Andy Dorsey’s summers were spent at McEachern High School.
In the weight room, on the practice fields and in his father Jimmy's office, Dorsey found himself being brought up in the McEachern community from a very young age.
He would run around the camps with the other teachers' children, and when he grew older, he was promoted to ball boy for the Indians’ football team.
“I grew up at McEachern,” Andy Dorsey said. “I became a ball boy so I could be around the (football) program at a young age. I still have a picture of myself taken of me as a ball boy as a young child.”
Now, for the first time in 3½ decades, Jimmy Dorsey will no longer be regularly roaming the halls and fields of McEachern's sprawling campus, retiring from his long career in coaching and education.
Still the winningest football coach in Cobb County history, Dorsey turned his focus into helming the Indians' athletic department to avoid being left completely without sports after putting coaching behind.
“I think, sometimes, for people that coach as long as I did, it's good to have something to ease you into not being in that rat race of preparing for games and the competitiveness of it,” Dorsey said. “Being an athletic administrator, just coaching for a long period of time helped me understand the other coaches at McEachern. My job was to do everything I could to make their job easier. That’s how I approached it, more from a coaching standpoint than an administration standpoint.”
Dorsey first inherited the McEachern football team in 1984. It was his second head-coaching job, after spending three years at Paulding County High School. The Indians had never won a region championship in the 24 years they had fielded a team.
Two years into Dorsey’s stint, McEachern took home the Region 9AAAA championship. Ten years and eight region championships later, Dorsey had his team in the 1998 Class AAAA state championship game.
“My only disappointment is that we never won a state championship in football. We made it there once and got beat by Valdosta,” Dorsey said. “That was something that I was just constantly working towards. I never realized as a young coach just how hard that was. I thought it’d be simple, to be honest.”
Dorsey learned from the loss and went on to continue producing top-caliber teams that eventually won four more region championships. By his and of his career at McEachern, Dorsey had completed a 219-66-1 record in 21 years.
After having served as AD and coach for four years, Dorsey officially retired from coaching after the 2007 season.
“(Being AD) became part of my life,” Dorsey said. “I worked at McEachern 36 years, and you just develop a real love for where you go to work. It was just hard thinking about possibly having to give that up because that came such a big part of my life, my wife's life and my family. It almost becomes part of who you are.”
With Dorsey at the helm of the athletic department, McEachern’s facilities improved. Heightened by a $12 million project beginning in 2011, the football and basketball facilities underwent upgrades in all aspects — the press box, weight room, turf and gymnasiums.
“Every day I drive on campus, I’ll see what he's done, whether it be visual, building facilities and buildings or integrity,” said Andy Dorsey, who played for his father at McEachern before moving on to his own coaching and administrative careers.
The renovations have transformed Walter Cantrell Stadium and Lovinggood Gymnasium into some of the top venues for high school athletics in the state and beyond.
But as good as his teams were and as nice as the facilities are, for Jimmy Dorsey, it was always about the relationships with the community.
“I’ve coached kids of players I had. I was in it long enough to have that opportunity. My last year, I actually coached a grandson,” Dorsey said. “Those kind of relationships with the players is what makes McEachern special. A lot of people think it’s the money and the trust fund and the facilities, and that’s certainly part of it, but that Powder Springs community is what makes that place special.”
The talent that resides in Powder Springs is some of the best in the country, and the relationships and camaraderie are also there for the athletes and coaches, too.
“In terms of a Powder Springs or Powdertown rivalry, we’ve always kept it professional,” said Sherri Thoroughman, the athletic director at rival Hillgrove. “He’s been a mentor for me. Of course, he was the longest tenured athletic director in the district. When I came in eight years ago, he had already been established. He's always been someone I can tell things to or go to for advice.”
After the school year ended, a retirement party was held for Dorsey, and hundreds of former players, coaches and community members showed up to for the celebration.
“The real reward of doing this is to see these kids be successful and come back and show how much they appreciate the part you play,” Dorsey said. “The wins and the losses they come and go, but the relationships are what really matter."
“You don't really understand the impact you have on people until they come back and really express those feelings towards you,” Andy Dorsey said of his father. “The testimony isn't how many football games he's won. The testimony is what he's done for those players, turning them into good employees, good spouses and, most importantly, good parents.”
After pondering for several years the decision to finally step away, Jimmy Dorsey felt it was time.
“We’re not getting any younger, so I wanted to make sure we were still healthy enough to go out and do the stuff we wanted to accomplish,” he said. “If you work too long, you get burned out and can't do the big things you might want to do.”
Dorsey moved to a home near Clemson, South Carolina, a few years ago and has grown into a Tiger fan. Retirement will allow him to get more involved in his new community and enjoy the simple things, without having the concern of athletics.
The retirement party in May was Jimmy’s last duty as AD before giving the reins of his longest-tenured job to someone he trusts and knows quite well — his son.
“It's a tremendous honor, upholding the traditions of that community and of that school,” said Andy Dorsey, who coached football at Hiram before moving into an AD role at the school and, most recently, Marietta. “I’m privileged to be able to carry out the strength of the past and be a role model for future Indians. I will definitely build on the legacy that he left there and hopefully add some new things to improve the school.”
The Dorsey legacy at McEachern rolls on. The 2019-20 school year will be the 35th straight a year with a Dorsey on staff.
The changing of the guard to his son made stepping away a little easier for the elder Dorsey.
“I will always answer his phone call. I might not always answer someone else’s phone call,” Jimmy Dorsey said, laughing. “My son’s 41 years old, so he’s no whippersnapper coming in here. He gets it and knows what's going on. He’ll do a really great job.”
Andy Dorsey is not an inexperienced AD, and he will be surrounded with talent, but there will still be growing pains. Still, he is excited for the challenges that come with the job.
Andy Dorsey, though, is expecting his father to linger for at least a little while.
“I think he’ll end up coming back a lot, but that first Friday where he makes the decision to stay home and not come, I think everyone’s phones will blow up because he’ll be making sure all the checklists are done and everything is taken care of,” Andy Dorsey said.
Jimmy Dorsey plans to still stay involved with some events locally, like the Corky Kell Classic, per request of McEachern principal Regina Montgomery. It may be several years before Dorsey completely removes himself from the McEachern picture, and it may never come.
He is just fine with that.
“This is McEachern’s 85th year, and it will probably be around another 85 years. That’s a wonderful thing,” Jimmy Dorsey said. “I’ve never dreaded going to school, and that makes me a pretty lucky guy.”