That tradition has stretched through some of the program’s most noted coaches — the likes of Jake Northcutt, French Johnson, Ray Broadaway, James “Red” Pressley, Dexter Wood, James “Friday” Richards and, most recently, Scott Burton — who have chronicled the team’s past while adding value to its future through generations of athletes.
One lineage of players in particular — the McCollums — has a strong history with the Blue Devils’ program stretching more than 90 years. It began with John McCollum in the 1920s, and has since extended through three more generations — John Jr., Andy and Drew.
“Sports was something that tied our family together,” said 78-year-old John McCollum Jr., who played from 1949-52 under Pressley. “I played halfback back then. Just about everybody in the family played a sport at Marietta High, including my late wife, Peggy. She played basketball at Marietta.”
A lot of McCollum’s time with the Blue Devils was spent at Northcutt Stadium. After graduation, he played one year of football at Georgia before spending time in the Army.
His father played football at Marietta from 1923-25 — predating the program’s venerable home field, Northcutt Stadium, by 15 years. In fact, the senior McCollum played for the stadium’s namesake, Jake Northcutt.
John Sr. also played baseball at Marietta and went on to Young Harris College, were he was a basketball and baseball player.
“Our roots in Marietta go back to the 1800s,” John Jr. said. “There’s a road of Old Highway 41 called Stanley Road that was named for my granddaddy, and McCollum Field at the airport is connected to a distant relative of ours. So, Marietta is in our blood.”
Since John Jr.’s time at Northcutt Stadium, his son, Andy, and grandson, Drew, have also played football there.
Andy, 53, played quarterback for the Blue Devils from 1973-77 under Broadaway, and he was also a member of the school’s basketball and baseball teams. Drew, 18, was a linebacker under Burton this past season, after transferring from Kennesaw Mountain, and he will compete this spring as part of the Blue Devils’ baseball team.
“It was great for Drew to have the opportunity to play at Marietta this past season,” said Andy, who went on to play football at Austin Peay before beginning a college coaching career of three decades and counting, including his current position as Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
“The tradition at the school and for our family, it was really special for (Drew), and for my dad, to see him play with the ‘M’ on his helmet.
“He knew about all of the great players before him and the history of the stadium. Playing at Marietta and at Northcutt was something he wanted to do. We all graduated from there, and it’s where he wanted to graduate from, too.”
Drew was recently accepted into Berry College and will be a part of the Vikings’ inaugural football team — a non-scholarship NCAA Division III program — this fall, hoping to become the third generation of his family to play college football.
“I’m really excited to keep the legacy going,” he said. “It’s an honor to be the third person to play college football. I can’t wait.”
Drew said his only season as a member of the Blue Devils’ football team was everything he thought it’d be and more.
“Knowing I had an opportunity to go to Marietta, I had a dream that I’d be able to go out and play on the same field where my dad and granddad played,” he said. “It was a big deal for me to keep that going. It was awesome.
“And knowing my great-granddad played football at Marietta, too, made it even more special. Playing at Northcutt was better than I thought it would be. To see where my dad and granddad sat and see them watch me play for coach Burton was awesome.”
Drew’s experiences at Marietta went beyond immediate family.
“A lot of folks came up to me to say that, ‘I played with your dad or granddad,’ so I got that a lot,” he said. “It was nice to see folks that knew my father and granddad, like coach Richards and coach (Roscoe) Googe and coach (Charlie) Hood. It was really a blessing.”