Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Mill Creek's Josh Lovelady is the offensive coordinator for the Hawks' football team and the assistant track and field coach.
Josh Lovelady, 38, is offensive coordinator of Mill Creek's football team and also coaches in the Hawks' track and field program.
The 1991 South Gwinnett grad, who played four years of football as a lineman at West Georgia, has coached at Mill Creek since the school opened in 2004 after working previously at his alma mater, South, and East Coweta.
Lovelady and his wife Shannan Mitchem Lovelady, a star softball player at Florida State and with the Silver Bullets women's professional baseball team, have two children, 4-year-old Reese and 2-year-old Cole. Their third child, a boy, is due in October.
In this installment of "Getting to Know...", Lovelady talks with sports editor Will Hammock about West Georgia's coaching pipeline, his wife's superior athletic ability and gardening.
WH: What's it like coaching in your home county? Is it more fun for you being a Gwinnett guy?
JL: Yes, it is. It's fun. The relationships you have in coaching, the people who come back here to coach from all over the county. I have buddies who I went to high school and college with that are at various schools in the county. Right now we've probably got four or five kids here at Mill Creek in our youth program that have a dad I went to high school with at South Gwinnett. That's kind of cool.
WH: What kind of player were you in high school? Would you have liked to coach you?
JL: Yeah, I would say probably so. I was the typical high school lineman, 6-1, 240, 250 pounds. I wasn't huge. I probably coach the same way I was coached by Steve Wilkerson back in the day. You try to play at a level bigger than what you physically are, because of your mentality. That's what I try to tell my kids. That's why I can coach it. I had to play it, too. I had to play bigger than I was.
WH: You played college ball with Gwinnett head football coaches (Archer's) Andy Dyer and (South Gwinnett's) John Small, right? Any others people I would know?
JL: John Small, Dyer. Murry Bell over at Brookwood. Brent Tisdale the AD at Grayson. Chad Rogers who's on our staff at Mill Creek. Brian Lane, the offensive line coach at Archer with Dyer. There's at least five or six guys just in Gwinnett County that I played with at West Georgia. We counted it up, the four-year stint we were at West Georgia, we have 25 to 30 guys who are teaching and coaching football now.
WH: Was it something about your coaches that made all of you want to coach?
JL: I think it was that and I think a lot of where West Georgia was at that time, you had a lot of kids that loved the game and had a passion for the game. A lot of them were guys that may not be the typical offensive lineman or the typical DB or whatever, but played with a lot of passion that allowed them to play the game and go to school. Now they're giving back to the game and teaching. They had great teachers and great coaches that allowed them to play at the next level, so they said I love the opportunities that football gave me and now I'm going to pay it back.
WH: Out of those Gwinnett guys, who were the studs at West Georgia? Who were the best players?
JL: That's a tough question now. Oh boy. They all had their strengths. Dyer was the scrappiest and probably still is, the most competitive. Laner, Brian Lane, was just country strong. You didn't want to lock up with him. John Small was probably the best pure athlete of the group. He was tall. He could run. He could block. He played tight end but he probably could have played five positions. Murry Bell, I'd say he was the smartest. He was very intelligent. Having a dad who was a 30-year defensive coordinator in college, he grew up around it. He was very intelligent.
WH: I thought you were going to say you.
JL: Oh no (laughing). Don't toot the horn. That's what gets you in trouble.
WH: You're not even the best athlete in your own family.
JL: No, I'm not. I kid around that I hope my kids turn out to be like their mama, my son and my daughter. If they can be the athlete my wife is, that would be great. I'm the ball retriever right now. Throwing a football or throwing a baseball or hitting, I'm the guy who's retrieving the balls and my wife is the instructor.
WH: Do you catch a lot of grief for having such a good athlete for a wife?
JL: Yeah, the term 'I outpunted my coverage' is used quite a bit. I respect that and I appreciate that. Not only the athlete, but she's a beautiful woman who's very, very strong. To be a coach's wife in these times, I couldn't do it without her support and have a family. She does a lot. And with the amount of time we as football coaches in Gwinnett County have to do, and in track, it's a lot. You've got to have support at home. It's not a 9-to-5 job. It's not what we do.
WH: What is she like as a mom?
JL: She's great. She always wanted to be a mom. She loves every day of it. From the most stressful to the best. She does better than I ever would. It's like Superwoman. She has patience when a lot of times it's tough. She loves being a mom and she's great at doing it. A lot of times she's by herself, but she's great.
WH: She's not teaching or coaching anymore, right?
JL: She's a full-time mom. She thought about coming back and came to Mill Creek with us and when Reese was born with Down syndrome, she was going to have a lot of therapies and things like that to keep the developmental delays to a minimum. We just said we're not going to put that in someone else's court. I was supportive if she wanted to work, because some people need that and need to be around adults. She doesn't get much adult interaction but she does great with staying at home. She loves it. I think she'll go back. She misses the coaching. In fact, she's going down to Columbus to do a softball clinic 51/2 months pregnant in July. She still has a passion for the game and if she can fit in things around our schedule, she will.
WH: You were both coaching at South when you two started dating?
JL: It was interesting. We kept it pretty quiet. I was dating someone else at the time and we were just friends. She was like, 'Do you know where to get some coffee around here?' I was just at the right place at the right time to help her. When you get into a new, big school, you need help. I was like, if you need this done, see this person. If you need copies, do this. Here's this form. She felt comfortable asking me questions and we became real good friends. I decided this is somebody -- I broke up with the girl I was dating obviously -- I wanted to spend time with. I had to trick her, let's go to the park with our dogs and throw the Frisbee. I had to sneak it into a date mentality because she vowed she'd never date a colleague. She didn't want any drama in the workplace.
WH: You stumbled right into it.
JL: (Laughing) I hit her at a weak moment I guess. Softball was the fall so we were both tired.
WH: Do you want to be a head coach one day?
JL: I would love to be a head coach one day. But as I've grown, I've been doing it 15 years now, I'm not as gung ho about having to be a head coach. I want to be in a place where I'm happy and my family can be happy. If I can be happy being an assistant, that's fine. Right now, I'm very happy here working for Coach (Shannon) Jarvis, Mr. Markham and Gary Long. I'm not out shopping. I don't need to be a head coach to feel happy. That used to be the goal. Now it's not. With Coach Jarvis, I have a lot of say in what we do and how we do it. We have a good place here. Now I have a family and where you're teaching and where your kids will go to school is very important. If the right situation comes along, I'd love to be a head coach. But I'm happy where I'm at now.
WH: What do you do in your spare time outside of school?
JL: You're probably going to laugh, but I like to garden. I don't golf because it's too expensive to go pay and get mad. I'm too competitive. All my buddies, guys like Dyer, are naturally good at golf. I go out there once or twice a year and they beat the heck out of me and rib me and I get mad. What little time I have at home, it's good to be happy in the backyard gardening. The other day my son was picking blueberries and my wife was taking pictures. He'd eat one, put one in the bucket, eat one, put one in the bucket. He had blueberry and blackberry juice all over his white T-shirt. He's old enough to say, 'What is that? That's zucchini squash.' It's something I like doing and a good stress reliever. That and doing yard work fills up my downtime.
WH: We're talking tomatoes and squash, right? Not roses?
JL: No, no, no. I'll do some planting but the main gardening I do is pickles, tomatoes, zucchinis, muscadines, blackberries, blueberries, that kind of thing.
WH: What's your specialty?
JL: Probably my pickles. I like to can pickles. Kind of like how people give a box of fudge at Christmas, I'll give a jar of pickles. That kind of matches my personality. I'm not the sweetest guy. My players will tell you that.
WH: What kind of music are you into?
JL: Probably classic. Right now it's 750, 680 AM, listening to the news. It's tough with the children to catch up on news. It's always Shrek and Mickey Mouse Club. You can't watch the news with them. They don't want to watch it and what's on the news, I don't want them watching. No offense to you, but a lot of times it's this person getting stabbed or shot. I don't want my kids hearing that.
WH: You still read the Gwinnett Daily Post though.
JL: Oh yeah, I subscribe all the way in Walton. I get it every day. I even read the front page, not just the sports.
WH: How long do you see yourself doing this? Is this a life for you until retirement? You love what you're doing, right?
JL: I truly love getting up every morning. If I ever lose that, it isn't worth it. But now, even after 15 years, I love it. Sometimes it hurts now. After a week of camp to get up in the morning. But I still really enjoy the teaching, the relationships with the people and the coaching, the X's and the O's. The relationships with kids, like the (A.J.) Ruechel kid, seeing a kid who is one day going to be a good husband and a good dad because of what he's doing now. Hopefully I'm just a little tool in the toolbox who's helping him out and tweaking him like an engine to be that good person later on in life.