For Dupree, top honor is his players

David Dupree is excited this morning, because he is soaking in everything that comes with a nice haircut and shave: sharp bristles on the back of his neck, the sweet aroma of aftershave, and pleasant conversation.


"This right here is better than winning a game," said Mr. Dupree, who coached football for more than 30 years at Lucy C. Laney High School.

As with many of the tasks that fill Mr. Dupree's days, a former player is attending to the coach. Richard Wilkerson glides a razor across Mr. Dupree's scalp every two weeks, either in his shop beside Murphey Middle School or in the coach's living room.

Mr. Dupree, who from 1949 to 1983 coached either football, track or both at Laney, counts his dentist, pharmacist and barber among the athletes he coached.

"What I enjoy the most is seeing my players become successful," Mr. Dupree said.

The school will honor Mr. Dupree during a halftime ceremony tonight by naming the track and football field inside Laney Stadium for him. Laney plays Screven County at 7:30 p.m.

"He was a builder of men," said Keven Mack, who kept statistics for Mr. Dupree's football teams before becoming an NFL official and Augusta's housing and neighborhood development director.

Mr. Dupree, who turns 85 next week, came to Augusta from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., in 1948 and helped John Tutt start Laney's football team the next year . Mr. Dupree intended to stay one year.

Instead, he retired after the 1983 football season with more than 200 wins, including two state titles in the all-black Georgia Interscholastic Association. Mr. Dupree said he never lost a track meet from 1949 to 1974. He was inducted into the Georgia High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

"I think when you look at what he's accomplished, the record speaks for itself," current Laney football coach Lemuel Lackey said. "It's a deserving honor."

Mr. Dupree has lived in the same house off Old Savannah Road since 1952, when he said the area was a suburb of the city. Although he can't move around as well as the man who once boomed punts more than 50 yards, Mr. Dupree remains active beyond the wild way he moves his hands while telling a story.

Godson Brian Prince drives Mr. Dupree to Tabernacle Baptist Church, Augusta GreenJackets games, Laney athletic events and to watch his wife, Vivian, fish. Mr. Prince's father, William, was one of Mr. Dupree's best friends; the two were in the same Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Mr. Dupree said he has not missed a game at the field that will bear his name. The stadium opened in 2006, and its fieldhouse is already named for Mr. Dupree and Mr. Tutt.

There are times when Mr. Dupree is at that field with a desire to repeat the past: The band is playing, and the crowd is thick.

"My wife says I'm crazy, but I feel all that and think I can still play wide receiver," he said.

A running back and punter growing up, Mr. Dupree's athletic legacy mostly reflects his coaching accomplishments. His pillars were a strong offense and individual fundamentals.

"Different coaches have different philosophies," Mr. Dupree said . "I believed that as long as I got the ball you can't score. And if you couldn't block and tackle, you weren't on my team."

Former players say Mr. Dupree was ahead of his time in off-season conditioning and developing college contacts. He sent players to Southern California (former NFL player Chip Banks) and Maryland Eastern Shore (former NFL player Emerson Boozer). Football players had to participate in track or they couldn't play football.

Those players still recite nuggets Mr. Dupree loved to repeat: Don't grumble and stay; grumble and leave.

"They saw later in life what they learned was not just a football lesson but a life lesson," Brian Prince said .

Mr. Dupree doesn't know where he will watch tonight's game : from high in the stands or from a chair behind one end zone. Former players are expected to swarm him on the field at halftime, beside him once again for an honor they helped create.

"I just had the best players," Mr. Dupree said. "They always wanted to win."

Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or


WHAT: Lucy C. Laney vs. Screven County

WHERE: Laney Stadium

WHEN: 7:30 tonight