John Barnett's prep football coaching career has spanned more than 25 years.
The defensive coordinator of the Thomson High School Bulldogs said it's a game he's loved since he was a little boy.
Games played in The Brickyard and elsewhere are forever etched in his memory.
It's actually somewhat poetic for a man who seemingly forgets little, if anything.
"He's got one of the greatest memories of anybody I've ever seen," said Luther Welsh, who serves as football head coach and athletic director at Thomson High School. "I always tell everybody that needs to know something about the past to go see John. If he can't remember it, then it probably didn't happen."
This supposedly is his last year coaching football. He plans to retire at the end of this season. His new job is helping his wife, Kim, raise their infant daughter, Callie Ann. The latter is a job he already has undertaken. A year ago, he retired as a classroom teacher and now babysits his daughter while Mrs. Barnett teaches school during the day.
During a recent interview at the Barnett home in Belle Meade subdivision, coach Barnett talked openly about his life as a football coach and what the future possibly holds.
As he did so, he held Callie Ann in his lap, while the family dog, a poodle named Jax, stood guard and entertained.
Every once in a while, little Callie Ann stretched out her feet and bopped her Daddy in the chin.
With a laugh, coach Barnett remarked, "The baby is the only one who can kick me in the chin and get away with it."
No matter how busy he is elsewhere, coach Barnett always seems to find time to help players, assistant coaches and promote Thomson High School on special radio broadcasts, etc.
For several years, he also served as the golf coach for the Lady Bulldogs.
"There's no doubt about it, John loves Thomson High School," said coach Welsh. "He believes in these kids and our program with everything inside him."
Coach Barnett said that last year he worked harder as a coach than he ever had before.
It was a year many, including several players, would just as soon forget about. The Bulldogs won only two games.
"We had a brutal schedule last year," recalled coach Barnett. "It was the most trying year I've ever had as a coach."
This year, the Bulldogs have turned their season around, now that they are back playing in a sub-region that consists of several area Augusta schools, as opposed to schools south of Thomson.
During his time at Thomson High School, coach Barnett has helped the Bulldogs to three state championships -- two of those in Class AAA and the last one coming in 2002 when the Bulldogs captured the Class AAAA state title. He also has helped Bulldog football teams through the years win 13 region championships.
"Obviously those are great memories," said coach Barnett.
There also were two teams he felt deserved a better fate than they got.
One of those teams was the 1990 team, which went 11-1 -- their only loss coming at the hands of Cairo in the state playoffs. The other team was the 1999 team, which compiled a record of 9-2 and won the region championship in his first year back as defensive coordinator following an absence of six years when Butch Jacobs was head coach. He returned to coaching when coach Welsh came back to Thomson High School the second time.
"That was a special group of kids," said coach Barnett. "They bought into the intensity and physical work of playing football. We had very few problems with those kids."
Coach Barnett, who began his teaching and coaching career at Wrens High School, still remembers meeting Larry Campbell for the first time and some of his longtime assistant coaches. Coach Campbell is the head mentor at Lincoln County High School.
"I remember trying to change defenses to keep Lincoln County off-balance when they played Wrens in a game many years ago," said coach Barnett.
At the end of the game, coach Barnett said Clifton Goolsby, an assistant coach for the Red Devils back then, complimented him for his defensive schemes.
"It was like someone offered me a million dollars," said coach Barnett. "I felt very flattered that a Lincoln County coach would compliment me."
Coach Barnett prides himself in saying, "I've never put a team out on the field without them being as best prepared as I could make them, even if it didn't look like it to those watching the game sometimes."
Through the years, coach Barnett has spent countless hours talking with players, encouraging them to work harder in the classroom and on the football field.
"I've had a lot of home visits with kids, trying to get them back on track," said coach Barnett.
During his many years as a football coach, he's learned much, including the fact that kids have changed a lot.
"I just try to go out there and be proactive with them," said coach Barnett. "I tell them up front what I expect from them and hope they get it. If not, we keep working the drill until we get it right. That's the way coach Welsh likes it and that's the way I like it."