Former Cleveland High and Bradley Central school football coach Jim Woodall will be inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame April 12 in Blue Ridge, Ga.
Woodall has been involved in competitive athletics as a player and coach for more than 50 years. He is one of 13 inductees to be honored in Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame 2014 class.
Woodall’s career has been chronicled in a biography written by sports historian Mike Harper.
Woodall began his love of sports at age 10. His dream as a young man was to teach and coach, and he dedicated his life to those goals. He was an excellent all-around athlete. His favorite sport was football, but he also played varsity basketball for one season and competed in baseball and track and field throughout his high school years.
He was a power-hitting catcher for his Yellow Jackets baseball team who used his speed to compete as a member of the relay team that won first place in the 440-yard race, and represented North Georgia in the Georgia State Track Meet at the University of Georgia.
His speed and elusiveness led Woodall to a starting role in the West Fannin Yellow Jackets’ backfield. His blocking ability was legendary. Oldtime fans still recall the sight of a Ringgold, Ga., defender above the ground upside down totally perpendicular to the ground as a result of a crushing block by Woodall on a long touchdown run. The hard-hitting Woodall was a true standout on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, the speedy Woodall started the 1959 season with a bang, scoring two touchdowns in the Yellow Jackets’ opening game against Swain County High School in Bryson City, N.C. West Fannin had lost to the North Carolina school three times in prior years by a combined score of 102-27. It was Woodall who began the payback early in the first quarter, returning a pass interception 71 yards for West Fannin’s first touchdown of the game. He later scored another TD with a run that propelled the Yellow Jackets to an unexpected 32-17 win. His performance in that game earned him a spot on the Atlanta Constitution Prep Football Honor roll.
He received high distriction as a student at West Fannin High School while participating in the highest curriculum offerings. He was a member of the National Beta Club, Key Club and Math Club. Woodall was also elected by fellow students as class officer and senior superlative. His highest honor, however, was bestowed upon him when local Jaycees named Woodall recipient of the Personal Development Award for athletic and academic achievement as well as social and emotional development. The award was presented to Woodall at his high school graduation in 1961.
In 1962, he enrolled at Tennessee Tech in pursuit of a degree in education while playing football for the Golden Eagles. He again was rewarded for academic excellence. During his senior year at Tech, Woodall was inducted in to the Kappa Delta honorary fraternity for educators and was the only male in the chapter. A scholarship player on the Tech football team, Woodall received his degree in less than four years while playing football for the Golden Eagles from 1962-64 and earning varsity letters in ’63-64. He was a starting defensive back for the 1963-64 teams and a second teamer on offense splitting time as fullback and left halfback. Wilburn Tucker, head football coach at TTU and namesake of the Eagles’ stadium, referred to Woodall throughout his years at Tech to the press, in speeches and the TTU football media guide a versatile player; fast, rugged fine team player and an excellent student.
Woodall was blessed and fortunate to be offered an assistant football coaching position at Cleveland High School in the spring of 1965 to serve under head coach Bobby Scott. Not wanting to let such a great opportunity pass, he decided to graduate early and forego his final year of football eligibility at TTU. The decision to take the coaching opportunity at Cleveland proved to be the correct move because of the excellent coaches and players he was privileged to work with during his years at CHS. In his first four years as a coach, the Blue Raiders went 32 games without a loss culminating in a state championship in1968. After 11 years teaching and coaching wrestling, baseball, track, basketball and football Woodall decided to join the private sector.
“The enthusiasm, energy and dedication they had for all of us really made a difference and set the tone for what Cleveland High School became and has become,” said former Cleveland Blue Raider and Tennessee Volunteer Bill Emendorfer of his former coach. “The successes we all had particularly in football were because of that original staff. Jim was an integral part of it as coach of the defensive and offensive backs. That staff had so much energy and so much life. They were single, had just gotten out of college and were just dedicated to making that school and that football program something special. That first staff set the tone (for the future of CHS). We didn’t lose many games. They made such a difference in our lives, they worked our fannies off. The tempo was set by that young, energetic staff.
“We were appreciative because of his and the staff’s values and hard work. But he had enough of a sense of humor (to break up tension). There is a balance. When you push people and people are being pushed, you have to have coaches that are a son of a gun and you have to have coaches that can break that up a little bit. Jim was one that could kind of do that. Jim has a very dry sense of humor”
The hiatus lasted until 1980 when he was extremely blessed to be offered an assistant football and head track coaching job at Bradley Central high School. Bradley was extremely rich in academic and athletic tradition, second to none in Tennessee. While at BCHS, Woodall was able to coach at the highest level competing against the best teams in the state. After 19 inspiring years at Bradley Central, he attempted to retire again in 1998 but was quickly lured back into coaching. The already highly successful teacher and coach accepted a football assistant coaching position at Northwest Whitfield High School in nearby Tunnel Hill, Ga. He remained in Whitfield County teaching and coaching before finally retiring permanently in 2008.
Overall, Jim Woodall’s coaching career spanned 40 years. He left a remarkable legacy as a player and coach and the Fannin County Hall of fame is proud to welcome him as a member. His dedication to sports has helped change the lives of many of his players as numerous athletes coached and mentored by Woodall have gone on to successful careers. He still holds lifelong friendships with many of his former teammates and players. He has always said it is an extreme honor and blessing to go to work every day loving his job.
Jim and his wife, Rosemary, still reside in the Cleveland area. They have two adult children, Jamie and Jason. Jim is also an avid duck hunter and teaches a seniors Bible study Class at Candies Creek Baptist Church.
To recognize Jim and his phenomenal career and accomplishments that have spanned some 55 years, his family is hosting a reception in his honor March 29, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Cleveland Country Club. All former players, coaches and friends are invited to drop by and spend time with Jim and his family.