Greater Atlanta Christian grad Tyler Aurandt is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Parkview, his parents’ alma mater. (Staff Photo: Will Hammock)
During the 1975-76 school year, eighth-grade students at Lilburn Middle School shuffled into the gymnasium for an assembly with administrators and coaches and what would become Parkview High School.
These were the students districted for the new school, which was pulling students from the current Berkmar and South Gwinnett districts. The assembly represented the first four-year Parkview class and sitting among the crowd were Kenny Aurandt and Daniele Wheeler.
They wouldn’t meet for another year.
Stunning to both that day, the students were asked to select not just the mascot but the color scheme for their new school.
“It was everybody who had been targeted to go to the new school,” Kenny said. “They said, ‘We are going to let you guys pick out the colors and the mascot.’ It didn’t take long. Everybody came up with Parkview Panthers right away. It was a pretty neat thing to do.”
Daniele’s memory matches.
“(Principal) Bartow Jenkins was a huge cheerleader (of the students), when they decided to let us vote on the colors and the mascot, it made you feel like it was a huge deal,” Daniele said. “It was really neat. It took a lot for them to do that, to ask us.”
The following year while the freshman class went to Trickum Middle School and construction finished on Cole Drive, the two met and eventually started dating. Kenny played football and baseball and Daniele was a member of the drill team, chorus and band. They married while Kenny attended Georgia, living in married student housing before moving back to Gwinnett County. The pair stayed in touch with high school friends, but drifted away from Parkview, sending their children to Greater Atlanta Christian and Daniele worked at GAC as well.
Life and children pulled them to different places, always with Gwinnett County playing anchor. Kenny’s family grew up in the county and Daniele was raised in a family which moved almost every four years. They both valued roots for different reasons.
Not until this spring did the Aurandts’ Gwinnett roots spring up at Parkview again.
Their son, Tyler, a 2002 graduate of GAC and offensive assistant coach at Grayson since 2011, accepted the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach job at Parkview under first-year head coach Eric Godfree. A former player and assistant coach at Valdosta State, Tyler leapt at the Parkview position because it came with the potential to eventually call plays in a spread offense similar to the one run in Valdosta.
“It was an opportunity that (Godfree) was going to give me, at some point, to call plays,” Tyler said. “I felt like for my career that that was a decision that I needed to make because eventually I want to be a head coach. That is the next step to take, up that ladder or in that chain.”
It’s a chance Aurandt may receive faster than he planned. Godfree, who plans to call plays this year for the Panthers (his alma mater), beamed when talking about his coordinator hire.
“I was very impressed with him from Day 1,” Godfree said of Aurandt. “I came in to call the plays and be the offensive coordinator and I hired him as offensive coordinator when I felt comfortable and good about him calling plays. I was thinking next year, I didn’t know. He’s going to take that job over in a hurry.”
For the Aurandts, the sentimentality runs secondary to practicality. Even his father, Kenny, said his son going to Parkview was about advancement first.
“It’s a good opportunity to work with a good staff and for a good athletic director,” Kenny said. “As far as the opportunity, it was a good opportunity for him and a good opportunity for us to go back to where we spent a lot of time as young adults.”
The opportunity doesn’t make Tyler’s arrival at Parkview any less nostalgic for his parents, who before they met each other decided which colors their son will don on Friday nights this fall.
“It was just a thrill thinking he’d be going back to our alma mater,” Daniele said. “We went to the spring game and it just felt like home again.”
During the spring football game, the older Aurandts reconnected with another classmate whose daughter, Emma Harris, is the head cheerleading coach at Parkview. The Aurandts aren’t the only ones with deep roots at the Lilburn school. They even started discussing fall reunion ideas.
When Kenny and Daniele roamed the halls at the new high school, football Friday meant the players wore their jerseys to school; game days began before the first bell. To complement the jerseys, Kenny and friends wore “like see ’em for miles” orange overalls. When Tyler took the job, talk of a resurfacing began.
“I said, ‘No you’re not wearing those,’” Tyler said.
The parents do still have letter jackets and sweaters from those first years. Tyler, most likely, won’t be at Parkview long, but the strength of his family roots kept him close enough to be there for now.
“That makes it even more special that Tyler is back at Parkview,” Daniele said. “It completes the circle for us.”