Dacula head coach Tommy Jones (left) and Archer head coach Andy Dyer, former teammates at Brookwood, lead each other into a key Region 8-AAAAAA football game Friday.
One of Andy Dyer’s first interactions with Tommy Jones was one of those less fun, more work deals.
Dyer and a few other Brookwood football players were recruited to move Jones, who transferred into the district prior to his sophomore season, and his family into their new homes. Jones’ father, Tom, had joined the Broncos’ football program as a coach and his oldest son came with him.
The year was 1988.
“I remember loading up in Coach Jones’ silver van and helping move him in,” a laughing Dyer said. “I think we moved a piano that day.”
Dyer didn’t mind the work too much. He knew Jones was a big offensive lineman who would be opening holes for him up front the next three seasons.
“We moved a lot of stuff, that’s right,” Jones said. “We moved from Lithonia to Snellville. I remember recruiting four of five of the most dependable guys on the team like Andy. We need your help.”
That was one of the earliest stages of a lifelong friendship between Dyer and Jones, former classmates, football co-captains and baseball teammates at Brookwood 20-plus years ago.
Flash forward to 2013 and both are head football coaches in Gwinnett County. One more interesting twist comes tonight, when Dyer’s Archer Tigers play Jones’ Dacula Falcons in a battle for first place in Region 8-AAAAAA.
It’s a showdown the two knew was coming earlier this year after Jones was hired as Dacula’s head coach.
“It’s weird (to play Jones’ team),” Dyer said. “We’ve talked about it since he took the job. It will be weird for us personally, but obviously just professionally we have to do our job and let the kids settle it out there on the field. … I do hope they have flat tires on their bus and get here really late.”
Jones got a good chuckle from that line, too. The two have traded barbs in person, on the phone and through email over the years, but they’ve also shared plenty of conversations about other topics, serious, fun or otherwise thanks to a relationship they formed back in high school.
Dyer was a sophomore starter at cornerback in 1988, Jones’ first season at Brookwood. Jones was a snapper, special teams player and offensive line reserve that season, and they were two of the very few sophomores called for varsity action that season when the Broncos went 13-2 and lost in the Class AAAA state championship game at Warner Robins.
They went 19-4 over their final two seasons, Dyer running the ball and Jones blocking.
“Andy was a heck of an athlete and a super competitor,” Jones said. “He hated to lose at anything. The same characteristics that made Andy such a good high school player also make him a great coach. He’s extremely passionate. He’s loyal. He’s committed to a cause and the group that’s with him pursuing that cause.”
The two played their share of Brookwood baseball together, too. They won 15 or more games each of their final three baseball seasons, going 16-7 as seniors.
Dyer played the field and pitched, while Jones was one of the biggest catchers around.
“He’s a guy that you wanted on your football team and your baseball team,” Dyer said of Jones. “You knew he didn’t want to lose. When you’ve got a bunch of guys like that, you’ve got a chance. He was the ultimate competitor, a hustler, the epitome of a good football player.
“We had a lot of fun when I was pitching and he was catching in baseball, too. We took our football mentality to the baseball field. Sometimes that didn’t work out real well in baseball. But we were ready to fight somebody at any time (laughs).”
“Yeah, we would have done OK in a fight,” a laughing Jones concurred.
They parted ways for college football, Jones going to Furman and Dyer to West Georgia, but they stayed in touch throughout college and beyond. Eventually, they were in pursuit of the same career in education and coaching.
Jones worked as a graduate assistant at Furman, then two years in a college ministry program, before joining Dacula as an assistant. He got his first head coaching job in 2006 at Lumpkin County. Three years later, Dyer got his first head coaching job at brand-new Archer.
“Over the past six or seven years, I’ve probably talked to Andy increasingly more than even before that,” Jones said. “Both being head coaches and both of us having similar experiences. Being able to relay ideas. It helps to have somebody who knows your thought process and they’ll be able to give you good, solid advice.”
The coaching path for both began back at Brookwood. Jones grew up around it — his father still coaches the Broncos’ offensive line and runs the strength program — and Dyer said being a part of that atmosphere steered him into being a football coach.
Though football is their love, it was baseball that exposed a major interest in coaching.
“Andy and I had a chance to coach a (Brookwood) summer league baseball team together, probably after sophomore or junior year in college,” Jones said. “I think it was pretty apparent when we were doing that, that we were enjoying the heck out of what we were doing and could see ourselves doing that for a career.”
The Brookwood influence still factors heavily into the foundation of Dyer and Jones, even as both coach in a region where the Broncos are their rivals. Dyer said “probably 90 percent of our philosophies are what we were raised on,” an homage to the Broncos’ coaching staff, many of whom still coach there more than 20 years after those two finished their prep careers.
But Dyer and Jones have branched out to other communities for their coaching careers. They’re both doing well this season at 2-0 in region play.
“They’re like my sons and I’m so proud of them,” former Brookwood head football coach Dave Hunter said of Dyer and Jones. “They’re outstanding coaches, but a whole lot better people. I would love for my sons to play for them. That’s about as high a compliment as you can give a guy.
“Dacula and Archer, those two communities, are fortunate to have two men of character and class leading their programs. They care about their kids. I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
The two coaches’ friendship has expanded recently to their families, specifically their 13-year-old daughters. Mary Lyn Dyer and Avery Jones text each other scoring updates during their fathers’ games, though they’ll be on opposite sides of this week’s head-to-head matchup.
“It’s a neat thing that our daughters have gotten to be good friends,” Andy Dyer said. “That’s a cool deal for us. This Friday will be tougher on them than us.”
Not that it won’t be a little odd for the dads, too.
They will meet on the 50-yard line of the football field one more time, not as Brookwood co-captains, but coaches of opposing teams. They enter the game as great friends and they plan to leave that way, regardless of whose team bumps the other out of first place in the region.
“This guy’s been a loyal friend for life,” Jones said. “Last year, going through what we went through with the loss of my mother (Linda), he’s a guy I could count on. He was at the hospital every single day. We talked every day. We cried together. He’s the best friend you could ever ask for.”
DACULA AT ARCHER
Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Tommy Jones
Record: 2-2, 2-0 region
Last week: Beat Grayson 14-7
Archer Tigers (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Andy Dyer
Record: 4-0, 2-0 region
Last week: Beat Parkview 27-7
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Archer won 17-14 last year
Directions to Archer High School: From Ga. Hwy. 316, go east to Ga. 20 and turn right toward Lawrenceville. Continue as Ga. 20 turns into Jackson Street and New Hope Road. School is on the right.