Staff Photo: John Bohn Charles Edwards is the defensive coordinator at Greater Atlanta Christian.
Charles Edwards is the defensive coordinator for Greater Atlanta Christian. The Florida native is in his third year on the Spartans staff after spending the rest of his coaching career in his home state.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with the father and grandfather about choosing to be a lifelong assistant coach, playing football at Vanderbilt and coaching wide receiver and his baby sitter, Chipper Jones.
BB: What brought you up from Florida?
CE: This is my third year. This was an opportunity that was afforded to me by a friend of mine, Tim Cokely, the previous head coach here. Based on that opportunity, I came and stayed two years with him and when coach (Tim) Hardy came in he asked me to be defensive coordinator and it was a great opportunity so I decided to stay.
BB: So you wanted to stay? I guess you may have been interviewing him as much as he was you?
CE: I was very interested in the new coach they were going to hire. I kind of knew of (Hardy) because my best friend here on campus is (former GAC head football coach and current running backs coach) Jimmy Chupp and Jimmy hired Tim Hardy when he was over at Mountain View.
BB: Now you've coached at some big schools, Bolles and Trinity in Florida. Did you ever consider being a head coach?
CE: I've never wanted to be a head coach. I have seen what goes into it. It takes you away from your family. Just give me my side of the ball and let me deal with it. Always defense.
BB: You've won seven state titles in your career, does any one stand out over another? The first one?
CE: I don't remember any of them more. I remember the one we lost more so than any one. Bartow beat us 14-13 and we were ranked No. 1 in the nation so if we had won the state championship that year we would have been the mythical national champions for football. So I remember that game.
Our quarterback got his leg broken the first series and we ended up not playing well and losing 14-13.
BB: Well, with seven state titles, any big-name guys you coached?
CE: Believe it or not, I coached Chipper Jones. Me and Chipper have gotten reunited since I've been back here. Chipper played wide receiver when he was at Bolles.
BB: Was he a good wide receiver?
CE: Great wide receiver.
BB: Did you try to keep him playing football?
CE: No. When he showed up and he could hit on both sides of the plate and his dad was telling us how much baseball was going to be his future. He played in junior year and I think his senior year he decided not to (play football).
BB: So he didn't big-time his old high school coach?
CE: He was actually my oldest daughters' baby sitter. Bolles had a dormitory and my wife and I lived in the dormitory and Chipper lived right down the hall from us. We took (older daughter Terah) about three weeks ago and we took her to a game and we went to see him after the game. We waited for him and he hung out with her and gave her a hug and a kiss and signed some autographs for her so she could take them to her job and brag about it.
BB: Good baby sitter?
CE: Great baby sitter. He was very good. He wanted to get out of his room by himself.
BB: Was leaving Florida difficult?
CE: No it wasn't hard, because I am from Florida but my wife is from Nashville so we talked about when the opportunity came we wanted to find somewhere in the middle. It's been great; five hours from Jacksonville, four hours from Nashville, so it's a win-win.
BB: How did you decide on Vanderbilt as a school to play football?
CE: The name: Vanderbilt. That was my opportunity. Growing up in Jacksonville, I knew athletics were going to have to be my way out, to find an opportunity to afford an education. So that is what I did. I put my life and soul into finding a way out and being as good as I could be athletically and I was pretty good as a wide receiver. Vanderbilt showed up, wanted me, committed to me early and I stayed faithful to them. I had opportunities later to go to Florida, Kentucky, Auburn and places like that but it just felt like Vanderbilt was the first one there and showed me interest when nobody else did.
BB: Was it a good fit?
CE: It was tough, academically. I wasn't as prepared as I wanted to be, so for four years (of classes) it took me four and a-half years to get it done. It was tough academically. Game-wise, I won four games in four years. We were 1-10 all four years. It made my appreciation for winning even greater because I know how much I hate losing.
BB: And you met your wife there?
CE: No sir, I met her doing my student teaching.
BB: So it was after college?
CE: It was during my last semester, you know when you go out and do your student teaching that last semester. She was sitting there and she had on some jeans that were unbelievable. Believe it or not, I was physically attracted to her at first. I went up and tapped her on he shoulder and I said, 'Guess what, I'm going to be your husband.' She looked at me like I was crazy, 30 years later she is still my wife.
I had on that Vanderbilt letter jacket hoping that would make an impact. I hope it didn't hurt, but we hadn't won a game in so long.
BB: You said you call her E.T. Is that from the movie?
CE: He name is Elaine Townsend so I started calling her that way before the movie. When we are out in public and I call her E.T. now it's natural that everybody is going to look around.
BB: Did you take her to see the movie when it came out?
CE: (laughs) Oh yeah, we both did and she said, 'You may not be able to call me that anymore.'
BB: If you were doing student teaching at that point, you must have planned to be a teacher from the start?
CE: I did and more so than anything was that my best friend was deaf. That is the reason I went to Vanderbilt, because I wanted to learn sign language so I could communicate with him and that was part of the curriculum. So I got my first degree in special education.
BB: It's interesting to me that you grew up and used athletics as your way out, but here at GAC and Bolles and Trinity, that isn't always the case. These students have more options, what drew you to private schools?
CE: It's different. I always wondered that myself. I thought I might be more suited to be in a public school but for whatever reason, you find a kid like a Kyle Scales, who crave to be at the next level playing, it gives me an opportunity to instill some upon them some of the qualities that I had growing up.