in the Jackets secondary.

Chappell’s devotion to his children through sport was such that Randy grew up wanting to be a coach as well. A chiropractor, he has coached football, basketball and baseball at the youth level for years.

“We always said that, myself and my brothers, for us to be good at it, there had to be a ball involved,” Randy Rhino said. “That’s really how much he gave to me as far as learning how to compete and skill level and that kind of thing. I’ve done a lot of youth coaching over at Chastain Park, and the people asked me why I do it. I say, ‘Well, I learned it from my dad.’”

Among those whom Randy coached was his son Kelley, who followed his father and grandfather to Tech, lettering 1999 through 2002. He broke his father’s school records for punt return yardage in a career (1,135, on 112 returns) and in a season (515, in 2001, on 48 returns).

Chappell Rhino is survived by his wife, five children, nine grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. About six months ago, he contracted acute myeloid leukemia, Randy said.

“At 88, there’s not a whole lot of treatment that they can handle,” he said. “It’s just making him comfortable. He lived a great life and was ready to go.”

The influence of a man who administered discipline and tough love, but who could also tear up at the drop of a hat lives on through, among other ways, the coaching lessons that he imparted. Kelley Rhino, who is in commercial real estate, has a 12-year-old son Austin. Like his father and grandfather did growing up, he plays football, basketball and baseball.

Among those who will be coaching him this year are Chappell Rhino’s son and grandson.

The funeral for Chappell Rhino will be held Tuesday at 2 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Toccoa.