Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — At the Players Café, Tim Chapman, whose business success and Florida residency make good tax sense, was reminiscing about his time at Georgia. He was in a grateful mood, as he usually is.
With a modest lifestyle growing up in Clayton County, Tim never thought that a college education was possible. His parents couldn’t underwrite the cost of higher education, and there weren’t any scholarship options.
There were no college graduates in his family. Nobody ever talked to him about enrolling anywhere. For sure, nobody thought he could have found a way to matriculate at the University of Georgia. College was so unlikely for him that he never cultivated a preference for any college team in the state. He grew up a Falcon fan because of Tommy Nobis, the Atlanta linebacker who was the idol of the kids in his neighborhood.
At Jonesboro High School, he was a teammate of Scott Woerner, who would make All-America with the Bulldogs. It was his high school coach, Weyman Sellers, a captain at Georgia, who gave him his nickname, Spanky, for the character in “Little Rascals.”
The first college football game Tim saw was the 1976 Georgia-Alabama game when he sneaked into Sanford Stadium with the band. He did not know what to expect when he arrived in Athens for the game, but when it was over, he was so smitten with the campus, the atmosphere, and the pageantry that he made a vow to himself that he would become a Dawg. To further his educational objective, he hitched onto Georgia athletics. He became a manager of the football team and eventually earned a scholarship. He was getting an education and enjoying himself at the same time.
When the victory celebration began in the Louisiana Super Dome after Georgia defeated Notre Dame in 1980, nobody’s spirits soared higher than Tim’s.
“My time on the practice field was different,” he said. “I didn’t score any touchdowns, but I paid attention to what the coaches were saying and teaching, especially Coach (Vince) Dooley and Coach (Erskine) Russell. Some of their motivational messages, I have often utilized in my business career.” It is doubtful that any member of the 1980 team has been more successful than Chapman, who, along with his wife, Leah, manages his investment company, Stadion, from Ponte Vedra, Lake Oconee, and Watkinsville. He gives the highest priority to anything Red and Black, Bulldog and UGA.
Included in his management style is the underscoring of leadership, motivation, and humor. “I’ll always believe,” Tim says, “that Coach Russell used humor better than any coach in the country to teach and motivate his players. He was so effective.”
Recalling the beginning fall practice in 1981, Tim remembered an incident that reflects his savvy and resourcefulness. He and Leah had planned their wedding on a Saturday afternoon in late August-a day, as it turned out, that was not a good day on the practice field. Dooley, in frustration, kept advising to his charges, “Run that play one more time.” Tim was understandably nervous. Practice time was encroaching on wedding time.
Chapman suddenly became proactive. He eased up to Dooley and said under his breath. “Coach, my wedding is at 6:00 p.m. today and a lot of these guys are in it. It would be nice if they could take a shower.” After one more play, Dooley, who never acknowledged Chapman, dismissed the team.
The conclusion of the story is confirmation that Tim Chapman, long before Stadion became one of highest-regarded brainchildren of any Georgia alumnus, has always been a compelling and creative salesman.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.