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Vickery headed for Hall of Fame
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Nearly 31 years ago, legendary football coach Bobby Gruhn convinced Wayne Vickery to leave Madison County and come to Gainesville High. In less than a month, on June 5, the two will be reunited; not in a high school or a playing field, but in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

“God, what an honor,” said Vickery, who coached baseball at Gainesville for 20 years and won 12 region championships and five state titles. “I’ve been inducted to a couple of other Hall of Fames, but those don’t compare to this.”

Not meaning to slight the honor of being inducted to the Northeast Georgia Hall of Fame and the Georgia Dugout Club’s Hall of Fame, Vickery was “simply floored” when he heard the news that he would join his longtime friend and mentor, Gruhn, and the other 40-plus members of the GACA Hall of Fame.

“I’ve known people that have been waiting years to get in and I’ve only been out 16-18 months” Vickery said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Retired from coaching in 2008, Vickery refuses to take credit for winning 470 games in his career.

“You don’t get in Hall of Fames without good players and great assistant coaches,” he said. “There are plenty of coaches that know more about baseball that won’t get in.”

While he might not have as high a baseball IQ as some coaches, few could challenge Vickery in work ethic.

“There’s nobody that wants to win more than him,” said current Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp, who took over for Vickery upon his retirement. “He’s a very hard worker and he definitely puts the time in.”

Work ethic was one of the reasons that Vickery tabbed Kemp to be his successor.

“I don’t think I’ve met anyone that works any harder,” Vickery said of Kemp. “There’s not much grass left under his shoes.”

The same can still be said about Vickery, who mans the sidelines at almost every Gainesville athletic event.

“I don’t know if there’s anybody that loves Gainesville High School more than him,” Kemp said.

Despite his great love for the school, Vickery, who was hampered by a bad hip during the latter part of his coaching career, knew that it was his time to hang it up.

“I wanted to go out on top without someone pushing me out the door,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a Brett Favre that stays too long and then keeps retiring every year.

“Twenty years from now, people won’t be able to say that Wayne Vickery stayed too long.”

Nor will they be able to say that Vickery wasn’t successful. But like all great coaches will say, success came with a price.

“My two sons sacrificed more than anybody,” he said. “I should have been in the back yard with them instead of coaching other kids.

“As a dad, you need to spend time with your children,” he added. “I’ve done a poor job with that, but hopefully they’ll forgive me and learn to love me again.”

Missing out on his sons’ childhood wasn’t the only sad thing that happened during Vickery’s coaching career, because in 1995, Gruhn passed away.

“I’ve had a lot of honors in my life, but one of the biggest honors was being a pallbearer at Bobby Gruhn’s funeral,” Vickery said.

“He plucked me from Madison County in the ’70s and I’ve been here ever since.

“To go up there and put in the Hall of Fame beside him is unbelievable,” he added. “That man deserves 10 times more than I deserve.”
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