Hosts Hannah Goodin and Jon Nelson catch up with Flint Media's and Early County football coach Jay Palmer. He reflects on the passing of his father, Tommy Palmer, who was a fixture on Football Fridays in Georgia. Jay also discusses what he's seen so far this season with high school football in southwest Georgia.

RELATED: Tommy Palmer: A Race Well Run



Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Friday's in Georgia Podcast here in Georgia Public Broadcasting, thanks for accessing us however you are doing so, on your favorite podcatcher, GPB,, the GPB sports app. A lot of different ways to catch up. It was good to have Dr. Robin Hinds, the executive director of the Georgia High School Association, on with us last week. This week, Hannha, someone very special.

Hannah Goodin: Yes, we have Tommy’s son Jay on. I'm very excited to talk to him, of course, about his father's legacy. A little bit about football, South Georgia football especially. Really excited to have him on in just a few minutes.

Jon Nelson: Alright. So rapid fire, what are the games that you had in your mind from this past weekend?

Hannah Goodin: Alright. Woo! What a Friday. First of all, Jon, back in the studio together, socially distanced.

Jon Nelson: Yeah, socially distanced. And Sean Powers, our irreplaceable producer, has taken photos. So those will come out and he'll show just how socially distanced we were this entire time.

Hannah Goodin: It's just nice to be able to do the podcast and see you.

Jon Nelson: Yes, hi.

Hannah Goodin: Alright.

Jon Nelson: Yes.

Hannah Goodin: Well, this past Friday, some of the games I had my eye on were in 7A around the metro Atlanta area. Grayson goes 4 and 0 with a 26-7 win over Archer, Phil Mafah rush for 145 yards, two TDs. AJ Lopez returned an interception eighty one yards for a touchdown as well. Do you watch that one Jon?

Jon Nelson: I did not. I was all over the place but Archer now gets North Gwinnett this week and so that’s going to make it that much tougher for Andy Dyer and Archer.

Hannah Goodin: Norcross is also undefeated at 3 and 0. They beat South Gwinnett last Friday 45-14. Mason Kaplan with 10 to 15 passing for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Good game for him.

Jon Nelson: Norcross, they have not been making the deep runs into the playoffs that they would have liked over the last handful of years. And this is a great start for Norcross this season here in 2020.

Hannah Goodin: A bit of a surprise. Lovejoy defeated North Gwinnett 19-7. The Wildcats were unranked and a 38-point underdog, Jon. The wind bumped them up to number five.

Jon Nelson: Well, and I think that this probably speaks to what we're going to be seeing from Lovejoy going forward. It's not necessarily — everybody's looking for the negative in this situation. What does this mean for North Gwinnett? It's OK. It's what non-region games are for. I think this speaks to Lovejoy and their preparation for a North Gwinnett team. We already said that they're going to be playing Archer this upcoming weekend.

Hannah Goodin: That was 6A. A few other notes, 5A BT going 2 and 0. They beat Kell, 54-32. Justin Haynes rushed for 250 yards, four touchdowns on twenty one carries. JC French 6 for 6 passing for 247 yards and four touchdowns. And in class 4A, I had my eye on that Marist game. They go 3 and 0. They beat Hampton 45 to nothing. Six players scored touchdowns.

Jon Nelson: Here's some of my greatest hits and we’ll reinforce these on Wednesday's Countdown to Kickoff show as well with me and Hannah on the GPB sports Facebook page. Crisp goes to Eagles Landing Christian gets the win after surrendering points early, the defense shut it down. So Brad Harbaugh gets a quality win on the road. Warner Robins put 47 on Northside, one of the biggest margins of victory in their history. Colquitt beat Valdosta 24-10. We'll get into that with Jay Palmer just around the corner. Lowndes knocked off Lee County by 25 and also we’ll also get into Bainbridge and Thomasville. Fitzgerald after having one game canceled, scheduled on the fly, go to Lewisville, play Jeffco win 14-12. Rabun, this is an old Tommy Palmer phrase: pack a lunch and a dinner.

Hannah Goodin: It's my favorite one going from him.

Jon Nelson: Going from Tiger Georgia to Bremen and to play games going from the Northeast Georgia mountains all the way basically to the Alabama border. Back and forth game at the half Rabun put the pedal down second half to win by 14. Taylor County and Schley in single-A public Taylor County big win by nineteen over Schley County, Washington County quality win against Swainsboro by 5 for Joel Ingram and the Golden Hawks. And then White County stays undefeated on the year, knocking off Habs Central 28-21. That's just some of the highlights on my board.

Hannah Goodin: What happened in that ole Colquitt game?

Jon Nelson: Well, at. Well, what about Jay tell you what happened in the Colquitt game? So we're going to let Jay Palmer talk about what he's been seeing this particular season. I know it's — it's been — it's been a long season already for Jay on a bunch of different fronts. We miss his dad, Tommy, very, very much. But Jay right now is going to be visiting us from Flint Media Studios down in Bainbridge, where he's also spending time as an early county volunteer coach this year as he stays in the game. And obviously, the first question I had for Jay is, how's everybody doing?

Jay Palmer: Everybody's doing well. Everybody's doing really, really well. The outpouring of just the accolades and everything that dad — that we received after dad passed really was overwhelming, but very, very heartwarming. And it's really helped. It's really helped a whole lot. And I had people send me clips from the scoreboard show of — of him talking about their player, their kid, whatever. It's been — there's been some moments of sadness, of course, because there are things that I want to tell him that I can't, you know. But other than that, and I think that's normal, we're doing well. And — and thanks to everybody who sent a note, sent a card, just reached out. It was much appreciated.

Hannah Goodin: Jay, it's been a while since you and I have gotten to chat and catch up. Your — your voice sounds so much like Tommy. It completely caught me off guard as we were getting ready for the show. We miss him so dearly here at GPB. What do you want his legacy to be?

Jay Palmer: I just want Dad to be remembered really for two things. The most important thing to me is how much he loved high school kids and high school athletics. I'm always going to be remembered for football, but he also did a ton of basketball in his career. He loved high school kids and he loved high school athletics. It was his passion. I mean, it really was. And the other thing that I would like for him to be remembered by is just what a consummate professional he was when he was behind that microphone and how seriously he took it and how hard that he tried to make sure that it — was it was done correctly. Dad was old school. Dad was an old school broadcaster. And there is a certain way that he wanted things to be done and he did them that way, and that's why I think he was successful as he was, is he did it the way that that radio was done back in the 60s and the 70s, there was just a certain way it was supposed to sound. And I hope that's part of his legacy, too, that when you hear and you hear this, like if you hear an old tape of Don Imus or Casey Kasem or something like that, it was different then. But Dad, he kept doing it the same way because that — that was just the way he was taught.So I hope he's remembered for his love of high school kids and high school sports and just what a consummate professional he was, every single time he got in front of a camera or behind a microphone.

Jon Nelson: What's your first football memory with your dad?

Jay Palmer: Four years old, going to the Pecan Grove Bowl Memorial Field in Claxton and getting there, Dad taking me to the concession stand. Explaining to me that if I needed to go to the restroom, that I needed to go to the restroom then because it would be a long time before I would be able to go. Not knowing what really what he did, making my first climb up a set of press box stairs, watching dad set the equipment up. And then right before they went on the air telling me, “when I start talking, you can't say anything. You can't ask me any questions.” That's literally my first memory of a high school football game. And he was serious about that and at the half, you know, he looked at me, he goes, “Okay, do you need to go to the bathroom.” No. “Do you have any questions?” No, sir. “Good.” And I did not realize the second half a lot of times lasts longer than the first half. I wish I’d taken him up on his offer.

[Jon laughs]

Jay Palmer: Yeah, I probably do need to go to the restroom, Dad. But yeah, that's my first memory. Bowl Memorial Field. The Pecan Grove, Claxton, Georgia.

Hannah Goodin: Going to the restroom before the game, from experience, is amazing advice.

Jay Palmer: It really was. That really was.

Hannah Goodin: What other piece of advice did he give you that has stuck with you and that you will continue to pull from for the rest of your life?

Jay Palmer: The first time that I was ever going to be live on the radio with him, I was 13 and I was kind of serving as his color analysis person. And right before we went on he said I want to tell you something and I want you to always remember this every time you get behind a microphone. And I said, okay. He said and he just kind of tapped the microphone and said, you can say more in 10 seconds into one of these things than you can take back in a lifetime. So you always be careful what you say into one of these things. And I said, yes, sir. And it's odd even this morning, doing the morning show that I participate in, those words run through my head every time I'm in front of a microphone. You can say more into a microphone in 10 seconds than you can take back in a lifetime. And just over the course of the last 30, 40 years, how many broadcasters have we seen say something that they wish they could take back and having to suffer the penalty for it? I mean, we've seen it happen and it can happen if you're not careful. So that — that's the biggest piece of advice that he gave me that I remember and that I use all the time. And the other thing is, particularly with high school athletics, always remember you're talking about somebody's son, grandson, daughter, or granddaughter. And this is largely local broadcast. So you need to be real careful about being critical about a high school kid who's not on scholarship, not getting any — any benefit from playing sports like they do in college and the pros. So whenever you know, I’ve probably done 300 play-by-play games in my career, I always strived to factor in, you're not critical of high school kids because they're high school kids. And that has served me really, really well too — they’re high school kids. Be careful criticizing them at all because they're trying their best and are not getting paid.

Jon Nelson: And you're also now staying active as a volunteer coach down at Early County, what's that — that's that like with you teaching offensive lineman? What's that like?

Jay Palmer: Well I've been working with the defensive line and the offensive line. I've just got switched over kinda the offensive line a couple weeks because we had a — had a coach come down, thankfully, it was not COVID. It was just kind of a tonsil problem. But yeah I walked in and that's was 5:45. They said you’re coaching an offensive line tonight. And I was like, oh, OK, what are the plays? But you kinda just have to wing it. But I can tell you, for me, it's — it's fun. I enjoy it. I love the kids out there. And you guys know this. There's nothing that can replace an atmosphere of a high school — being on a high school football field in the state of Georgia on Friday night. There's nothing that compares to that I can think of. Practices work, but it's worth it all. It's worth it on Friday night. And, Jon, you were able to finally get Dad and I think you'll laugh—

Jon Nelson: Yeah.

Jay Palmer: —to admit that if he had to do it all over again, he would have been a high school football coach. And so I get to — I get to live that. And, like I said, you know, it's hard because there are so many things that come up during the week, during practice, and especially in the times that we're living in right now, that I just want to be able to pick up the phone and call dad and say, hey, this happened. And if I didn’t he would’ve picked up the phone and called me and said, hey, tell me about practice. Or we got Westover this week. You know, tell me what Westover is doing. And you know, they're pretty good. Do y’all have a chance? Those kind of things. But as far as the coaching goes, other than the show that I get to help with every morning, which is a real blessing from God, and the round of golf that I get to play once every week or every two weeks, coaching football is something that is going to be very hard for me — it's gonna be very hard for me to pry myself away from that, because every year you get tired and you say, okay, I'm not gonna volunteer next year. I need to do this. And then every year around March or April, you're like, well, maybe, maybe I'll go back and do one more time. So, yeah, I love it. I do. I love it. I love the atmosphere. I love being around kids. I love being around coaches, talking football. It's wonderful. It really is.

Hannah Goodin: Jay, Tommy would have been an outstanding coach. So I'm so glad that you're getting to do that. I want to ask you about another South Georgia coach, though, in a new role. Rush Propst at Valdosta. What are your thoughts on him? Tell me what else is going on down there in South Georgia?

Jay Palmer: Well, as far as Coach Propst goes, and I know things didn't go the way he wanted them to Friday night, you know, two blocked punts, two interceptions, one return for a touchdown. And I’ll say this: you know, Rush has kind of been a controversial figure in his career regardless of wherever he's been. But I will say this: When — when Dad found out that when he got his cancer diagnosis, one of the first people to reach out to Dad and say, what can I do was Rush Propst. And a lot of people don't know that. Very few people know that. So while he might be controversial and he might not be everybody's cup of tea as far as how he coaches, there's a — there's a part of Rush Propst that that's a really, really good guy to do something like that. And I'm not going to lie. I'm — I'm pulling for it. I really am. I'm pulling for him to do well at Valdosta. And I think he will do well at Valdosta. He's been — he's been a success as a coach wherever he goes. And you might not like the way he goes about it. You might not like the methods or whatever he uses. But the bottom line is, if you ask any kid who's played for Coach Propst in the last 25 years, they're going to tell you they wouldn't have wanted to play for anybody else. And at the end of the day, I've made that fact. Coaches want to be judged as what — what do my players think about me 20 years down the line? That's what I think. And if your players do respect you and love you, even though you might have been tough on them for three years, then I think at the end of the day, that's what Coach Propst wants to be judged on. I don't think he really cares what people in the media or fans in general think about him. I think he cares about what his kids think about him. And his kids play hard for him and they win for him, and I think that's the bottom line.

Jon Nelson: And when Early counting isn't playing on a Football Friday, you get the chance to kind of hop around the state and see what's going on. You got to see two teams that I've got kind of in a spot shadow this year go off on Friday night against each other. Zach Grage and Jeff Littleton for Thomasville and Bainbridge. It'll be like anyplace, anytime, anywhere. Twice on Tuesday. And if it's out there on Georgia 300 at 3:45 on a Wednesday afternoon, they'll play. That's just how they're wired. What was it like to see those two go at it?

Jay Palmer: I think it was a really good football game. You know, a Double A football team, but a very good Double A football team is going to be able to compete with a really good 4A football team, which is what I got to see on Friday night. Jeff and them — Jeff there, little to no name coming off. Two losses now with a loss to Coffee and a loss to Valdosta. But you're playing at home. They really, really needed that win. And they got it. Their defense played really, really well on Friday night. And then finally the offense kind of got untracked a little bit in the second half. And I just wanted to watch Thomasville because that's our region opener at Early County on the 9th. And I kind of got what I expected. Thomasville is really, really good on defense and really explosive on offense. They just never could seem to get in sync on offense. And I'd give Bainbridge’s defense a lot of credit for that. They would come up with a second and short. They would come a bit of a big play to put Thomasville in a third and longest situation. And it seemed like it happened all the time, every time Thomasville got in that situation. And it's because of the COVID practice schedule, because of some of the restrictions. I don't know — maybe it'll be something y'all can look for when you start your TV broadcast. The things that take time, the special teams and things like that, the long snappers playing bad snaps on punts. I’m seeing it every Friday night. I'm seeing bad snaps on field goals and extra points. So until that gets worked out, I think by the end of the year, by the time we get to playoff time, some of that will be sorted out. But right now, special teams is a big deal. And it was a big deal Friday night with Bainbridge and Thomasville.

Hannah Goodin: That's an interesting note that we'll have to keep our eye on this season. I know that this year is very different from seasons past. And this is my last question for you. What are you most looking forward to the rest of the season? Is there a specific game that stands out or a moment that you're looking for? You know, what are your expectations for the rest of the season?

Jay Palmer: Well, because COVID, Hannah, I just look forward to playing on Friday night. Because in the environment that we're in, you could have it pulled out from under you on Thursday afternoon. So I think, I mean, I think a lot of coaches feel that way. We just want to make it and be able to play on Friday night. I'll give you an example. After we beat Pelham, they had a young man test positive on Saturday morning. Originally, we had 31 that were put in quarantine. So we had to cancel our next game, which was Mitchell. We got 19 of those back on Monday, but still we had already canceled. We couldn't find another team to play on short amount of time. So we've had two weeks now where we haven't been able to play because of, you know, unfortunately, and I think the players fins, one player tested positive on the other team. So if you can just get to Friday night and the game is still on, that's what I'm looking most forward to. Is — is being able to know we're going to play on Friday night. Now, I don't know if we'll get to that this year, but I will never, ever, ever take for granted the fact that we're always gonna have football on Friday night in Georgia, because COVID have told me now that might not happen. Well, you know the old saying, you know, live on for Friday night? Literally, that is the case this year in high school football. Just don't pull the rug out from under the kids on Thursday afternoon. And you can't point fingers because there's really no one to blame. It's stuff — just happens like that.And then, of course, looking down the road of the playoffs, any time we get to November and you've got the best teams in each classification playing. That's always the most fun time of the year.

Jon Nelson: Well, Jay, it was good to catch up with you, and I'm glad that Hannah was here to help catch up with you as well. It's always good to hear your voice and it's good to hear how things are going with you and the family down there in Blakely and in the burrow and in all points in between. It was good to see you and definitely good to hear your voice. I love you very much, my friend.

Jay Palmer: I love you, too. And Hannah, good catching up with you. And I hope to talk to you soon enough. And if I can't, I'll be watching.

Hannah Goodin: Thank you, Jay, yeah. We need to catch up more. So hope to talk to you soon.

Jay Palmer: All right. Thank you.

Hannah Goodin: Awesome to catch up with Jay.

Jon Nelson: It was.

Hannah Goodin: He is right about this being such a different season with COVID-19 and not knowing if your team is going to be playing on Friday night. So we're in the same boat here at GPB Sports broadcasting-wise, we have finally announced our Football Friday in Georgia Game of the Week.

Jon Nelson: Right.

Hannah Goodin: Our very first one of the season this Friday. But of course, we have backup plans just in case things do not go in our favor. So in case you missed the announcement on social media, here it is.

Jon Nelson: Here it is.

Hannah Goodin: Our Football Friday in Georgia Game of the Week! Number One, Cedar Grove versus Number Eight Milton at Eagle Stadium, 7:00 p.m.. The Saints have had back-to-back 3A state titles in three plus — in three of the last four years, the Eagles have also won a 7A state championship in 2018. They are 3 and 0 to start the season beating Hapeville Charter 43-18 on Friday. I am so excited for this one, Jon.

Jon Nelson: And also remember, GPB sports recruiting 2020 is going to be on at seven o'clock and Football Fridays will join you at 7:30 kickoff — ehhhhhh 7:36, 7:37, 7:38 somewhere in there. But it's good to have this lead in for football season just because of how important recruiting is to the state of Georgia.

Hannah Goodin: What are you most looking forward to about this particular game?

Jon Nelson: Being there.

[Hannah laughs]

Jon Nelson: Seriously!

Hannah Goodin: I don't get to be there, though, Jon.

Jon Nelson: And that's the thing that we probably should tell folks, that it's going to be a little different production wise for us at GPB, this year. Most of the folks are going to be back here at the studios at GPB at 260 14th Street. I will be there onsite with everyone from the production side of things, our cameras, our truck and everything. So we're going to be — we're going to be scattered, but we're going to give it to you and do our best every single week to give you the best games all around the state. And that first one — really looking forward to seeing Cedar Grove, who's a defending champ, and Milton, who's won the hardware in the past. So it's going to be a fun one.

Hannah Goodin: And we haven't had Cedar Grove on in quite a while being featured on GPB, so I'm really excited to watch them play on our platform. Yeah, Matt and Wayne will even be calling the football game from back in Studio A, I believe. And that's going to be a challenge. Lots of fancy monitors up with all the different angles. And I will be here as well in Studio J, hosting the halftime show. Hopefully, you know, I just don't know how involved I will be throughout the game because last year we did lots of hits, Jon.

Jon Nelson: Yeah.

Hannah Goodin: But look for me at halftime, hopefully throughout the game as well, doing some score updates, trying to bug Jon.

Jon Nelson: Yep. [laughs] 

Hannah Goodin: Get information on the sideline.

Jon Nelson: Jon, text me this piece of information.

Hannah Goodin: What do you see, Jon, what do you see down there?

Jon Nelson: Well, what I see, Hannah, is this. But no — it's — it's gonna be a little different for us all. But we're gonna be there each and every Football Friday in Georgia for you this season. And it's — it's what we love to do. And it will culminate with the championships down at Georgia State. Remember, that's going to be after Christmas this year, right? It'll be your New Year's present, it’ll be 26, 7, 8, I think or 28 — no  — 28, 29, 30. The Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday after Christmas. That's when the championships are. Georgia State Football Friday's in Georgia broadcast starts this Friday, seven o'clock Recruiting 2020, followed by the kickoff of Football Friday's in Georgia at 730 Cedar Grove and Milton. Final words!

Hannah Goodin: don't miss our countdown to kickoff Facebook live show every Wednesday at noon with Jon and I. We preview, we recap. We have fun videos and pictures that you might have missed. And we also get to interact with everybody in the Facebook comment section. So join us at noon every Wednesday and enjoy your lunch with us.

Jon Nelson: Yes. And what's for lunch, by the way? That's — that's the main question that we have here.

That is another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast here at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thanks for hanging out with us once again every single week for the remainder of the football season. We will keep you posted on what is going on here in the state of Georgia when it comes to some of the best high school football games, schools, and talent all around the country. This — this podcast is produced by the irreplaceable Sean Powers. Boy, does he put up with a lot on a weekly basis for Hannah. I'm just Jon, play it safe, everybody. We’ll see you next week.


Transcript by Eva Rothenberg