Lester Caldwell, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
1. What is the most memorable game you’ve been a part of as a player or coach? “The most memorable game was in 1998 at Murray County. I was at Washington. It was our first time going to the playoffs [traveling outside of metro Atlanta] in quite a while. There were a lot of pre-game jitters. They had a very good back, and we were worried about him taking advantage of us in their option offense. We came out and beat them 49-7 and scored twice on defense. I was the defensive coordinator, and we held them to 70 yards. The defense signed the game ball and gave it to me. It pulled at my heart strings and made me feel great.” [It was Washington’s first road playoff victory since joining the GHSA in 1966. Washington made the playoffs the season before in Caldwell’s first season on staff.]
2. Which high school coach would you want your son to play for, and why? “Either Willie Hunter of old Fulton High or the late Kirby McDaniel. Both of those guys were tough as nails. They taught great family values and how to play through pain. They showed you the toughness you need as a man to make it in life. They exemplified that in the way they carried themselves. I try to keep up with Coach Hunter. Every time I see him, I light up like a Christmas tree. We just lost Coach Mac recently. The funeral was two weeks ago. We became good friends after my playing days.” [McDaniel, who coached Caldwell in the 1980s at Mays, passed away Oct. 1. Hunter was Fulton’s head coach in the 1980s and coached with Caldwell at Washington.]
3. What is your pet peeve as a coach or favorite saying/motto? “‘The only thing that fails is a try.’ You’ve got to try in order to fail. You don’t know if you can do it unless you try. You’ve got to give it a shot.”
4. Which GHSA policy or high school football rule would you most like to see changed? “Tighter guidelines on [academic] eligibility. Pass all of your classes. If we just do the bare minimum, a lot of times, all we do is fill up junior colleges and not give the kids a fair shake at getting it done.”
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