Where Are They Now?

Several of Chattanooga’s high school football greats went on to play for renowned college football programs and professional leagues, and some even made Super Bowl appearances. However, many also went on to achieve great success as public servants, clergy, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, business executives, and more. While not all of these individuals’ high school football careers were filled with glory or championship titles, they learned important lessons on teamwork, compromise, and perseverance, shaping them into who they are today.

From recommendations made by fellow classmates, schools, alumni, coaches, and professional associates, what follows are 28 past high school football greats who were known for their talent on the football field and went on to succeed personally and professionally.

By Brenda Shafer and Julia Sharp

Robert Phillips Corker Jr. | DB

City [1970] → United States Senator

Senator Bob Corker played defensive back for City High and recalls how it made a big impact on his life. “Playing football may be one of the most meaningful things I did in high school.” With coach Bobby Davis’ encouragement, Corker built confidence with each play he executed. “I was 5’6” and 140 pounds, and at a rivalry game, a very large running back – probably 200 pounds – was coming down the sideline at me full speed. I caught him square in the chest and drove him backwards. I remember coach Davis grabbing me by the back of my pants in excitement after the play. I was proud because I had executed it in the exact way I had been taught.”

Jim Coppinger | QB

Hixson [1973] → Hamilton County Mayor

After playing quarterback for Hixson, Jim Coppinger attended Chattanooga State and UTC. In 1977, he became a Chattanooga firefighter and was appointed fire chief in 1997. In 2012, he was elected Hamilton County Mayor. He learned the importance of communication, interdependence, and compromise while playing football. “Whether it’s athletics or business, you’re only as good as the people around you.” Coppinger also reminisces on the friendships built saying, “It wasn’t all about winning and losing. At the end of the day, you build friendships, even with people on opposing teams.”

Jim Hennen | OL/DL

Notre Dame [1961] → Entrepreneur

Jim Hennen was named All-State offensive and defensive lineman. He was offered scholarships from 55 colleges, ultimately deciding to play football for West Point Academy. He played offense and defense and was a member of the famed “Chinese Bandits” defense of Coach Paul Dietzel. After two years with the Miami Dolphins, he spent 18 years in Europe and East Asia as a structural engineer in marine construction. He later returned to Chattanooga and holds partnerships in several businesses, some of which include Council Fire, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Hennen’s Restaurant, and Custom Werks. “I learned tenacity, work ethic, and discipline from high school football that I’ve carried with me my whole life.”

Dr. Robert E. “Happy” Dicks III | LB

Baylor [1965] → Neurosurgeon

After playing football, basketball, and baseball for Baylor, Happy Dicks graduated in ’65 and headed to Georgia to play linebacker. He became an All-SEC player for Georgia and was voted to the quarter-century (1950-1975) All-UGA Team. After college, he became an acclaimed neurosurgeon and a UGA team doctor. He remembers the experience of playing his first game his sophomore year and the exceptional coaching staff that made him want to play his heart out. “They were incredible coaches and teachers who instilled the qualities of success through sacrifice and hard work and how to balance academics with athletics. The Baylor experience was outstanding.”

Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman | HB

City [1962] → Navy Admiral // Former Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

After playing halfback at City High, Skip Bowman attended Duke University and then completed a dual master’s program in nuclear engineering and naval architecture/marine engineering at MIT in 1973. He went on to become a nuclear submarine commander and director of all nuclear programs for the Navy. After 38 years in the U.S. Navy, Bowman retired as a 4-star Admiral and became president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute and founded Strategic Decisions, LLC. In 2005, he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England, one of the United Kingdom’s highest honors. Bowman credits his coach at Brainerd Junior High, Charles “Buddy” Guedron, for teaching him life lessons on how to deal with adversity and how winning isn’t everything.

Lee Dyer  | T/C    

 Baylor [1977] → NFL Official

Team captain his senior year, Lee Dyer played offensive tackle and center for Baylor. He attended UTC on a baseball scholarship and began officiating high school football games. He went on to officiate for the SEC and NFL Europe before becoming an NFL official in 2003. He recalls the exceptional coaching staff at Baylor saying, “Coach Red Etter was ahead of his time with the amount of film study he did. He taught us that preparation separated good teams from great teams.” Dyer also learned that character is measured by how you handle adversity and that the team comes first. “If you do everything you can to help your team succeed, you will succeed as an individual.”

William Brown | QB

Central [1958] → Attorney & Judge

After serving as quarterback and captain of the Central football team, William Brown attended Auburn University and UTC. He then attended Cumberland School of Law at Samford, where he received his juris doctor in 1970. Brown served as judge for the City of Red Bank from 1978-1987, before being appointed judge of Hamilton County Circuit Court Division IV. Brown was elected without opposition to a full eight-year term in 1990. In 1997, he became a partner at Miller & Martin, where he specializes in mediation.

Kurt Schmissrauter | T

Notre Dame [1980] | Co-owner, Textile Printing Company

Twice named All-State offensive and defensive tackle at Notre Dame, Kurt Schmissrauter was said to have understood the game well. With many scholarship offers to choose from, he decided to play for Alabama under famed Coach Bear Bryant. Schmissrauter is now Executive Vice-President and Co-owner of Textile Printing Company (TPC) in East Ridge. TPC is an international company and the leading liquor and cosmetic packaging printing company in the nation. The company’s local customers include Chattem and McKee. Of all his honors, he considers his greatest honor having been chosen to escort Mrs. Bryant (wife) to Coach Bryant’s funeral.

Dr. Peter Hunt | DB   

McCallie [1984] → Otolaryngologist Head and Neck Surgeon

An All-State defensive back, Dr. Peter Hunt graduated with McCallie’s highest award, the Clifford Barker Grayson Medal, given to the senior whose character and actions most embody the heart of McCallie’s mission. He attended Princeton University, where he was All-American in the decathlon and went on to study medicine at Vanderbilt. He currently practices at Associates in Ear, Nose and Throat, Head & Neck Surgery.  Hunt is also the Director of the Head and Neck/Melanoma Center of Excellence, Memorial Cancer Institute and the Attending Head and Neck Surgeon at Chattanooga Tumor Clinic.

Ryan Crimmins  DB

Baylor [1978] → Chairman, Lawson Electric

Ryan Crimmins played rover back for Baylor, and learned important life lessons on teamwork and preparation that he applies to his position at Lawson Electric today. “Defensive coordinator Gene Etter would analyze the opponent from every angle, and he would predict what play they might run in a given situation. Learning this as a player gave us extra confidence in knowing we were prepared to win, since we knew as much or more about our opponents than they knew about themselves.” Crimmins’ favorite memory was intercepting a pass at midfield to flip field position and momentum during a playoff game against Columbia in 1977. His favorite team memory was beating 9th nationally ranked Oak Ridge to advance to the state final.

Robert Fisher | DB

McCallie [1978] → Managing Director, KW Commercial

A talented defensive back for McCallie, Robert Fisher won the Stevens Medal as the top athlete his senior year. He remembers the camaraderie the McCallie team experienced, especially during preseason camp when the whole team stayed in the dorms. “I learned a lot about teamwork and sharing responsibility. I learned the importance of each person’s contribution. Everyone on the team didn’t have to be an exceptional athlete, but if each person was in the right position and contributed, then the team as a whole could succeed.” Fisher also learned the value of a positive attitude, “We beat teams that were more athletic than us, and I believe it was because we had the right attitude and mental fortitude.”

Michael L. Ducker | OL

Red Bank 1971 → President and CEO of FedEx Freight

Michael Ducker was an All-State offensive lineman at Red Bank before receiving a scholarship to play at Ole Miss. Two years and three knee surgeries later, Ducker gave up his scholarship and began working at FedEx part-time. He rose up through the ranks to his current position, President and CEO of FedEx Freight. Over the course of his FedEx career, Ducker has acted as COO of FedEx Express and President of its international business, president of FedEx Express Asia Pacific in Hong Kong, and leader of the Southeast Asia and Middle East regions, as well as Southern Europe.

Dr. Larry Mullinax | HB/LB 

City [1963] → Dentist, Hixson Dental Group

Larry Mullinax played halfback, linebacker, and kicker during his time at City High before attending Vanderbilt University, where he played his freshman and sophomore year. Once he scored on a 65-yard fake punt. “We had practiced it but never tried it. Everyone on the team performed exactly as they should, and I scored untouched. Though I received credit for the score, it was a team effort exhibiting patience and persistence.” Mully, as his teammates called him, also notes, “Both the game of football and life require hard work, dedication, patience, and persistence.”

Kelley Lovelace | RB

Hixson [1986] → Songwriter

After playing football in high school, Kelley Lovelace served in the army for several years before graduating from Belmont University. He worked in music publishing before choosing to write songs full time. He’s had sixteen No. 1 hits and is most well-known for writing for Brad Paisley. Being small for a football player, Lovelace remembers the beating he took during practice. “Doing something you aren’t geared for – now that’s a challenge. That mentality is what took me through army basic training: if I can do this, I can do anything.”

Jeff Holcomb | OT/DT

Hixson [1973] → Anesthesiologist

Starting at offensive and defensive tackle, Jeff Holcomb was captain of the team his senior year. Following high school, he played for Furman University where he studied chemistry. After turning down an offer to play with the Atlanta Falcons, he studied at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences and went on to become an anesthesiologist in Memphis at the Medical Anesthesia Group.

Reese Phillips | QB  

Signal Mountain [2013] → University of Montana

Reese Phillips was an All-State quarterback for Signal Mountain his junior and senior years. His freshman and sophomore years he played as a tight end and defensive back. He was named MVP of the TN High School East/West All-Star Classic after setting a record for the most points scored in an All-Star game. He signed with Kentucky before transferring to the University of Montana in 2016. He is expected to contend for the starting quarterback position this fall.

John H. Bonner III | P

City [1966] → Retired Episcopal Priest

One of the best high school punters in the state, John H. Bonner went on to play at UTC where he led the nation in punting his senior year. His most memorable high school game was against Knoxville Bearden in 1964, because they played in a torrential downpour, eventually losing 2-0 on a safety. Bonner says he learned life lessons from football. “When the coach spoke, we listened. The idea of hard work and teamwork has carried me through life and taught me to complete the task and stand for something.” After school, Bonner attended seminary and served five parishes over the course of 30 years.

Nelson E. Bowers II | HB

Rossville [1963] → Bowers Automotive

After playing halfback for Rossville’s undefeated 1962 team, Nelson Bowers played for the University of Georgia and was a member of the 1964 Sun Bowl team. He went on to make a name for himself in the car industry, acquiring multiple car dealerships, running the acquisitions for Sonic Automotive Inc., and becoming a principal of MB2 Motorsports. In 2007, he was inducted into the UTC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. When the NFL team was being organized for Tennessee, Mr. Bowers served on the committee that chose the name “Titans.”

John Woods | WR   

East Ridge [1983] → Entrepreneur

After playing wide receiver for East Ridge and Tennessee Tech, John Woods spent thirty years in investment banking before becoming co-owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts. He also participates in other various ventures, including hosting Chattanooga Money Radio, running his family foundation, and serving on several boards. His most memorable moment was the last home game of his senior year, when they beat rival Red Bank. “I learned mental toughness from playing football and following in the steps of my dad who played for Chattanooga Central and Georgia Tech,” he says.

Bryon Elwyn “BJ” Coleman Jr. | QB   

McCallie [2007] → Employee Benefits, BB&T Insurance Services

After setting the record as the city’s career passing leader with 7,123 yards and 51 touchdowns as a three-year starter, BJ Coleman went on to set passing records at UTC. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2012 and then briefly played in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League before taking a position with BB&T Insurance Services. Coleman says he’ll never forget his opening debut at Finley Stadium against the LFO Warriors. “We didn’t win,” he says, “but it’s the failures that teach you.” He recalls the role models he had at McCallie, “I was very fortunate to have Ralph Potter as my coach. He taught me a lot about how to be a man. It was more than football. It was about being a part of a team and being a part of something bigger than myself.”

Alexander Apyan | OL

Hixson [2007] → ISS Flight Controller

Alexander Apyan was on the football, wrestling, and golf teams for Hixson before going on to play long snapper for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. In 2008, he was nominated to attend the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) Delegation on Engineering in China. He worked as an assistant on hypersonic aircraft inlet research and graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering. He now works as an ISS Flight Controller at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston and is responsible for the operation of the electrical power and external thermal systems onboard the International Space Station.

Bo Watson | DB

Baylor [1979] → State Senator

Nicknamed “Dr. Death,” Bo Watson was a defensive back on the dominant ’77 and ’78 Baylor teams. He then graduated from UTC and went on to study physical therapy. Watson is currently the state senator for the 11th district, serving as chairman of the TN senate finance committee. Among many memories, he recalls upsetting Bradley County the first game of his senior year. “We weren’t expected to be very good, and no one gave us a chance. The win set the tone for the rest of the year.” Of his role models, Watson notes, “Coach Bill McMahan pushed me every day and he wasn’t even my position coach! He demanded excellence. He is the John Wooden of Chattanooga sports – a teacher more than a coach. Truly legendary.”

Arnold Umbach | QB  

Baylor [1961] → Retired Attorney

After quarterbacking for Baylor, Umbach played baseball for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, attending Auburn in the off-season. He pitched in their ’64 and ’66 seasons. He went on to earn law degrees at both Alabama (J.D.) and Emory University (LLM in taxation). Of his time at Baylor, Umbach remembers their undefeated 1960 season saying, “I learned that to win, you had to be organized and prepared. If you get organized and don’t waste time, you can accomplish a lot. My dad told me that I had to either be smarter or more talented. Since I wasn’t more talented, I worked hard to be smarter.”

Randy Wilson | C

Baylor [1974] → Attorney, Miller & Martin

A part of the famed ’73 Baylor team, Randy Wilson went on to attend UT Knoxville and the UT College of Law. Now at Miller & Martin, Wilson focuses his practice on general litigation, including risk management, construction, health care, and personal injury defense. Wilson is the former chair of the firm’s litigation department and a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. Among many other awards, Wilson was recently selected as one of the 2016 Mid-South Super Lawyers.

Will Healy | QB

Boyd Buchanan [2003] → Head Coach, Austin Peay

After playing quarterback for Boyd Buchanan and setting the high school record for passing yards his senior year, Will Healy attended Air Force Academy before transferring to play football at University of Richmond. After graduation, he became the UTC Mocs assistant coach. Now, he’s the head coach at Austin Peay, and the second youngest coach at that level. “I model my coaching philosophy after Coach Robert Akins and his staff. The impact they made on me inspires me to not just coach my players but also care for them. I hope to make the same kind of impact that my coaches made on me.”

James Arthur “Flip” Lyle | OG

Brainerd [1963] → Owner, James Arthur Lyle & Associates

Flip Lyle was an All-City lineman and offensive guard on Brainerd’s undefeated 1962 team before going on to play for Georgia Tech. Lyle is the owner of El Paso-based commercial investment real estate firm, James Arthur Lyle & Associates. He’s also the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the most triathlons completed. As of July 8th, Lyle is at 345 triathlons and 110 duathlons. “I learned that ‘never, never quit attitude.’ All my Brainerd teammates remain my lifelong inspiration. Coach Ray Coleman provided a leadership example I have tried to emulate.”

Dr. Bill Emendorfer | OL

Cleveland [1969] → Executive Director of TN Hall of Fame

As team captain in 1968, Bill Emendorfer led Cleveland to its first state championship. Playing offensive lineman, he was said to have been very unpleasant to encounter on the field. He went on to play at UT and earned All-SEC and All-American honors his senior year. After graduation, he coached at Tennessee as a graduate assistant for two years before entering dental school. He earned his Doctorate from the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis. He is now the Executive Director of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Emendorfer remembers the great support the team received from the coaching staff, teachers, and Cleveland community, “I learned what you can accomplish when you are a team, not just 11 individuals.”

Allen Corey | OG

Baylor [1974] → Founder, Square One Holding Co.

Allen Corey played offensive guard for Baylor’s ’73 championship team before attending UNC Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt Law School. After partnering in several successful restaurant ventures (Craftworks, Stir, Gordon Biersch), Corey founded Square One Holding, a restaurant consulting and investment firm. He recalls his senior year and the friendships he built saying, “We’re a very close group and still keep in touch. We learned about commitment and selflessness. Team success is individual success – in football and in life.”

Jerry Summers | QB

Central [1959] → Attorney & Judge

Lifelong resident of Chattanooga, Jerry Summers played quarterback and safety for Central. In 1966, he began practicing law, and in 1969, became the founding member of what is now Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers. An experienced trial lawyer, Summers has been selected for numerous awards and exclusive associations. “Any success I’ve had in law or life has very little to do with my ability as a football player, but rather the lessons I learned in football like persistence and getting up when knocked down.” He gives credit to his then coach Stan Farmer, who inspired him to be a better person on and off the field.    

Mike Shuford | WB

Baylor [1974] → Executive Director of Chattanooga Convention Center

A wingback on the ’73 Baylor state championship team, Mike Shuford says his most memorable moment was kicking the winning field goal in the 1971 game against McCallie, the first time they’d played in 30 years. “One of the most valuable lessons I took from playing football was the importance of working as a team to achieve success. Football is a team effort, and no matter how good you are individually, it takes a team effort to be successful – both in football and in my professional career,” says Shuford. He’s taken those lessons with him to his current position as Executive Director of the Chattanooga Convention Center, where with his team, he hosts 400-450 events a year.