Johnny Seabrooks has been the Dougherty County Director of Athletics since 2002 and has touched countless lives in his 40 years as a coach, administrator and mentor for athletes in Southwest Georgia.
ALBANY — His roots are in Florida, but Johnny Seabrooks’ life has been right here in Albany, where the Good Life City has been even better since he arrived.
Seabrooks, who was born and raised in Montecello, Fla., has dug both his feet — and his heart — into the Georgia clay, where he spent 28 years coaching in high schools and 40 years in one capacity or another overseeing high school athletes.
On Monday night, Seabrooks will be inducted into the Albany Sports Hall of Fame, and many feel it’s long overdue for a man who has given his life to the youth of Southwest Georgia and specifically to Dougherty County.
“It’s an honor, a great honor,’’ said Seabrooks as he conducted an interview with The Herald Friday, rushing between the college signing of Westover distance runner Ericka Taylor and overseeing physicals for the county.
The man who is synonymous with track & field in Albany seems to always be on the run.
He has been the Dougherty County Director of Athletics since 2002 as a long winding road brought him to his current position — a road that started when Seabrooks arrived here as a coach after starting out in Brooks County, where he ran a one-man recreational facility from the back of his Volkswagen as a roving physical education teacher in Quitman and later as a legendary coach in the Dougherty County school district at both Monroe and Dougherty high schools.
It’s been 40 years since he graduated from Albany State University, where he was a four-year letterman and star in both football and track & field. He graduated with a bachelor of science in health and physical education in 1974 and later earned a masters in education, administration and supervision from ASU in 1999.
But that’s Seabrooks, who will be entering his third Hall of Fame. He has already been inducted into Albany State’s Hall of Fame and the Georgia Track & Field Hall of Fame — both of those doors opened for him in 2010.
He knew he was destined to be with the youth of Georgia from those very beginnings when he was a one-man gymnasium and physical education program in Brooks County.
“I had three elementary schools, and I rotated between them,’’ Seabrooks said of his beginnings as a mentor and physical education teacher in Georgia. “They didn’t have gyms. We played basketball on a dirt court. But just to see those kids. They were so excited to have a P.E. class. When I showed up it was like I was heaven-sent. I had plenty of energy, and I loved it. I really loved it.’’
That hasn’t changed.
Seabrooks is one of those guys who relishes his job, eats it up every day, devouring every chance he has to help the next kid who comes along. He’s touched two generations, and is working on a third.
Seabrooks is not only the face of the GHSA girls state track & field meet, but he’s the drive behind it every spring when Hugh Mills Stadium plays host to the best girls track & field high school programs in Georgia. Seabrooks was a big reason Albany won the right to host the GHSA girls state meet, and he is a bigger reason that meet has been a jewel since it moved to Hugh Mills 31 years ago.
“Anybody who has been to the girls state track meet in Albany and the boys state track meet in Jefferson will tell you that the girls meet in Albany is far better than the boys meet in Jefferson,’’ Westover principal William Chunn said. “And that’s because of the leadership of Johnny Seabrooks.’’
Chunn has known Seabrooks since they met in 1986 when Chunn became the girls track coach at Monroe High, where Seabrooks was already the established boys track coach.
Seabrooks arrived at Monroe in 1979, leaving Brooks County to come home to The Good Life City. Seabrooks, who came to ASU from Florida on a football and track scholarship in 1970, took the town motto literally.
If ever a pilgrim landed in Albany to put down a stake, it was Seabrooks, who first arrived in Southwest Georgia green out of high school and then stayed here for a lifetime.
“I’ve been blessed,’’ Seabrooks said on Friday. “I’ve been blessed to be around good people from the coaches and athletic directors who helped guide me, and I feel lucky and blessed to be elected to the Albany Hall of Fame.’’
Seabrooks had served on the Albany Hall of Fame board for the past 11 years and had to leave that position so that he could be inducted this year.
“I had to remove myself from that position,’’ said Seabrooks with a smile, adding that otherwise he would have been in a position to vote on himself for the honor.
Anyone who knows Seabrooks knows he needed to be elected in a landslide vote. Every year The Herald announces its high school boys and girls track Player of the Year awards. Last spring, The Herald named them The Johnny Seabrooks Player of the Year awards in boys and girls track & field.
Seabrooks coached track & field and football for a span of 28 years. He began as the defensive coordinator at Monroe in 1981 and later became the head track & field coach. In 1993, Seabrooks became the head boys track & field coach and assistant football coach at Dougherty, where he also coached the girls cross country team. He has touched countless lives in Dougherty County — and still puts the youth ahead of any other concern as his job as the county’s Director of Athletics.
He has served on the National Federation of High School Track & Field Rules Committee and has been the State Director for the National Federation Coaches Association. Seabrooks has also been a delegate and moderator at the National Athletic Director’s Conference, and he is the past president of the Georgia Athletic Directors Association. Seabrooks is a former chairman of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s track & field committee. He also served on the board of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Committee and the Georgia State Games Commission.
“To be inducted into the Albany Hall of Fame, it’s just such a great honor to be included with all those people who have been there before me,’’ Seabrooks said. “For the people you work with to honor you like this makes it an even bigger honor.’’