Shiloh's Robert Matthews, 27, is preparing for his third season as head football coach of the Generals. A 1996 Duluth grad, Matthews was a walk-on on the Georgia football team for three seasons before becoming an assistant with Oconee County. From there he coached at Camden County and North Gwinnett before taking over the Shiloh program in 2003. His wife, Laura, is currently an assistant coach on the UGA women's golf team and is an accomplished amateur golfer - she was named All-SEC four times while at Georgia and finished second in the Canadian Ladies Amateur four times as well.
Recently staff writer Corey Clark talked to Matthews about a wide range of topics - from the disappointment of last year's 2-8 season to the humbling experience of getting beat repeatedly on the golf course by his wife.
CC: How frustrating was last season for you?
RM: Last year was frustrating because our record didn't really reflect what kind of team we had. I felt bad for the kids and for the assistant coaches because we were so close. Unfortunately, moral victories don't count in the standings.
CC: What's the best advice you've ever been given?
RM: One of the best things I've ever been given was from Phil Jones. He's the head coach at Shorter now, but he was my position coach at Georgia. He told me that you can't let anything be your existence. You can't let the game of football be your only existence. Just because you're a football coach that doesn't make you who you are as a person. While the game of football is really important and we work really hard, you've got to put God first and family second.
CC: Did you ever get to play in a game at Georgia?
RM: No. I served as a backup for three years as a walk-on long snapper. It was a good experience, but I graduated in three years and I got on with Jeff Herron at Oconee County.
CC: Was it tough to practice all that time and not ever get to play in a game?
RM: I think it was a test of persistence and a test of character. But guys do it every day. There are thousands of walk-ons across the country that are in the same situation. I used it as an opportunity. I was around the best athletes in the country, and I would do my best to compete with them every day. It taught me a lot about who I am as a person and the game of football.
CC: So who was the best athlete on those Georgia teams?
RM: Champ Bailey. Hands down. He was phenomenal to watch. He played the game at a different level than most people did.
CC: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
RM: My granddad. Talk about a rags-to-riches story. He joined the army when he was 16, back in the 30s. He came from poverty in Chicago to basically building a real estate company that he still runs today. He raised five kids on his own. He's a true inspiration to what hard work really is. And it tells you, if you think you've got it bad, look at where other people come from. His story is incredible, it really is. I'm just lucky some of those characteristics rubbed off on me.
CC: Even though you're a coach for another county team now, do you still root for Duluth?
RM: I think anybody that takes a sport seriously always wants to see his alma mater do well. I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into (that school) when I was there and I take great pride in where I came from. I'd like to see Duluth do well, and I'm proud to say I'm from Duluth. It's still a great community with a lot of great people.
CC: Even Jennifer Wilbanks?
RM: (Laughs.) Well, she's from Hall County. She's from Hall.
CC: What was it like for a Gwinnett kid to live in Camden County?
RM: It was football, teaching school and that's about it. But you can adapt to being anywhere. And the best part of Camden County is I was around really great people, on a great coaching staff.
And the best thing Camden County did for me, I was dating my girlfriend, whose now my wife, and she was finishing school at Georgia. So we spent a year apart and after getting through that you kind of knew she was going to be the one. It helped our relationship and made us both realize that we wanted to marry each other. So it was good in the long run.
CC: What's the closest you've come to beating your wife at golf?
RM: Not very close. It's a humbling experience playing golf with my wife. Not that I'm very good. I was a lot better before I became a head football coach back a couple of years ago. But I played nine holes once and came within three shots of her. Still, she's much better than I am.
CC: Do you try to rattle her at all when she's standing over a putt?
RM: No, she'd give me the death stare. I leave her alone. It's not like playing with the
CC: Since you play golf with her, does she ever get out there and play football with you?
RM: No, we never really play something I can beat her at. I get made fun of all the time. My best friend always tells me, "I will never get beat at any sport by my wife." He gives me a hard time about it, but there's nothing really I can say. I take it in stride.
CC: Who is the best high school football player you've ever seen?
RM: Timmy Smith. We were in high school at the same time. He played two years at Central Gwinnett and I played against him in rec ball in the seventh and eighth grade. He was amazing. People that saw Herschel Walker play in high school and saw Timmy play have a lot of comparisons between the two. Unfortunately he wasn't able to make it. He would've been one of the all-time greats to come out of Gwinnett.
CC: You played linebacker for Duluth, did you ever tackle him?
RM: Like I said, he was pretty good. Not too many people tackled that guy.
CC: What's your favorite movie of all time?
CC: Now a Newlywed Game question, what is your wife's favorite movie?
RM: Hmm, I don't know. I really don't know. Maybe she doesn't have one.
CC: What was the first concert you attended?
RM: I went to the Beach Boys when I was really young when they played at Six Flags. I fell asleep. I assume my parents and sister had a good time, but I fell asleep.
CC: OK, what was the first concert you wanted to go to?
RM: I think I went and saw Randy Travis when I was in the eighth grade in Hiawasee, at the Georgia Fairgrounds or whatever that place is. That was the first concert of meaning.
CC: Should Michael Jackson be walking around a free man?
RM: I didn't get to see the evidence.
CC: Did you ever learn to moonwalk when you were a kid?
RM: I never moonwalked. I guess we did a little breakdancing in elementary school. Back in the mid-'80s.
CC: If you could relive one day from your life, what would it be?
RM: I would give anything to play one more high school football game. I really would.
"Getting to know..." is a weekly feature that runs on Fridays throughout the summer.