Long before I first set foot in The McDuffie Mirror office, I read about the proud Thomson High School football tradition. Even a casual observer would have paused at the momentous transition in progress. As a newsman, my thoughts took a parallel path.
Even then, I thought, "I pity the fellow who follows in those footsteps, who takes that coaching job next. His first five interviews will be more about his predecessor than about his own record or goals."
And so I had a good laugh at my own expense after I covered a Feb. 7 school board meeting. Indeed, the first question I ever posed to coach Milan Turner was about how it felt to succeed the legendary Luther Welsh. Coach Turner didn't miss a beat.
"You don't replace a coach Welsh," Turner said. "He leaves a legacy that will stand."
Being a master of preparation and strategy, it is altogether likely that Turner had anticipated my necessary but predictable question.
Being a master of tact, Turner let me think I had asked a brilliant and surprising question.
There is a point to that long introduction, and it is not about me. If I had asked something too obvious, Turner had put the focus back on the message instead of on my lapse in judgment.
The point is that we do not have to worry about how Turner will handle a challenge. We have seen that coach Turner at work many times in the intervening months. He has walked into a top-notch program and has kicked it up a notch.
He has taken his religion-based message to local civic clubs and churches. He has deflected credit back to the athletes and the community.
Turner found his most effective voice Monday night.
Even in a fellowship of common goals, there can be a divergence of strategy. Speaking to the Thomson athletic boosters club meeting, Turner put the focus squarely on the source of unity.
He said whatever challenge or question he faces, his strategy is to "go to the Word."
"I'm very excited about the support the booster club has shown Thomson athletics," said the gridiron coach, who is also the athletic director.
"Everybody should have a right to be heard," he said. "Honor God. Honor one another," he said of his philosophy.
Turner said it's all about the young athletes.
"We love these kids," he said. "They don't get abused and berated. But they do get worked hard and face high expectations."
"They care about each other," he said.
He said the program brings out the best qualities of the athletes. "They care about each other," he said.
"If we're not here for the kids, we should lock the door and go home," he said.
He then gave key dates from the football calendar. For instance, at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Greenbrier High School, Thomson will field two of the 12 teams in a 7-on-7 scrimmage. As he has done at the school and at Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, Turner will share a message for the entire crowd.
"Mr. Newspaper Person, you need to put this in the paper," said boosters member Billy Rogers. "You need to be there next week at Greenbrier because you'll hear this man preach a sermon."
If that's the case, no one will be left feeling that they were the target of a sermon. They will feel that they have shared in a discussion.
They will leave knowing that Thomson football is focused on kids, not on who gets the credit.
They will leave confident that we do not have to worry about how Milan Turner will handle a challenge.