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Remembering a Legend

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Weymen Gray Sellers was larger than life. The former high school football coach died on Jan. 6, but not before touching and influencing the lives of those who crossed his path. Like all teachers, much of Sellers' work came in the classroom, but it was on the gridiron where many of his lessons were taught as he turned boys into young men through playing the sport of football.

Along the way, Sellers carved out a successful coaching career, compiling a 250-112-7 record and making stops at four different high schools in 39 years as a head coach.

His impressive coaching resume included two state titles, a state runner up and eight region crowns.

It didn't go unrecognized. Last year, he was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Sellers spent his career preparing his team for contests on Friday, but also for the game of life once their football days were behind them.

One of his head coaching destinations was at Jonesboro High School where he patrolled the Tara Stadium sidelines from 1973-81.

Along the way he coached two all-state players at Jonesboro in defensive tackle Francis Cabrel in 1975 and defensive back Scott Woerner in 1976.

Woerner went on to play on the 1980 national championship team at Georgia and later had stints in the USFL and NFL.

"The best thing he did for me was make me believe in myself," Woerner said. "He told me if I listened to him, he would make me into a good football player."

Last year, Woerner help inducted his former high school coach into the GACA Hall of Fame in Dalton.

His only question was why did it take so long?

Woerner played in Georgia's defensive backfield, but was a quarterback in high school. He can still recall the unique offense Sellers' teams ran.

"We would run a play, get up and quickly get back to the line of scrimmage and run the next play," Woerner remembers. "I can still see him getting mad at the refs for not marking the ball quick enough so we could run the next play."

Sellers expected one thing out of his players.

"He demanded discipline and expected each of us to give it our all," former Jonesboro football player and now Atlanta businessman Kenny Stapleton said.

After leaving Jonesboro, Sellers made two more head coaching stops--Pebblebrook and Lithia Springs.

He hung up his head coaching hat in 1986, but he wasn't done with football just yet.

In later years, his shared his knowledge of the game with new generations of football players, serving as an assistant coach at Eagle's Landing High School, first for former ELHS coach Tony Fellows, and then serving on the staffs of Bob Stinchcomb and Joe Teknipp.

Fellows served as a pallbearer at Sellers memorial service earlier this month. Another former coach Don Tyre also served as a pallbearer.

Tyre was an assistant at Jonesboro and later served as head coach at Metter, Berrien, Jefferson, Southeast Bulloch and Sandy Creek.

Others at Eagle's Landing High School also have fond memories of the former coach.

"By the time I got to meet Mr. Sellers, he was in his 80s and was in better shape than 99 percent of the 30 year olds I have met. Mr. Sellers was a high school State Champion, UGA Football standout, drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1949, Georgia Hall of Fame Player and Coach. He served Eagle's Landing High School and the state of Georgia well; he was and always will be a one of a kind individual," Eagle's Landing principal Gabe Crerie said in an e-mail to the Henry Daily Herald.

Some say Sellers hard-noised style of coaching was picked up from playing for legendary Georgia coach Wally Butts back in the 1940s. Sellers was a captain on Butts' UGA teams.

"He had a really great football career at Georgia, he played in the Rose Bowl but you would never have known it, because he didn't brag about it," Woerner said. "I had to read and hear about it once I got there."

Sellers career path could have taken a different direction. At one time, Sellers was a pilot, flying crop dusters. A crash that killed his best friend, changed the direction of his life for good.

After that, Sellers traded his airplane for a whistle and coaching attire, as his outfit of choice became shorts and a t-shirt.

For men like Steve Hughes, Sellers' influence can still be felt decades after he has played his last game for Jonesboro.

"He's one of the reason I decided to go to college and stay involved in athletics," said Hughes.

These days, Hughes can be found walking the halls of Kendrick Middle School where he serves as its principal, but some of his best high school memories come straight from the football field and playing for Sellers.

"He was an intimidating man," Hughes said. "He had a nickname for everybody."

Practices weren't always fun at Jonesboro, but as Hughes recalled, Sellers found away to get the best out of his players, sometimes that included Saturday morning practices.

"If we didn't play well on Friday, we had to be back at school to practice on Saturday morning, and you better not be late," Steven Hughes remembered.

Stapleton has taken some of what he learned from Sellers when it comes to coaching his own son's 11-year old football team.

"You have to be disciplined and work hard to be at your best. That's what I try and teach my son's football team," Stapleton said. "That's what I learned from coach Sellers."

Stapleton remembers one time what happened when he missed an assignment as the Cardinals were trying to block an extra point. As he was walking off the field, he saw Sellers running over to him with a furious look on his face.

"He just gave me heck for that," Stapleton remembered. "Working hard in every aspect of the game was important to him, and he expected us to be almost perfect in every aspect of the game."

Before becoming a principal, Hughes taught school and coached high school football, serving as an the defensive coordinator at Lovejoy where his brother Al Hughes is the school's head coach.

According to Steven Hughes, there was one thing that could be said about those Cardinal teams of the mid 1970s: "We were going to be in great shape, better shape than anybody else."

It started with a weight program, somewhat of a new concept for high school football teams in that era.

Once during Steven Hughes playing days, Jonesboro got off to a 6-0 start, including a win over a fourth-ranked Newnan team.

The former Cardinal is convinced it's because he and his teammates were in such great shape.

Sellers was still a believer in lifting weights until the day he died.

Jonesboro's most successful season under Sellers came in 1975 when it went 7-3. The Cardinals former coach also had 6-4 seasons in 1974, 76 and 79.

The long-time football coach came to Jonesboro after a successful stay at Athens High School (now Clarke Central) where he tutored perhaps his most famous player-- NFLHall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

Tarkenton went on to a successful career at the University of Georgia before heading to the NFL where he played in three Super Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings.

Tarkenton passed for 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns during his Hall of Fame career.

Since retiring from the game, he has also had a successful business and television career.

He still gives Sellers credit for helping him turn into one of the all-time great pro quarterbacks.

"He taught me the fundamentals of playing quarterback, the techniques that stood up the rest of my career," Tarkenton said in an obituary that ran in the Jan 8 edition of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald.

Stapleton remembers meeting Tarkenton recently at a business function, and the two sharing stories about playing for Coach Sellers. The agreed that Sellers still had a large influence on their lives.

Seller also helped others catch the coaching bug.

Current Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes was hired by Sellers right out of college at Jacksonville State.

"He is my mentor. "He gave me my start, and only fired me two or three times a week back then," Al Hughes joked. "He has forgotten more football than most people will ever know."

Al Hughes has served as head coach at both Jonesboro and Lovejoy, and owns a a 82-78 record. This past season his Lovejoy Wildcats won a region title and went 10-1.

He has been told by many that his coaching style seems to reminded them of Sellers.

"I tried to the same things he did when I first got the head coaching job at Jonesboro, and I have been told some of my sayings are like his, but he did things his own way and you really couldn't copy it. He was a special man."

He also gained plenty of respect from his coaching peers.

Bob Brannon, who recently retired as the Athletic Director of the Clayton County School system, remembers the first time he crossed paths with the veteran coach. It was 1973, and both had just arrived at Jonesboro High School. Sellers as the football coach, Brannon the boys basketball coach.

"We got to Jonesboro the same time," Brannon said and I think the football team went like 0-10 that year, but at the banquet he handled it just like they had won the region title. He praised his players, and talked about the good things they did. Later, we went 1-22 in basketball, so at our banquet, I did the same thing as Weymen."

Those who knew him won't soon forget him.

"It's been a lot of years since high school, but I have some wonderful memories," Woerner said. "He was a unique individual. He was demanding and he taught us to play one way--all out."