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24th Albany Sports Hall of Fame induction: Doyal chief among Indians

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

ALBANY -- The memories came rushing back, washing over Jerry Doyal and leaving him a bit nostalgic, and with a smile on his face.

He played football back in the days when Albany High was a power, when 10,000 fans would show up every Friday night to watch the Indians -- back in the 1950s.

"The memory that stands out is when we went down and played Moultrie when I was a junior,'' Doyal said. "It's Colquitt County High now, but back then it was Moultrie High. I caught a pass on the first play, and stiff-armed Don Porterfield, who later was an All-American at Georgia. Later in the game, I ran 60 yards and got hit at the goal line. I got knocked into the crowd. I heard a guy say: 'Get your knife John, and cut him.'

"All I could think of was 'Where is my Momma?,' " Doyal said with a big laugh.

Doyal, 66, is smiling a lot these days. He still can't believe he is one of Albany's newest Hall of Famers. Doyal will be inducted into the Albany Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night at the 24th annual Albany Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at the Civic Center.

"When I got the call from the Hall of Fame, I played football in my mind all night long,'' Doyal said. "It's a very humbling experience. At first I said I'm not sure I deserve it. I am just really tickled to death about it and really excited about it.''

Doyal was an All-America running back at Albany High, where he led the Indians to an undefeated state title in 1959. He earned a scholarship to Florida State and might have been a star for the Seminoles, but injuries cut his football career short. First, it was torn cartilage in his knee and then a separated shoulder.

"I think if he hadn't had the injuries he would have been a star (running back) in college,'' said Bob Fowler, the president of the Albany Sports Hall of Fame. Fowler was Doyal's coach in junior high and an assistant coach on Albany High's football team.

"I had him for a long time,'' Fowler said. "He was everything you wanted a running back to be, All-Region, All-State, All-American. He was about as good as you want. He was just a hard, hard runner. Sometimes he made his own holes.''

Doyal has his roots buried deep in Albany. He not only grew up here, but returned after college to go into his father's business, Doyal's Wholesale, and he's still there. The company is in its 59th year.

Doyal has been married to his wife, Joy, for 45 years.

"She needs to be congratulated for putting up with me,'' said Doyal, who has four sons, a daughter and four grandchildren. He has been a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Albany for 25 years.

"I'm proud that part of (being chosen for the Hall of Fame) is based on my citizenship,'' Doyal said. "Giving back to the community and serving my church, that's the part of my life that's the best part.''

He has coached Little League baseball teams for 17 years and also coached midget football in Albany, but anyone who saw Doyal play knew he was something special. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry during his three-year career at Albany High, where he rushed for 1,890 yards, caught passes for 500 yards and added 302 yards in kickoff returns for a total of 2,692 yards. He also scored 20 TDs.

But what Doyal remembers most are his teammates and the era he played.

"Football was everything back then,'' Doyal said. "You played all the other sports to get ready for football. And everyone followed Albany High. We would have 10,000, 15,000 people at our games. On Friday nights, you weren't going anywhere else.''

Albany High played in the state's largest classification and had classic games against national power Valdosta.

"I remember when I was a sophomore we went to Valdosta and, on the way on the bus, coach Bernie Reid was sweating and wringing his hands, saying how we're going to beat them, and how 'We're going to make them scrape the bottom of the barrel,' that night," recalled Doyal. "They were 5-0 and we were 2-2 and they were the favorites.

"Valdosta hadn't lost a home game in 10 years, and we beat them 27-13,'' Doyal added. "That was such a thrill to beat them. After the game, little boys came onto the field and they were crying. They had never seen Valdosta lose a home game. They started spitting on us and throwing rocks at us. That's the way it was back then.''

Albany High lost only two more games in Doyal's career, winning 18 in a row during one stretch and the 1959 state title. In Doyal's three years, Albany went 28-4.

"Back then I idolized the football players who came before me,'' Doyal said. "They were heroes. They were role models. And I had great teammates. I really owe going into the Hall of Fame to my offensive linemen. We had great players. We had great coaches.

"It's such an honor (to be inducted into the Hall of Fame),'' he said. "It's a lifetime achievement award. It's very humbling.''