Pro-Football’s Hayworth to Coach at GCHS
Thursday, August 9, 2018
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Just over two weeks before the start of school, Grundy County Schools Athletic Director Leon Woodlee contacted former Tennessee Vols and Detroit Lions linebacker Tracy Hayworth and offered him the job of head football coach at Grundy County High School.
“I was surprised, shocked and happy,” Hayworth said. “It was a whirlwind of emotions.”
Hayworth coached previously at the University of the South, Southwest Baptist University (Missouri) and as a volunteer at his alma mater, Franklin County High School.
“I’d sort of been looking for a coaching position,” Hayworth said, “but it was late in the season and the opportunity surprised me.”
Woodlee was appointed athletic director on July 12. He and GCHS football coach Scott Smith had a disagreement Woodlee’s first week on the job. He fired Smith and hired Hayworth two days later.
“The director of schools told me she wanted our football program cleaned up,” Woodlee said. Aggravated rape charges against several players and a mid-season change of coaches had given the football program a “black eye.” Smith was hired in February after the 2017 season’s close.
A former school board member and girls basketball coach at Swiss Memorial and GCHS, Woodlee had his eye on Hayworth even before being appointed to the position of athletic director.
“‘Hire this guy and you won’t have to worry about Grundy County football,’ people in Sewanee and Winchester told me.”
“I’m the best person for the job,” Hayworth said. “It answers all the ‘whys’ in my life, my trials and tribulations and my training and experience.”
“My job is to get the guys back to championship quality and bring the community together, to get the team and community reconnected.”
Hayworth favors a “back to basics” approach to coaching. “It’s about building character and a sense of pride, being a mentor to the boys. I want them to be young men who excel in the classroom and are leaders in society, to teach them to be professionals in life.”
Hayworth is the first African American coach at GCHS.
“I’m not afraid of the issues outside of football,” Hayworth said. “I’ve lived it and seen the ups and downs. I’ve dealt with every type of person. I’m well trained in dealing with issues of negativity.”
Hayworth also played three years of arena football with the Nashville Katz. Sewanee won the conference during his coaching tenure there, and Southwest Baptists was in the first or second position in the conference the years he coached.
Hayworth cites UT winning the SEC championship when he played for the Vols as one of his proudest moments. “It’s hard to pick just one, though,” he said. “I enjoyed all my playing days. I played as hard as I could and with love.”
“Some of the best moments were off the field, visiting children’s hospitals and helping to feed the hungry.”
Woodlee interviewed four candidates for the coaching position. Hayworth was the first.
“Tracy and I met for five hours,” Woodlee said. “Good things are going to happen. To the negative people who bring up the issue of race, I tell them there’s the door.”