HAMMOCK: Big year for Hinton, alma mater

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Heath Hinton, up early for Georgia Tech's finals anyway, knew his first mission was finding a newspaper.

That was in December 1996, before everyone walked around with Internet in their hands. Nobody texted scores directly to cellphones. Most college kids didn't even have cellphones.

So Hinton searched for a newspaper and eventually found the good news -- his alma mater, Brookwood, had whipped home-standing Valdosta 45-24. The Broncos became Gwinnett County Public School's first football state champions, putting Hinton in a pretty good mood as he studied for finals that day.

"That was a great feeling then and now it is even better to be a part of them," Hinton said this week.

Them being the key word there.

Hinton has enjoyed his share of success since returning to teach and coach at Brookwood, but nothing like this year. Back in December, he was an assistant coach on the football team that won the Broncos' first state title since 1996. Just a few weeks ago, he led Brookwood's boys tennis team to its sixth state championship, but its first since 2000.

He's personally had a part in two of the state championships that have helped the school's athletic program lock up the Class AAAAA Directors' Cup for overall excellence in the postseason.

"Not knowing either team was good enough to win it all at the beginning and watching them improve and gain confidence was special," Hinton said. "Gradually watching them become the group that just knew they were going to win. ... Being able to add to the great history of Brookwood athletics was big. We've already printed new T-shirts for tennis with 2011 added for girls and boys region titles and the boys state championship.

"I always wanted to add to that great list of 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000 for tennis and 1996 for football."

Hinton played football, tennis and soccer at Brookwood, where he graduated in 1992 along with former Bronco basketball coach Craig Witmer and yours truly. The boys tennis team won state his junior year of high school but didn't win a football title when he was a student -- in fact, the football team missed the playoffs with an 8-2 record his senior year.

This year's double marks the second time Brookwood has won football and boys tennis in the same year (matching the 1996-97 school year), but it's sweeter this time for Hinton, an alum, to have a part in both.

"It was fun, knowing from the beginning that both teams were composed of only the best kids who were fun to work with," Hinton said. "And the former players were excited about seeing our current team take the program to the next level."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.