Class of 2009
The early and mid-1950s was a golden era for Athens High School football. Led by legendary coaches Ferman Elmore and Bill Nichols, Athens was not only producing great teams but they were providing many colleges with outstanding Golden Eagles players. One was Jerry Wayne Christopher.
The 2009 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee earned a scholarship to Memphis State where he became one of the school's top players. Christopher was a four-year letterman and three- year starter for the Tigers. He had such a great career for Memphis State that the school inducted the former receiver and defensive end into the Tigers Hall of Fame in 1996. Christopher says sports paved the way to where he is today. "I don't know where I would be today without sports," said Christopher. "I was fortunate to play all the sports at Athens High School. I played for some great coaches and players. We had a great following and we had fun playing for Coach Elmore."
Former high school teammate and Athens resident Johnny Crutcher said Christopher only knew one way to play. "Jerry Wayne played football wide open. He never slowed down. He would run over a bulldozer to make a tackle. Jerry Wayne played every play with 100 percent plus effort," said Crutcher.
Upon high school graduation, Christopher and fellow Golden Eagles teammate Andy Nelson would begin a five-year career with Memphis State. Both players were red-shirted their first season but soon developed into two of the best players on the Tigers roster. "We had a couple of winning seasons while I was at Memphis State," said Christopher. "We played some of the SEC schools and they whipped us pretty good. I remember playing Kentucky one year and I made a tackle by their sideline. When the play ended, I looked up and there was Coach (Paul) Bryant looking down at me. I will never forget that play."
Crutcher remembers one game in particular that Christopher and Nelson played with the Tigers. "Memphis was playing Tulane and the game ended up 13-13. I got the Memphis newspaper and read the story on the game. The headline didn't read Memphis ties Tulane. It read the Athens Duo ties Tulane. Andy threw two touchdown passes to Jerry Wayne in that game," said Crutcher.
Christopher would graduate from Memphis State in 1957 and serve in the Army, stationed in Germany. After an 18-month stint in the service, Christopher returned to Memphis State to earn his master?s degree and begin his coaching career. He served as an assistant coach at various schools in the Memphis area. He later accepted the head football job with Fairview High School near Franklin, Tennessee, where he also served as track coach.
Fairview hadn't won many football games prior to Christopher's arrival. That would soon change.
"We went from the bottom of the conference to the top," said Christopher. "We had some kids that really worked hard and we had two undefeated regular seasons during my 18 years at Fairview."
Christopher would win multiple Coach of the Year awards during his stay at Fairview. He retired from Fairview after 36 years of teaching and coaching. He and his wife now live in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
While sports may have been good to Jerry Wayne Christopher and provided a springboard to a successful career, he certainly was good to the sports community. From an outstanding high school and college football player to a high school coach and administrator, Christopher touched many lives in a positive manner.