Innovative style served legendary coach well
By Matt Middleton | Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009

During an era where high school football coaches roamed their one-school towns with giant personalities, Frank Inman one-upped them all.

When Inman coached football at Richmond Academy from 1956-61, he represented more than just a Friday night sage. Folks could come home from church on Sundays, flick on their televisions and watch Inman dissect a game from two night's prior.

There would be back-and-forth banter with co-host Lee Sheridan, detailed discussion of Friday's game, intermittent commercials sold by the school's booster club -- a production with such high interest, it preempted University of Georgia coach Wally Butts' own show.

Opposing coaches, legend has it, used to come into the area on Sundays and check into a motel and watch the show for scouting purposes. The show was the first of its kind among high school coaches, Sheridan said, one of several areas in which Inman was considered an innovator.

"He was ahead of his time in many areas ... during a golden era of Richmond Academy athletics," said Sheridan, who co-hosted Inman's show on WRDW-Channel 12.

Richmond Academy will name its football field for Inman tonight before its 7:30 home game against North Augusta.

Inman captured the 1956 state title and presided over two championship teams during what is considered the greatest season in Georgia high school sports. In the 1956-57 school year, Richmond Academy won the state title in four boys sports -- track, football, baseball, golf; Inman also coached golf -- and advanced to the state final in two more (tennis, basketball).

Inman left Richmond Academy before the 1962 season to become an assistant coach at the University of Georgia for Johnny Griffith and later Vince Dooley. His last football class at Richmond Academy included nine major college players, believed to be a state association record at the time. Inman died in November. He was 85.

"If anybody deserves their name on that field, it's him," said Pat Dye, the Hall of Fame college football player/coach who starred on Inman's state title team. "He was a great coach, but a better man. He touched all our lives."

Inman's former players remember a tough leader who would take them to the cusp of the Georgia mountains each summer for a set of spartan workouts that would prepare them for the season.

His detailed scouting reports and feel for the game always made them feel more prepared than their opponent. It was part of their weekly schedule to meet their coach after his Sunday television show.

Inman would pull out a 16-millimeter roll from the television studio, and they would go over game film together, a pioneering process.

His memory of opponents stretched beyond the film he gathered. Preparing for a game against Savannah, Inman once pulled a player aside and detailed how their opponent would surprise them with a quick-kick, a third-down punt.

He had seen it years ago, and their formation was the tell. The Musketeers ended up blocking a quick-kick attempt that game, returning it for a touchdown.

"I remember it only because it happened exactly like he said it would," said Dr. Randy Smith, who played for Inman from 1959-61.

Inman's players came from as far away as Los Angeles and Dallas to gather for a reunion in November 1996. Once blockers, tacklers and speedy runners, they had grown up to become doctors, businessmen, politicians.

Some players were checking into the Holiday Inn when they spotted someone they faintly recognized.

"Are you here for Frank Inman?" they asked.

"No, I'm here for the Butler High School reunion," the man answered.

He added: "Frank Inman, you said? He was a legend around here."

Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or matt.middleton@augustachronicle.com.

From the Friday, September 18, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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