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Remembering coach Don Hendrix

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Todd Pike didn’t get many words of praise from his beloved high-school football coach, but when they came, it meant the world to him.

“He wasn’t going to compliment you. He wasn’t going to hug on you,” Pike said on Saturday afternoon during a memorial service for his football coach at Hogansville High, Don Hendrix. “I could probably remember five times coach Hendrix complimented me, but I can tell you every one of them because they all meant something. He rode us because he knew it would make us better, and it did.”

The service was held at Hendrix Stadium in Hogansville, with those who knew the coach best on hand to share their thoughts about a man who won 156 games during his 23 seasons as the football coach of the Greenwave.

Many of those wins came at a stadium that now bears his name, and he guided and impacted hundreds and perhaps even thousands of young people not only through football, but as a coach in a number of other sports as well.

Hendrix had a 153-93-2 record as Hogansville’s football coach from 1965 to 1987, and he also had a successful tenure as basketball coach that included an appearance in the state-championship game.

After stepping aside as a coach, Hendrix became the Hogansville athletics director, and he continued in that position until the school closed in the spring of 1996.

Hendrix was the athletics director at Callaway High through the 1997-1998 school year   before retiring, putting an end to a 33-year tenure as a coach, teacher, and administrator at Hogansville or Callaway.

“I’ve talked to so many people over the years, former players, former coaches, that worked alongside him,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head football coach since 2005. “The same words keep being echoed year after year, whether it be 16 years ago or just the week. Words like anchor, foundation, and rock. Those are the kind of words that people use to describe coach Don Hendrix.”

Wiggins added that “nobody knows the number of people he influenced. Nobody knows the number of people he impacted, that used athletics to get through situations, that used athletics to make them better, that used athletics to make themselves better, to make their families better.”

Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s head baseball coach and defensive coordinator in football, knows it wasn’t easy playing for coach Hendrix, but he has no doubt that helped the players he led.

“I know talking to some guys who played for him, it was tough,” said Hubbard, who graduated from Hogansville High in 1994. “He was always tough. But I guarantee there are things those guys took away now in their lives when things get tough, the mental toughness he taught them helps them somewhere along the line. I know coach affected a lot of lives.”

One of those players who was impacted by Hendrix is his son, Kevin Hendrix, who basically grew up at the stadium that would later be named after his father.

“We lived right up on the hill, and you could see the field,” Kevin Hendrix said, pointing in the direction of the house his family used to live in. “I had at least 15 years of living on this field, and in the winter, it was girls’ basketball. I got to meet 15 years’ worth of people that played for the Green Wave. All the people here were our parents.”

Hendrix appreciates the lessons he learned from his father, and he still applies those lessons to his life today.

“He always told me, if I have to think about something, you’re trying to convince yourself that it’s OK, and it’s not,” Hendrix said. “I just kind of keep things simple, and I went by that. Even though he wasn’t with me, he was there, so he really kept me out of a lot of trouble.”

Kevin Hendrix also expressed his admiration for Cassie Hendrix, who married his father nearly 20 years ago.

“I want to thank Cassie for being with dad 16 years,” Kevin Hendrix said. “They had a great time, and when dad got sick, she took care of dad. He is a lucky, lucky man to have someone like Cassie take care of him.”

One of Don Hendrix’s coaching peers at Hogansville was Albert Gilliam, and he’s grateful for the friendship the two shared.

“He was not only a mentor, but he was also a great friend, and in retirement, we three, coach (Sonny) Cummings, coach Hendrix and myself, we would hook up at Callaway Stadium on Friday night to root on what we called the second Greenwave team, the Callaway Cavaliers,”     Gilliam said. “I miss coach Hendrix, and enjoyed seeing him over the years.”

Charles Jetmore also coached at Hogansville and was a close friend of Hendrix’s, and he’s thankful for that relationship, as well the time he spent in the community before leaving to take over the football program at Mount Zion in Carrollton.

“You would think two bull-headed guys couldn’t make it right here. Wrong,” Jetmore said, his powerful voice echoing off the concrete bleachers at Hendrix Stadium. “We not only made it, but we became fast friends. I know Don is not here physically, but I’m telling you, Don is here.”

As for Hogansville, Jetmore said “if it had not been for this city, and Don Hendrix, and these men, I don’t know what would have happened to me. So yeah, Don inspired you, Don inspired me, but I’m telling you folks, you inspired me also. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of his life, and thank you so much for letting me be a part of Don Hendrix’s life.”

Dusty Hubbard, who graduated from Hogansville High and has now been a coach at Callaway High for 15 years, said he learned a lot about loyalty and dedication from Hendrix.

“I remember playing here, and coach Hendrix was the (athletics director), and I remember every week he was out here cutting grass. He was out here lining off the field,” Hubbard said. “This was the end of his career. He didn’t have to do that. But it meant a lot to him. The pride of what he did was immense, and his players knew that.”

Hubbard also knows how much Hogansville meant to Hendrix, who grew up in Manchester and graduated from the University of Georgia and had a three-year stint as a coach at Washington-Wilkes before making his home in Troup County 55 years ago.

“Coach never ran from here. He was loyal to it,” Hubbard said. “And I know he had plenty of opportunities to go other places, but he stayed here, because he loved it here.”