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The Jarvis Brothers Make It A Family Affair At Elbert County
If I had written this column last season, it would have been talking about “going home” for Shannon Jarvis. He left Mill Creek, where he started the program and was its only head coach, to return to Elberton, the Granite Bowl, and the Blue Devils -- a place where he played two sports and learned under legendary football coach T. McFerrin.
But, now that Jarvis is home, he has had a year to settle in to add more memories to those he and his family had growing up.
“For my wife and two daughters, I couldn’t be happier,” he admits. “I hadn’t been here in a whole lifetime -- 25 years -- and we get to rekindle all those emotions. There are very special people here in Elbert County and my children get to experience it.”
Jarvis knows it’s different at Elbert County. He coaches in a one-school county and there aren’t as many distractions now. He knows his player’s dads and uncles first-hand so there is that family feel to this chapter in his life.
And then there’s where he gets to play -- the Granite Bowl. It is one of the legendary venues here in the state. Here’s the short version as to what it means to northeast Georgia and Elbert County. It was built in 1952 by boosters and businesses tied to the town’s granite industry – more than 100,000 tons of blue granite. And the place means a lot to the Jarvis family.
"My earliest memories of the Granite Bowl go back to when I was about 4 or 5 years old,” Shannon’s brother, Greg, says. Greg is still the Director of Media Operations at Mill Creek. “My dad was a math teacher at Elbert County and I had already fallen in love with football (thanks primarily to Ken Stabler and the "Hands of Stone" playoff game vs Miami). When Daddy would pick me up from a local day care facility, the Buckaroo Ranch, we would go to the Granite Bowl and watch practice while we were waiting for my mom to get off work at 5."
“My first hero was Blue Devil quarterback Jeff Howe. I remember names like Eddie Roberts, Melvin Bell, Rocky Hamm and Tony Oglesby. Some of my favorite memories, though, were watching Shannon play under T. McFerrin. Watching him have the opportunity to come home and coach in the Granite Bowl has been exciting for all of us.”
“It is the most unique stadium in the state,” Shannon adds. “I’m standing on the sidelines and I can hear when the phone rings. A team we played last year even reached back out to us to see if they could come back. They enjoyed the experience so much. The stadium really does take you back in time. There’s no track to separate you from the fans who are right on top of you. It really does give you fuel as a player.”
For Shannon, there is no disputing that his Blue Devil Pride (capitalization intentional) runs deep. He’s glad that he went home to coach later in his career and it is important to him and his family to represent Elberton and Elbert County the right way.
“It reminds me of how we were raised as a family,” he says. “We were raised in a family of educators. And at the supper table, the conversations -- then and now -- were and are about the opportunities to change kid’s lives. It’s no secret why we went into education as a career.”
And those opportunities help to add to new chapters of their own.
Now to the irony of the situation ... off the field.
Shannon and Greg’s other brother, Jon, is the county’s school superintendent. When Shannon was head coach at Mill Creek, the conversations he couldn’t have with Greg, he could with Jon. Now, with Shannon at Elbert, the tables are turned. By his own admission, he talks to Greg more now than ever -- especially with what we’ve all gone through in the last year-plus. All those hard decisions that need to be made? The insight comes from the other direction.
In an open letter to the county, Jon told everyone this about the Jarvis family:
“I was fortunate to have great parents, educators, and community role models that allowed me to dream as a little boy and reach my dreams. I believe we owe it to our students to teach them to dream and provide them the opportunities to reach their dreams.”
Shannon and Jon get to do that from the supper table to the lunch table to the football field and the Granite Bowl these days. Their reach continues to expand in the Blue Devil way with the generational touch. Greg catches up with them on Football Fridays when he can, but his love is always there.
“I am quite proud of both of my brothers because they have a heart for kids and want to help them be successful in life,” Greg says. “I love my Mill Creek Hawks and my Commerce Tigers, but the Granite Bowl will always be special to me."
One more piece of irony. This time, it’s on the field.
Elbert is 1-1 out of the blocks this season with a loss to Hart County and a win over Commerce. Washington-Wilkes comes to the Granite Bowl this week and their head coach is Sid Fritts. Fritts spent nine seasons on the same sideline Jarvis has returned to now.
It should make for an interesting Friday night.
Play it safe, everyone ... I’ll see you soon.