Jim Walsh Jr.’s name always will be linked with some of the best athletes, coaches and contributors to sports in the Coastal Empire.
Monday night was a chance for the former Bradwell Institute football coach to reflect on his legacy during his induction into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I want to thank the committee for considering me and also selecting me to be a member of the Class of 2015,” Walsh said. “There are so many people for me to thank tonight. I especially want to thank my family: my wife Becky, son Jake, and daughter Erin Gregos for their support. I also want to thank my parents, especially my mom for how well she raised all six of us and the fact that she saved me from my dad, who just happened to be coach Walsh, the head football coach at Benedictine.”
The ceremony also focused on Walsh’s time as a player at Benedictine and when he became one of the most consistent, respected offensive linemen at the University of South Carolina. During the 1984 season, playing as an independent, USC went 9-0 with victories over Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Clemson. Carolina rose to No. 2 in the rankings, but a late loss to Navy dropped the Gamecocks to No. 9, costing them any possibility to play for a national championship.
Selected for the Gator Bowl, USC fell to Oklahoma State 21-14 when the Cowboys were led by star running back Thurman Thomas and coach Jimmy Johnson.
Walsh was drafted by the United States Football League’s Tampa Bay Bandits, who were coached by Steve Spurrier. However, due to nagging injuries, Walsh ended up leaving the Bandits after a short time with the franchise.
After leaving professional football, Walsh went on to coach the defensive line at Western Kentucky University and later led Savannah Sol C. Johnson High School to the playoff. In fact, Walsh shared Monday’s night honor with one of his players, Johnson High School and Clemson standout Terry Bryant.
While WTOC Anchor Sonny Dixon was introducing Walsh and going through the many awards that he received as a prep and college player, Walsh reminded the audience that he was converted to the offensive line at USC.
“One person that I certainly have to thank is my offensive line coach at South Carolina,” he said. “I was originally signed as linebacker and thought that’s where I would end up playing, but I gained some weight during my freshman so I got promoted to the offensive line. My coaches were patient with me at first because it was slow going early, but I figured it out and really started to enjoy playing offensive line.”
Learning the game as a player and later as a coach from his father has meant a lot to Walsh.
“I learned a lot about being a good football player and good football coach from my dad. He taught me how to understand players better and to give a player a tongue-lashing to when they needed, just like he gave me a few when I needed it,” Walsh said.
Walsh spent the majority of his coaching career at Bradwell Institute before going to AAAAAA powerhouse Peachtree Ridge High School to coach the running backs.
Longtime Bradwell coaches Rhett Hellgren — and his wife Judy, a former Liberty County administrator — DeAndre Davis and Lindsay Guyett Martin; and current Liberty County Board of Education member Carol Guyett were present for Walsh’s induction. Walsh also coached Davis during his time at Savannah Johnson.
“I hope that I have been able to help the kids I have coached in the same way that my coaches have helped me become a better player and person. Thank you so much for this honor tonight,” Walsh said.