Greg Jarvis is the director of football operations at Mill Creek, where he works for his younger brother, Hawks head football coach Shannon Jarvis.
Greg Jarvis, 45, is director of football operations at Mill Creek High School, where his younger brother Shannon is the head football coach. The Elbert County native has coached and taught at Mill Creek since the school opened.
Jarvis also taught at Commerce High from 1993-2004, earning 2004 Teacher of the Year and 1999 and 2001 STAR Teacher awards. He and his wife Lauren have two children, 6-year-old son Jaxson and daughter Jaycie, who will be 2 on Sept. 1.
In this installment of “Getting to Know…”, sports editor Will Hammock talks with Jarvis about growing up in Bowman, Mill Creek football and his love of Jackie Robinson (and the Black Eyed Peas).
WH: Your family has a history in education, right?
GJ: We grew up in Bowman, which is a little bit like Mayberry (from the “Andy Griffith Show”). Both of our parents are educators. Our brother John is principal of the middle school in Elberton. We’ve got education in our blood forever. I don’t think any of us could do anything differently. We enjoy being around kids. All three of us. … It’s just fun being around kids. I don’t understand teachers who do nothing but complain about kids. If you’re a teacher, you’re going to be around kids. If you don’t like kids, go do something else. They’re fun to me. I enjoy being around them, even when they get on my nerves.
WH: How did you get to Mill Creek with Shannon?
GJ: I was coaching girls basketball at Commerce and we had just come in from a road trip. It was 10 and if he was calling that late, I knew something was up. He told me he got the head football coaching job here. I told him I didn’t know he had applied. He said he didn’t, either. Coach (T.) McFerrin recommended him and (former Mill Creek principal) Dr. (Jim) Markham called him in. … He asked me if I’d be interested in doing something for him here at Mill Creek that really didn’t require on the field coaching. I told him we could talk about it. He knew that I did a lot of film work with Coach (Steve) Savage at Commerce and did a lot of background work like printing up programs, coaching middle school and JV. They kept me away from the varsity (laughs). I dealt with the managers a lot on Friday nights and set up the field. Shannon knew that was where I was comfortable and he said he needed an equipment guy for 200 players. Since then it’s grown into filming, handling the film crew, I used to deal with recruiting. Basically when he needs something done, he forwards the email to me. I deal with the press a lot, set up the press box on Friday nights. I coordinate a lot of things behind the scenes doing things that he doesn’t have time to do.
WH: It’s not a glory job, huh?
GJ: Nor does it need to be. It’s stuff that needs to get done. It may be fixing a locker in the varsity locker room or hanging a picture or fixing shoulder pads. It’s nit-picky stuff that he doesn’t have time to deal with and the assistant coaches don’t have time to deal with. Anything I can do to take a load off of them. With what they have to do with film, meetings, practices, they don’t have time to worry about putting up uniforms. I do that stuff so they can do what they do.
WH: What’s it like to see this place grow from Day 1 to right now?
GJ: Physically we haven’t grown, but seeing things like the baseball field. Doug Jones keeps that thing immaculate. The Braves would be lucky to play on that thing. The fence at the softball field. The things we do every year. Instead of getting a year older, we look a year newer. Every coach in this athletic department, all the teachers and administrators take so much pride in this school as a whole. If you walk around the school, it looks like it’s not a year old. Just because everyone takes such pride in it. … Watching us grow in the student body, the athletic and academic programs beginning to have success. The fine arts at this school, those kids are unbelievable. The paintings, the sculptures, the concerts, the plays. It’s unbelievable the tallent in this school. It’s humbling to be a part of. It’s like, ‘Do I really belong here?’
WH: Have you taught here the whole time since it opened?
GJ: I’ve been a special education teacher pretty much my whole career in some form or fashion. Everything from self-contained to being a co-teacher in the classroom. … I love working with special-needs kids. I always have. I was local coordinator for Special Olympics in Jackson County for four or five years along with Chuck Cook from Jefferson. We’d go to the state games in Atlanta at Emory and have a ball with those kids. I encourage all my kids if they can to get involved with Best Buddies and Special Olympics because they’re such great programs.
WH: How proud of you as an older brother of what Shannon has done here with the football program?
GJ: Shannon and John, too. I’m so proud of those knot-heads. I’m so proud of what both of them have accomplished. John is a principal and Shannon is not only a football coach, he’s a great teacher. He’s been nominated for teacher of the year here. He’s not one to say anything about it, but he’s a heck of a math teacher. He got those genes from Daddy. I couldn’t add two and two and four. He is a really good math teacher. Anybody who has observed him will tell you that. One of his regrets about being the head football coach here is it’s cut into the amount of time he can be in the classroom because this is an overwhelming job at a school this size. As coaches, your success comes in the kind of kids you produce. We had two playing preseason (NFL) games this past weekend and had pretty good games. That was kind of a big deal for us. Norcross and other places, they’re used to that stuff. To us, that’s a big deal. It was exciting to see a couple of kids in the NFL from our school who we watched grow up. But we’re just as proud of our kids who joined the military. We’re just as proud of our kids who have done other things in life. That’s what Shannon takes pride in more than anything.
WH: What was it like to grow up in Bowman? What did you do for fun?
GJ: That’s a question my wife and my son have asked me a few times, too. What did y’all do here? There’s not a Walmart for 20 miles. Really, we played ball. When I was 12, we moved literally into the middle of a cow pasture. We moved the house onto some property my parents owned. We would play ball. One of us pitched, one of us hit, one of us was in the outfield. We would sit the stereo speaker in the window of my bedroom and turn the Braves game as loud as we could get it. We would play ball and listen to the Braves all summer. In the winter, we played basketball on a basketball goal. All we did was play ball all the time. Living in Bowman, we weren’t near the rec department so we played ball with each other. We used to love for Daddy to bail the hay. That would be the outfield wall and we would practice catching home runs over that hay. We didn’t have cable then. We had three channels. As soon as we all moved out, they got the Dish Network. I remember us turning the antenna and just barely getting TBS. You could see a little bit of what was happening in the snow. I still remember Shannon with an aluminum bat picking up pieces of gravel and hitting gravel. That’s what we did for fun. Picking up pieces of gravel and hitting it (laughs). Shannon and John have always loved hunting and fishing. That’s boring to me. I’d rather read a book. My 6-year-old is into fishing now. I’ve got to fish about every weekend. I don’t like it, but if he wants to go, we go.
WH: Were your parents into sports?
GJ: My dad never did like sports. He grew up on a farm in Canton, very poor. He’d hunt and fish, swim in the lake, but he never got into sports. Mama, she loved baseball and football. We got our love for sports from Mama more than Daddy. Now Daddy will be at every game, always has been. He’s going to be playing with the grandkids now. He isn’t paying a lick of attention to the game. But he’s at the game. Growing up, he would volunteer to be the administrator in charge at ball games because he knew we wanted to go. He’d drive us to Braves games. He’d drive us to Georgia games to usher when we were in the Boy Scouts. He didn’t care to go, but he knew we did. On Father’s Day, I told him I’m getting my payback. He had to go to all ball games for me and now I have to fish with Jaxson. I think it’s all working out. … They’re still coming here. They’re always here on Friday nights for games supporting us. We’ve had the best parents ever. Nobody’s had better. They’ve always been supportive of everything we’ve done and they tanned our hide when we needed it.
WH: Tell me an embarrassing Shannon Jarvis story.
GJ: I’m not going to do that. I’ve got some, but I’m not going to do that (laughs). He would kill me. Both John and Shannon, I couldn’t have had better brothers growing up. We had so much fun. I feel sorry for some kids today who don’t have that.
WH: What are your favorite books?
GJ: Mostly history books. I donated about 400 books to the Commerce library this summer just to clean out some room. The Civil War. The Kennedy assassination. I’ve been fascinated by that for years. I like mysteries. I love crime drama on TV, like “Castle” or “Major Crimes.” I can’t do reality TV. First of all, if there’s a camera, it’s not reality. It’s like professional wrestling for today’s generation. If you think that’s real, you’re nuts.
WH: If you could have dinner with four historical figures, who would they be?
GJ: George Washington. Abraham Lincoln. Probably Bobby Kennedy. And then Jackie Robinson. I know that’s the weird one, but I love Jackie Robinson. He’s the most underrated American figure in history. If you ask anybody about Jackie Robinson, and I ask my kids this, they’ll tell you he broke the color barrier in baseball. Did you know before Rosa Parks he didn’t give up his seat on the bus and got arrested and court martialed by the Army? Did you know after baseball he was very active in the civil rights movement, was opening businesses in Harlem and financing them through banks? He was doing things other than baseball. Calling for management to start hiring African-Americans as managers, coaches and general managers. I wish people knew more about Jackie Robinson than they do. If you focus on baseball, in my opinion, you’ve missed the story. It’s the stuff before and after baseball that makes him an American hero. Not the fact that he could hit a baseball. I love Jackie Robinson. I would love to meet him. Of all the people I’ve met, meeting Hank Aaron was a thrill to me. He’s in the same vein as Jackie Robinson. He hit home runs but they don’t know the rest of the story. They don’t know the things he did before and after baseball to push for civil rights and equality under the law, not just in baseball but in society. The things he does to help the poor have baseball fields in their neighborhoods. Sometimes we get so caught up with what they do on the field, we don’t see what they do off the field.
WH: What kind of music are you into?
GJ: I like all kinds of music. Right now, I’m listening to Bob Segar. I listen to Jimmy Buffett, which is really weird. I don’t drink and I don’t party, but I love Jimmy Buffett. I don’t know why. Don Williams, an old country singer, I love him. I’ve seen him many times in concert. I love jazz, Chuck Mangione and Miles Davis. I just can’t get into hip-hop and rap. I’ve tried. I do like the Black Eyed Peas a little bit. I can’t do hip-hop and rap. I can’t understand them. And when I do, it’s a word I don’t like to use, so I have a hard time with that.
WH: Do you see yourself at Mill Creek for a long time?
GJ: I’ve very happy. I’m very content. I will be here, I hope, as long as Shannon is here. If Shannon ever does anything different, that may change the whole picture. That’s not in my hands. It’s in the hands of someone more powerful than me. If you had asked me if I would ever leave Commerce, I would have said no. But things happen. That’s in the hands of the Almighty, not in my hands. I just go wherever He sends me. If he’s willing and Shannon stays on here, I’ll stay on here. As of right now, I don’t see me going anywhere soon. With a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, I’m not retiring any time soon.