It was just one football game, played a quarter of a century ago.
Griff Gordy was a 17-year-old senior quarterback who led his Central High Red Devils to the Alabama 6A state championship over West End in Birmingham’s Legion Field.
What did that day mean?
“A lot more than I thought it did the day we won it,” Gordy said Wednesday morning. “I went off to college and ultimately came back to Phenix City and started my own optometry practice. I didn’t realize the magnitude that day, that season had on this community.”
Or the impact that moment would have years later.
Today as he sees patients in Riverchase Drive office, people still want to talk about Central football and 1993. And he’s 42 years old and long removed from that moment of high school glory.
“People want to talk about that state championship or Central football, in general, three or four times a day,” he said. “Somehow or another they know I played quarterback for the state championship team.”
He has former teammates, classmates and coaches who are now patients. The impact of that state championship is something Gordy continues to feel in his daily life as he has become a doctor, husband, father and community leader.
“The impact of that season and the impact of the team we had has affected me tremendously throughout my life,” he said. “This community has put their trust in me, not as a football player but as an optometrist.”
Those life lessons Gordy and his teammates learned on a high school football field have translated throughout life, Gordy said.
“One of the biggest things that Coach (Wayne) Trawick and Coach (Ron) Nelson instilled in us is that ‘Tough times never last, tough people do,'” Gordy said. “You think that hasn’t gone through my mind every day. When I struggled through classes or struggled with what I wanted to do in my career, that was always there. My teammates and I have talked about it. We know when we get together, ‘Tough times never last, tough people do.'”
When he replays that 12-7 win in the “Football Capital of the South,” as Legion Field was known at the time, Gordy remembers his head coach.
“I’ll never forget celebrating on the field after the game and the joy I saw in Coach Trawick’s face,” Gordy said. “It meant so much to all of us, but he was a person I always looked up to, almost like a father figure. I will never forget the smile and celebration that was in his face. He deserved it so much.”
Trawick had coached a treasure trove of great players, but until that day had never won a state title.
“Talent-wise he had had teams better than the one we put out there,” Gordy said.
Gordy will tell you the mindset to be the best started as ninth graders when their coach was Charles Kelly, who now is a defensive assistant for the University of Tennessee and was the former defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech and Florida State.
“He had us break down after every practice and say ‘State Champs,'” Gordy said. “We were freshmen and we couldn’t even play for a state championship, but he had that mindset in us that’s where we wanted to be.”
That championship is history and there’s another one to win tonight when Central, back in the title game for the first time since 1993, faces Thompson from Alabaster.
Gordy has one message for the Central football players who tonight will be in a similar situation he was in 25 years ago.
“Soak it all in, as much as they can,” Gordy said. “It’s gone like that in a flash. The moment is gone. It will live forever in your memory, but that moment is gone.”