It took 20-plus years, but Chris Kirkpatrick eventually found his way back to Georgia.
Kirkpatrick, a native of Cochran, has been named the new athletic and activities director at Duluth, which saw its athletic department undergo a complete overhaul since the 2012-13 school year ended. The Wildcats have 12 new varsity head coaches for this school year, though those positions were filled by Principal Anthony Smith and outgoing AD Bill Navas.
The man leading the new staff will be Kirkpatrick, a 39-year-old who also will coach the quarterbacks on Duluth’s varsity football team and will be the school’s head girls track coach. He was previously the athletic director at Bishop McNamara High in Kankakee, Ill.
“I interviewed four or five years ago for the head football coaching job (at Duluth), so I know Gwinnett County and I know Duluth has a proud history,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s an exciting time to be at a school like Duluth. There’s change, new people coming in, and there’s a great energy and a great vibe at Duluth.”
Kirkpatrick graduated in 1992 from Bleckley County, where he played high school football his senior season for Dennis Roland, who had success locally at both North Gwinnett and Central Gwinnett. Though his family still calls Georgia home, Kirkpatrick hasn’t lived in his home state since he left for college.
He played four seasons of football at Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), then stayed in that state for his education career up to this point.
After college, Kirkpatrick spent five years as assistant athletic director and football coach at Bishop McNamara. He followed that up with a 10-year stint as head football coach and dean of students at St. Viator High in Arlington Heights, Ill., before a return to Bishop McNamara last year as AD.
The opportunity at Duluth was too appealing to pass up, partly because it brought him home to Georgia. Though his wife, Julie, is from Illinois, her brother lives in Suwanee and one of her sisters lives in Hoover, Ala.
“It’s very exciting to be back down here,” Kirkpatrick said. “When I left (for college), I didn’t think I would be up there that long. It was a dream of mine to come back down here. One of the happiest moments of my life was when I gave away my snow shovels. It’s definitely a blessing that this opportunity came along.”
In addition to his AD duties, Kirkpatrick is eager for a return to coaching. He will work closely with Duluth’s new head football coach, Jason Conner, for an improving football program in the fall, then will be heading up the girls track program in the spring.
As a head football coach, Kirkpatrick was 48-48 in 10 seasons at St. Viator. His three consecutive playoff appearances from 2004-06 matched the best streak in school history.
“To still be able to coach was nice,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’ll be able to work with the kids more closely and also I’ll be on the frontline with the coaches, going through the same things they do.”
THE KIRKPATRICK FILE
Name: Chris Kirkpatrick
New position: Athletic and activities director, football assistant and head girls track coach at Duluth
Former position: Athletic director at Bishop McNamara Catholic High School (Ill.)
Education: Graduated from Bleckley County High School in 1992; graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)
Background: Was athletic director at Bishop McNamara this past school year; previously was head football coach and dean of students at St. Viator High (Ill.) for 10 years; got his coaching start as offensive coordinator at Bishop McNamara, where he coached five years; played four seasons of college football at Olivet Nazarene; played football as a high school senior for former North Gwinnett and Central Gwinnett head coach Dennis Roland
Family: Wife Julie; daughter Georgia, 3; son C.J., 1, and daughter Kennedy, 1