Thomson High Head Football Coach Luther Welsh enters the 2005 season tomorrow with 50 years having passed since he entered coaching at Warren County in 1955. Except for a two-year stint in the Army, being involved in high school football as either a head or assistant coach is the only life Coach Welsh has known.
The old saying, "behind every good man is a good woman," rings especially true for Coach Welsh. His wife Anne has been beside him for most of the ride that involves almost 500 games. She estimates that since their marriage, she has only missed 10 or fewer of the games when Coach Welsh was on the sidelines.
"I was not there in Warren County when he started because I was still in elementary school," she responded when I asked her had she been there from the start. She does admit to being married to Coach when he won his first game as head coach at Dougherty High School.
"The only ones I know for sure that I missed is when I was having children," she said. "I know I've had to miss a few others occasionally for various reasons, but not many."
Mrs. Welsh talked about what made it easy to live the life of a football coach's wife that often involves never unpacking the suitcases between stops.
"My mother was very supportive of my father in his business and our family was taught that you did what you had to do without complaint," Mrs. Welsh explained. "As a child mama always said to go with the flow to help daddy. That included understanding that after supper a lot of nights daddy had to go back to work," she added.
I asked Mrs. Welsh for some special or unique memories of her and Coach's years together in football.
"Winning that state championship in 1984 our first year in Thomson is the most special," she said. "Luther was not even the one to tell me officially that we were even coming to Thomson. We had been here to look around on a Sunday afternoon and then THS Principal Bob Smith called me later in the week to be the first to welcome me to Thomson."
Mrs. Welsh had grown accustomed to surprises from their Dougherty days. The Albany school system was under a court-mandated busing plan and Coach Welsh's teams were shuffled like a deck of cards when school started each fall. They were beginning to recognize that they were in a tough situation for maintaining a successful football program.
"Luther had been saying for a couple of years that he had to find somewhere else, but during the 1982 season he seemed to be serious. Our last game was on a Saturday night and he had promised our daughter Lucia we would take her to the car race in Atlanta on Sunday. She was reading the paper that morning before we left when she asked me if I knew daddy had resigned. That's how I found out for sure that he would not be returning to Dougherty High School, from Lucia, out of the newspaper," Mrs. Welsh sighed.
Moving to serve on Robert Davis' staff at Warner Robins in 1983 the Welshes found themselves in football utopia. Coach Davis asked Coach Welsh for a list of equipment he would need and when spring practice started, there it was, completely as requested.
Mrs. Welsh offered that Robert Davis was a godsend to their lives at that time.
"He made sure I found a house on the correct side of Houston Street so we lived in the right school zone," she explained. "The realtors laughed at me for letting him get inside my head like that."
Anne Welsh, I'm sure, can likely remember more specifics of Luther Welsh's career than he can. She agreed by saying that "all Luther thinks about is the last game is over and it's time to win the next one."
Keeping up with the details has helped make her the perfect coach's wife and the perfect first lady of Thomson football. As good of a coach as he is, and as congenial with the community as he is, it would be hard to imagine Luther Welsh without her.