SOME STORIES RECEIVED SO FAR...
The CHCS football program was on its last legs and was in danger of being dropped from the school athletics. Coach Thorn was contacted and, after much cajoling, agreed to re-start a program. Only about 8 of us showed up for that first practice. We used hand-me-down equipment and uniforms that Coach Thorn sourced from area public high schools that were throwing the gear out. We went 3-5 that first year. After weathering that first season with one unpaid assistant coach/bus driver, Coach got really serious. Summer practices were 2-a-day. We conditioned like crazy. He started a track team and required football players to run track in the off-season. He preached stamina because we didn't have numbers. Most of our teams had 16-20 kids on them. One season, grade checks took out many players on a particular game week and we played an away game in Cobb County with 13 players dressed out: 11 on the field and 2 subs standing next to Coach Thorn and his assistant. You HAD to be tough; you HAD to outlast your opponent. That 2nd season we went 10-1, captured the GCAA North Region Championship over our arch-rival Athens Christian, and then played them again in the GCAA State Championship game, beating them 7-6. It was like a movie script. That was the first State football championship Coach Thorn ever had.
He was never going to be outworked. Every year we took the track team to Gulf Shores for the week. We would start practice at 8AM each morning. Before the morning practice, Coach Thorn would be outside on the roads getting in his morning run and workout (6AM) in order to be finished and ready to practice the kids from 8AM to about 1PM. He did this all the way until our last trip when he was 88 years old.
One year at the sports banquet, Mike got up to introduce Coach. He had a large stack of the old computer paper that was attached that had to be torn apart after each page. He said a line then flung the paper over the podium. We all got a laugh. Coach Thorn was well known for his long winded speeches.
My best memory is when Coach Thorn called me to ask about coming to race his top-girls on the Milton HS XC course, one of the toughest and slowest in the state. He wanted to know every detail, turn, surface, etc... He said, "Hot, hill, hard or easy, it's the same for everyone. Time doesn't matter in cross country; it's who you can beat on any given day." And that is what made his runners the best competitors. We/Milton didn't get to race Landmark many times while Coach Thorn was there, but when we did, we knew they were bringing their best and were going to "throw-down" on everyone they raced that day. A Coach Thorn athlete is just not a good runner, they are a good person, who will give it their all and are most respectful to all their competitors, just like Coach Thorn was to all of us opposing coaches & teams.
He was so inspirational in his own life and running. He didn’t believe in big egos. He believed in seeking constant improvement in your next race. He used to say, ‘When the going gets hard, run harder.’ I definitely [thought] of that during the [2020 Olympic Trials] marathon.
I believe it was when I first came to Headland that I first heard Coach Thorn referred to as “the Briar”. Of course, NO ONE ever used that reference in his person! Looking back, I have to say that the title was not just a good play on his name, but also seemed to capture his personality and the personality of his teams. You know, “tough, resilient, persistent, prickly, and not to be messed with.” Funny how that reputation seemed to grow over the years, and in time it was not a sarcastic reference, but to us Briar's Boys of '67 and '68, it was, and still is an endearing term. I'm an old man, and still one of my proudest accomplishments is to be known as one of his Briar's Boys. Believe me, it was not a title easily earned!
Coach Thorn stood strong when many would have folded. He instilled dedication and strength and expected that of his athletes. He had our backs on and off the field. He is truly the greatest man of integrity I know.
I played one year of football on the JV Football team at Colonial Hills. Coach Thorn called the JV team “Teamers.” I was not a good football player! I practiced pretty well, but I didn’t apply what I learned on the practice field to the game field. The JV team practiced with the varsity team, and we got to hold the tackling dummies so the varsity could practice their plays. At the end of practice, Coach would gather both teams to talk. One time, Coach wasn’t happy with some of the varsity players who had missed some practices. He started to look around all of us and called out, “Hey…where’s that teamer…Wallace?” I raised my hand, and Coach told me to stand. As I stood, he asked, “Hey teamer…Wallace, how much did you play last game?” I answered, “A few minutes of the last quarter.” Coach replied, “Son, how many practices have you missed?” “None, sir,” was my reply. Coach then proceeded to chew out some of the varsity players for missing practices. I was convinced that I was a dead man in the locker room and in the halls of the school! For some reason, and I think Coach Thorn had something to do with it, I had some respect from the varsity players. The moment that Coach called me out is seared in my mind, and I will never forget it. Showing up and not quitting has stuck with me my whole life.