William “Buck” Godfrey enters his third Hall of Fame as he is inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday (February 24) in Macon after 30 years heading the Southwest DeKalb High School football program.
Godfrey had no thoughts of these Hall of Fame honors (Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame – 2010; and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) Hall of Fame – 2014) let alone having a stadium named for him when he joined the teaching staff at the former Gordon High School in the DeKalb County School District in 1974.
“These Hall of Fame honors were not really a thought to me when I started coaching,” said Godfrey. “I was concerned with developing students and athletes into good citizens. The Hall of Fame thing was something mentioned later in my career, and I am truly humbled. It is a privilege and honor. It also overwhelming to be in a Hall of Fame with the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Mel Blount and David Dupree.”
The Jacket Ceremony is set for Friday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the Barrington Hall Golf Club with induction set for Saturday from 5:30 to 9:00 pm at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon. Godfrey is one of eight to be inducted including Atlanta Braves great Andruw Jones and former Georgia Head Football Coach Mark Richt.
The South Carolina native played football and baseball at Delaware State University before going on to study at Columbia and New York Universities. He served as a football and baseball team captain and would later be inducted into the Delaware State Athletic Hall of Fame.
Once at Gordon High School, Godfrey coached baseball where he went from 5-12 in his first year to 26-4 in his second. He moved to Towers High School in 1976 coaching eighth grade football and swimming.
“I had to learn how to coach swimming at Towers coaching both girls and boys against some of the elite programs in the county and state,” said Godfrey.
He coached Towers to several Top 10 finishes in the state meet before getting the call in 1983 to become the head football coach at Southwest DeKalb.
His career would span 30 years (1983-2012) with a record of 273-89-1 and a 1995 state championship in which his team defeated Parkview 14-7 to finish 14-1. His teams made the playoffs in 27 of his 30 seasons at the helm and never had a losing record in the regular season. His 2002 squad made the state playoffs and lost in the first round to finish 5-6.
“That first thing we had to do was win over the players and the community,” said Godfrey. “They had run the wishbone for years and Eric Jones was my first quarterback. He had to adjust to a different system. All the coaches left except Fred Dawston and Ken Chandler and we had to pull together.”
That first team would go 10-3-1, win the Region 7-4A title and reach the Class 4A state semifinals.
“We beat Redan in the first year and that was a big deal in DeKalb. When we beat Peachtree to reach the state playoffs the community bought in to what we were doing,” said Godfrey.
Godfrey noted he never had being a head football coach as a goal. His dreams included becoming the Middle Heavyweight World Boxing Champion like Sugar Ray Robinson or center fielder for the New York Giants in the footsteps of Willie Mays.
“I owe a lot of people for the success we had at Southwest DeKalb,” said Godfrey. “Cecil Jones at Gordon, Ray Bonner and George Pugh at Columbia and Willie Hunter at Fulton were instrumental in my development. They all allowed me to watch practices and learn how to organize one. Coaches like Eddie Robinson, Joe Gilliam, Bill Curry and Bobby Ross taught me a lot over the years.”
Godfrey is 17th in the state of Georgia with his 273 wins on the gridiron that include 13 region titles, two state finals appearances and seven semifinal appearances. He also earned DeKalb County Coach of the Year honors on five occasions. His state championship team in 1995 broke a string of five consecutive playoff losses by the Panthers to Clark Central.
“I never really thought of myself as a head coach, but all the years of film study and hard work paid off,” said Godfrey. “Tt was like the great spirit was preparing me and I had no idea what was in store for me.”
Now he is being recognized with Georgia greats such as Nick Hyder, Waymon Creel, “T” McFerrin, Robert Davis and Billy Henderson.
Besides just winning games Godfrey wanted his students/athletes to go on to become good citizens and have the foundation to move on after football was over through their education. He had at least 299 football players get the opportunity to get an education through scholarships as well as many of the swimmers he coached along the way at Towers and Southwest DeKalb. Oddly enough his first scholarship player came from baseball in Gordon’s Tony Shanks.
Special teams were an area Godfrey took pride in and the fact that 26 kickers or long snappers from Southwest DeKalb earned scholarships along way is something else he takes pride into this day.
“Getting young people opportunities to make even more of themselves outside of athletics through furthering their education was always a part of my plan,” said Godfrey.
Godfrey retired from coaching in 2012 and 2015 the DeKalb County School District honored him by renaming Panthersville Stadium where he roamed the sidelines for many of his victories in his honor and it is now known as William “Buck” Godfrey Stadium.
The coach with a Masters in English is also an accomplished writer with five books published over the years including “Moods of a Black Man”, “Songs for My Father”, “The Team Nobody Would Play”, “Where the Woodbine Twineth and the Sycamore Ceased to Bloom” and “My Friend Eddie Robinson – An American Legend”.
“Personally I like to think we represented DeKalb County with a stellar program on and off the field,” said Godfrey. “We ran the program the way it should be run.”