EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part interview with longtime Thomson High School defensive coordinator John Barnett. The second part of his story will appear in next week's edition. In the second part of his story, he talks about life after he retires from coaching football and some of his fondest memories.
John Barnett's life couldn't be better.
He's a husband, father and grandfather. And on top of it, he and his wife, Kim, have a 5-month-old daughter, Callie Ann.
These days, coach Barnett, who serves as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator of the Thomson High Bulldogs, is just as busy as he was before he retired as a classroom history teacher at his alma mater last year.
"You could say my days are just as busy, if not more so at certain times, than they were when I was still teaching," said coach Barnett during a recent in-depth interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "I still start the day out early and don't end until it's late."
Such is especially true when it's football season.
"You could say my life is about changing diapers and thinking about defensive schemes when I have the time," laughed coach Barnett.
During the weekdays, coach Barnett takes care of Callie Ann, while Mrs. Barnett goes to work as a teacher at Thomson High School.
"I may not being going to work at a regular job somewhere, but I assure you that taking care of a baby is a job," said coach Barnett. "But I'm going to be honest about it, I love it. She's a little angel. I wouldn't trade going back to the classroom for what I'm doing now for anything."
Coach Barnett, a 1975 graduate of Thomson High, is in his 21st year serving as defensive coordinator. He has served in that capacity in the two stints that Luther Welsh has served as football head coach and athletic director.
"It's been a real pleasure working under a man as knowledgeable as coach Welsh is about football," said coach Barnett. "I've learned so much from him about the game. Coach Welsh has a heart as big as a basketball. I've always tried to make myself invaluable to him since I've known him."
Through the years, both men have become close friends.
"He's (Barnett) been my right hand man for years," said coach Welsh. "I don't know what in the world I'd do without John. He's a great coach and a great friend of mine, too."
Coach Welsh, who announced before this football season started that it would be his last one, said he would miss his almost day-to-day relationship with coach Barnett when he retires.
Speaking of retirement, coach Barnett plans to go out with coach Welsh.
"I've always said that when coach (Welsh) stepped down that I would do the same thing," said coach Barnett. "That's still my plan."
But what about the possibly of coach Barnett taking over the reigns from coach Welsh when he departs?
That's a question that coach Barnett simply answers by saying he has not given it much thought.
"I try never to close any doors, because you just never know what the future holds," said coach Barnett. "I've not had anybody ask me to consider it."
Some say it's too early to start thinking about who might replace coach Welsh. But one thing seems certain, coach Barnett's name is likely to surface as one of the logical choices.
"If someone asks me, then I'd think about it," said coach Barnett. "But right now no one has asked me."