I first met Gen. Dewayne Patrick in the fall of 1974.
It was before a football practice my senior year and I saw what I thought was a stranger in The Brickyard as we waited for drills to begin. I struck up a conversation and came away impressed enough to tell my dad about the man when I got home.
He immediately began to tell me more about the gentleman. I knew his family, but I had no idea of how much this "Old Dog," as I refer to those who, like me, have worn the Black and Gold, had achieved and would achieve in the years before he would retire and resettle in his hometown.
Gen. Patrick, unofficially, holds more varsity letters than any athlete in Thomson High history: 25. That sounds impossible until you understand that eighth-graders were allowed to play varsity sports, because when Dewayne began his high school years, there were still only 11 grades in Georgia public schools. However, a 12th grade was added during his high school years and he played and lettered in five sports for five years: football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track.
Playing for Lyndon "Flash" Gordon, he excelled. As a 145-pound quarterback and single wing tailback, he made all-state in 1952. One of his proudest achievements was making The Augusta Chronicle Basketball Christmas Tournament all-tournament team. This tournament, held at Bell Auditorium, had 24 teams from Georgia and 24 from South Carolina.
He and his doubles partner, Julian Burton, won the state title in tennis in the spring of 1953.
After graduation, Dewayne attended North Georgia College from 1953-57. There, he lettered four years in basketball and baseball, serving as captain of both teams his senior year. As a point guard, he averaged more than 20 points per game. His four-year batting average was .345. He credits, along with Coach Gordon, his college mentor Grant Matherly and his parents as being great influences on his life.
While the general planned on fulfilling his military obligation and using his degree in physical education to become a high school coach, his plans changed. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he and his wife, Pat, found they liked the military life. His stellar career included two combat tours in Vietnam, assistant division commander 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, which he achieved after his promotion to brigadier general. Upon his promotion to major general he served under the secretary of the Army as chief congressional liaison. Then, he became commander of the prestigious 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. Upon his promotion to lieutenant general, he assumed command of the world's only combined field army in Korea. He retired to his hometown after 31 years of military service. He then served as city administrator for 12 years.
When asked how athletics influenced his life, Gen.Patrick is quick to say that it taught him confidence, determination and attention to detail, which can be the difference between success and failure. Athletics taught him to compete for promotions and key military assignments against West Point graduates. He also learned that he had the capacity to lead. For 43 years he led in the military and in his hometown.
Recently, Gen. Patrick was named to the North Georgia College and State University Athletic Hall of Fame. It's been quite a life of achievement for a boy from McDuffie County, Ga. What a life! What an Old Dog!