The Brickyard has been home to many legendary football players over the years, but on Aug. 20, only the second jersey in Thomson history will be retired. Interestingly enough, the number 44 will be retired for a second time.
Green Bay Packer and Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket standout Eddie Lee Ivery got his start running for touchdowns and long gains for the Bulldogs on Friday nights. And in honor of his accomplishments at THS and beyond, his jersey will be laid aside -- once again.
Eddie Lee Ivery speaks at the 16th Annual Steak & Burger Dinner at the ASU Athletic Complex on March 24, 2003.
Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/Morris News Service
"He was a great running back here at Thomson. He was a great running back at Georgia Tech, and he was a great running back for the Green Bay Packers," said Thomson Coach Luther Welsh.
"He was a determined individual. ... Most people wouldn't go back and play after he got hurt, and they told him he couldn't play anymore," Coach Welsh said. "But he showed them he could, and he did it. I thought being from here he was deserving of it."
No. 44 has been retired once in a ceremony after Mr. Ivery wore it. He shared the high school number of another football great, National High School Sports and College Football Hall of Famer and former Oakland Raider Punter Ray Guy. Mr. Guy agreed to allow his number to be retired again in honor of Mr. Ivery.
"That was two outstanding people that wore that number," Coach Welsh said.
Prior to all the fanfare, there will be a reception at the Boys and Girls Club of Thomson from 5 to 6 p.m. The ceremony will take place at 6:30, prior to the Bulldogs' season opening game against Elbert County. Thomson Mayor Bob Knox will be present to declare Aug. 20, 2004 as Eddie Lee Ivery day in Thomson.
"It's truly an honor and a pleasure to have the high school that you graduated from to recognize you with such a great honor," Mr. Ivery said. "That's what makes it even more special, being able to wear a number that Ray Guy wore. For him to OK it, I would certainly like to thank him. I'm at a loss for words."
Reaction to the retirement of Mr. Ivery's high school jersey has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We're so proud of Eddie Lee, with all the problems that he's overcome and all the good things that he is doing now," said Ralph Starling, color commentator for WTHO's THS football coverage, in a release from the Georgia Tech Sports Information Office. "Every opportunity that he gets, he comes back to Thomson and speaks to the Boys and Girls Club. He has a tremendous message for young people."
Mr. Ivery graduated from THS in 1975 and played for Georgia Tech from 1975-78. During his Yellow Jacket career, he rushed for 3,517 yards, which is still third in the school's history.
He rushed for 356 yards against Air Force during his senior season at Georgia Tech to set an NCAA single-game rushing record that stood until 1984. Mr. Ivery still has the Georgia Tech single season record with 1,562 yards during the 1978 season in which he earned second-team all-America honors.
After leaving Georgia Tech, Mr. Ivery entered the NFL draft in 1979 where the Green Bay Packers picked him in the first round. He then spent a decade in the NFL, and in 72 career games with the Packers he rushed 667 times for 2,933 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. He also caught 162 passes for 1,612 yards and seven touchdowns.
In 1980, Mr. Ivery led the Packers in rushing with 831 yards. He also led Green Bay in rushing during the 1982 and 1985 seasons. And those team-leading seasons came after debilitating knee injuries.
"There are three Ds that I live by, that's desire, determination and discipline," Mr. Ivery said. "That was one of those things I had to incorporate in my career when I was at Green Bay because after my first year in Green Bay, I had knee surgery. There was a lot of talk about that I would never be the same running back again."
Ivery smiles after scoring a touchdown during the 2003 Legends game at the Brickyard.
Photo by Jason B. Smith
Even with those stats and two comebacks attached to his name, it was his time in Thomson that his Bulldog teammates look back on with fondness.
"Eddie Lee Ivery is without a doubt one of the best athletes to ever play at THS," said former teammate and current THS Defensive Coordinator John Barnett. "He had good speed and power, but what I remember most was his amazing balance.ŬIf he had been the beneficiary of a better offensive line, I can say that because I was one of them, he would have gained 3000 yards instead of 1710 his senior year."
It was Mr. Ivery's accomplishments on the field at the Brickyard that he feels are the reason for the retirement of his jersey, not his accomplishments at Georgia Tech or Green Bay. So when he was added to the mural on Railroad Street by THS assistant coach and local artist Alvin Wright, Mr. Ivery chose to be painted wearing his Thomson jersey.
"I felt that I would like to be put up there in a Thomson Bulldog uniform, and it is a great picture," said Mr. Ivery, who currently serves as a strength and conditioning coach for the Georgia Tech football team.
But this Thomson legend isn't simply satisfied with the weight room. Football is in his blood. He longs to be back on the practice field and on the sidelines once again.
"That's truly a goal and a dream of mine, to get back into coaching," he said. "Right now I'm just going through the process. I'm trying to be patient and wait on God's time."