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Family tradition plays big role in McDuffie County athletics
From the Sidelines

In my 45-plus years of attending, observing and coaching Thomson High athletics, I have seen several examples of how family tradition has contributed to the excellence that we in McDuffie County have come to expect of our sports teams.

I'll never forget a freshman player who came up to me in 1999 and said, "You coached my daddy." Those family connections are important.

While I could cite many examples, the Williamson clan was well represented from the mid-'50s to the early '80s. Four brothers, sons of Woodrow and Merle, donned the black and gold: Jimmy, Larry, David and Tommy all played various sports at THS in the '50s and '60s. In the late '70s and early '80s, Jimmy's sons Wade and Tony were Bulldogs. In fact, Tony, now a local GBI agent, played on two state championship golf teams in 1980 and '82 and quarterbacked the football team as well.

While all of these men were fine athletes, it was the youngest of the four Williamson brothers who really excelled.

Tommy Williamson attended Thomson High School from 1966 to 1970. He was one of the finest athletes ever to play at THS, participating in football, basketball, baseball and golf. He was part of a 53-game winning streak as he quarterbacked the "Bullpups," now known as the JV team, as a ninth-grader.

In fact, he only played in one losing football game during his four years of high school. As a sophomore, he contributed to the first state championship in football in 1967 and followed that with another in 1968. As a senior in 1969, he not only played quarterback and defensive back, but also took over all the punting and placekicking duties. In the South Georgia Championship game, which we lost that year to Fitzgerald, he had two touchdowns on punt returns called back for penalties, ending a 36-game win streak for the Bulldogs.

For his efforts, Tommy was named Class A Back of the Year and first team all-state by The Atlanta Constitution and represented Thomson in the high school All-Star football game.

He went on to play football and baseball at Newberry College where, according to its 2010 Football Media Guide, he still is in the top 10 in many statistical categories from his career, which spanned 1970-73.

He still ranks seventh all time in scoring with 193 points, eighth in passing yards with 2,723, and ninth in total offense with 3,377 yards.

He scored 13 rushing touchdowns, passed for 17 more and kicked extra points and field goals. It's been a while since a college team at any level has had a position player who also kicked.

In 1973, his senior year, he was named to the NAIA District 6 All-Star team and Honorable Mention Lutheran All-American. I wish Tommy, one of my boyhood heroes, had returned to Thomson to live, but business opportunities took him elsewhere. You see, his son Blake went on to play quarterback at the University of South Carolina. The Thomson Bulldogs could have used another Williamson.

John Barnett has played, observed and coached Thomson athletics for 45 years. Contact him at

Web posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011

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