SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - Walk into Washington County coach Rick Tomberlin's office and take a step back into history.
Pictures of former players and current big-name coaches fill one wall, plaques and awards blanket another. Plastered to the outside of his window are 27 business cards from coaches at colleges including Georgia, Florida State, Auburn, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Alabama.
They're not there to impress you . They just show that in Tomberlin's 10 years with the Golden Hawks, he's turned this small-town school into a college-football-player-producing factory.
"When Jesse Miller and Terrence Edwards signed (with Georgia), these players were young kids," Tomberlin said. "It's natural to put yourself in their shoes. When these guys see other guys sign, they think they have a chance too."
In the past decade, 56 Golden Hawks have signed scholarships. Three of them play in the NFL: Robert Edwards for the Patriots, Takeo Spikes for the Bengals and Chris Edwards for the Raiders. Terrence Edwards could be the fourth after his senior season for the Bulldogs.
Not bad for a county of 10,000 people that sits an hour away from Augusta and Macon and two from Atlanta.
"We're off the beaten path," said Tomberlin, who won 104 games in his first nine seasons at Washington County - a state record. "When college coaches come here, we have to roll out the red carpet."
He does it by catering to a coach's thirst for knowledge. His recruiting packets are stuffed with statistics, report cards, transcripts, rosters, game-day programs and film.
The coaches come back because they've realized football in Washington County is fast becoming one of the state's powerhouses..
"When you think of high school football in Georgia, you think of Parkview and Lincoln County," Tomberlin said. "We'd like to be mentioned in the same breath."
"I don't think we're there yet," senior linebacker Ray Moon said. "Other teams have had their stature a lot longer. But the more we stay on top, the more we'll end up with that stature, too."
Former Golden Hawks stars keep an eye on the program's development. Terrence Edwards is a frequent visitor at Washington County home games, and Spikes - who was also a star at Auburn - worked out with the team this summer.
"You look up in the stands, and you see the guys that used to play here come back," senior kicker Clem McDavid said. "That really says a lot."
McDavid, though, wants to stop the talking. The Golden Hawks finished second in the state in 1992 and won state championships in '94, '96 and '97. They haven't been back to a final since.
"Last year's senior class was the first class that didn't play for a state championship since Coach T got here," McDavid said. "We don't want to be the second class."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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