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Game of legends

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By Nancy Imperiale

It was 40 years ago that David Harvey and J.D. Jones last faced off on the football field.
Harvey was Sheriff and Jones was Head Football Coach and they were each quarterbacks of their exhibition teams.
“The Sheriff’s Office thought they had enough athletes, they were gonna play the high school coaches,” Jones said. “So we put these two teams together.”
The results weren’t pretty.
“We were massacred,” Harvey said. “That should have been a sign. Because we’ve gone on and 40 years later, he has a football field named after him, and I have a jail named after me.”
“What does that tell you?” Jones shot back. “I’m set up for the kill!”
If the back and forth on the football field is half as good as it was in the War Eagle Café Monday, Wakulla can expect a heck of a time at the 1st annual Legend vs. Legend Flag Football Game on Friday, June 16 at Wakulla High School.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. on Reynolds Field at Wakulla High School’s J.D. Jones Stadium.
Jones, the legendary coach, and Harvey, the legendary lawman, will be coaching red and blue teams of former WHS players as well as walk-ons who will be drafted beginning at 5:30 p.m. To participate you must be over age 30 and arrive by 5:15 p.m.
Admission is free and there will be concessions available as well as lots of giveaways from local businesses.
The game was the brainchild of Sam McGrew. The renowned linebacker was born and raised here, graduating from Wakulla High School in 2002.
In his senior year playing for the War Eagles, McGrew recorded more than 150 tackles and was considered by many to be the best inside linebacker prospect in Florida.
He earned a full scholarship to be a linebacker at Florida State University and later played for the Miami Dolphins and the Amsterdam Admirals.
McGrew got together Monday at his old alma mater to plan the Legends game with Jones and Harvey – three legends, all Wakulla natives.
McGrew grew up in Shadeville. Jones is from Sopchoppy. Harvey is a Crawfordville native.
Jones is 70. McGrew is 32. Harvey is 67.
“David and I are from an era where if you didn’t play sports, there was nothing else to do,” said Jones.
“There was a little more for Sam to do,” Harvey said.
“We loved going outside and playing football,” McGrew countered. “Not only dodging the people but dodging the trees, as well.”
While the elder athletes bantered, the younger one was more quiet and said he continues to be inspired by his old coach.
“He is great, not only on the field but off,” McGrew said. “I still remember the day I got in a wreck on 98, and it wasn’t five minutes later that Coach Jones was stopping to pick me up and make sure I’m OK. It meant everything to me.”
Jones said he doesn’t expect players to be too sentimental about him; he was a tough coach who hated losing.
“You have to understand, there’s a little bit of love/hate in what Sam’s saying,” Jones said. “I coached hard. I don’t know if you could coach that way again, the way I coached. I loved my kids and I have enough that will come back and say hey to me.”
McGrew didn’t disagree.
“Coach Jones was a tough coach, but learning how to deal with that rolled over for me into life,” McGrew said. “You can throw just about anything at me and I can handle it. That’s because of the training Coach Jones provided me. It’s about a lot more than football.”
Reflecting on the lessons about hard work, integrity and leadership which he learned on the gridiron led McGrew to found a sports camp for local children, now in its second year.
The 2nd annual Wakulla-McGrew Football & Cheerleading Camp runs this Saturday for kids ages 6 to 14 in Wakulla. Registration has closed.
“I believe the training you get on the field is just important for your well-being in life,” McGrew said. “I love kids, and I’ve seen camps in other cities and thought this was a great way to give the community something positive. I believe it’s important for kids to be inspired and have role models to look up to like Coach Jones and Sheriff Harvey.”
Harvey was the youngest man in Florida to ever be elected Sheriff in 1976 at age 26. He served for 35 years and to honor that after his retirement the county commission renamed the Sheriff’s office the David F. Harvey Criminal Justice Center.
Harvey was a top athlete and baseball star at Wakulla High School, then went on to play college baseball. But one of his proudest moments growing up, he says, is that “I scored the first touchdown ever scored in the history of Wakulla High School! Bobby Porter threw the pass.”
Asked how it felt, Harvey said, “Well it felt gooood!”
Harvey was inspired growing up by Jones, a standout athlete who was born and raised in Sopchoppy. He was the quarterback of Sochoppy High School’s undefeated football team.
(Both men, coincidentally, married WHS Homecoming Queens.)
Jones spent 36 years working in Wakulla High athletics as coach for basketball, football, weightlifting and softball. In his 29 years as head football coach, he had a 219-98 record, made 20 state playoffs and won back-to-back state championships in the 1980-81 seasons. Known for never cutting a student-athlete from a team, Jones was the Wakulla High athletic director from 1982 through 1987 and continued coaching until 2006. He won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year for six consecutive years and in 1981 alone, won five Coach of the Year awards. In 2005 the WHS football stadium was renamed the J.D. Jones Stadium at Reynolds Field.
 “We prided ourselves on being tougher and stronger than anybody else we were going to play,” Jones said of his teams. “Because I hated to lose. Everybody hates to lose, but I think I hate it just a little bit more.”
“He’s a tough, mean coach, but when people are down and out, he is right there,” Harvey said of Jones.
McGrew played for Jones from 1998 to 2001. Jones recalled how the young man was in his homeroom, and showed him so much respect by answering “Here, sir” at roll call that by year’s end the entire classroom was answering “Here, sir.”
That sort of respect for others inspired everyone around McGrew, Jones said.
 “To be an all-star and still be so humble and good to everybody is something special,” Jones said. “Sam has never been a bully. He could have been, you can look at him and tell he could have been! But he’s just one of those people who is great to coach.”
Asked for their strategies for game Friday night, the two coaches punted.
“I’m going to arrange for certain key individuals to be incarcerated,” Harvey said.
“I thought I was an honorary coach,” Jones said.
Informed that they were actually coaching opposing teams, the men were surprised and immediately wanted to see their rosters. After review, they agreed that they are good matches for size. The walk-on draft the evening of the game could change things, but not likely, Harvey said.
In the end, an old Wakulla truism may be the deciding factor.
“You can’t beat a Jones,” Harvey conceded. “They don’t like to be whupped.”

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