By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
Donald Chumley views himself as a football coach but had fun recently looking back at his University of Georgia playing days.
The South Effingham defensive coordinator spent three days in Athens playing golf and talking about old times. On the last day, May 24, he put away the clubs, put on a suit and, in front of family and friends, accepted the Post Graduate Achievement Award during the University of Georgia Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame banquet at the Athens Country Club.
“As special as my playing career was, I really think of myself and get gratification as a coach,” Chumley said. “It was great to get selected for such a prestigious award. It’s a big deal. My family enjoyed it. It’s nice to be recognized for what I’ve done after my playing days.”
Chumley played defensive tackle for the Bulldogs and coach Vince Dooley from 1982-84, helping UGA compile a 28-6-2 record. He was team captain and recorded 83 tackles as a senior.
Chumley, a native of Garden City who played at Groves High School, was part of the Bulldogs’ 1982 Southeastern Conference championship team and keyed a stingy defense that held off second-ranked Texas 10-9 in the 1983 Cotton Bowl (played Jan. 2, 1984). In both seasons, the Bulldogs finished fourth in the final Associated Press poll.
Chumley was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the last pick (336th) of the 1985 NFL draft. He played a year in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders before returning to the warmer weather of home.
“(At the banquet), they showed clips of my playing days and Fran Tarkenton talked virtually. It was fun to reflect. It makes you realize how blessed you are,” Chumley said.
At the banquet, his achievements of nearly three decades in high school coaching were also highlighted.
Chumley returned to Savannah and was a long-time defensive coordinator at Benedictine before becoming head coach at Savannah Christian in 2005. He led the Raiders to five straight 10-win seasons, three straight state title game appearances and an overall 116-31-2 record before leaving in 2016.
His 2011 team finished 15-0 and captured the Class A state crown.
In 2020, Chumley returned to coaching as South Effingham’s defensive coordinator. During his career, more than 50 of his players went on to play in college.
Chumley said the banquet provided a chance to catch up with old friends. Dooley was in attendance and a teammate, Aaron Chubb, was also being honored with a post graduate achievement award.
An emotional moment came when Chumley saw his former position coach, Steve Greer, who is fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease. Chumley and Greer hugged.
“I told him, I’ve always tried to coach like you coached me,” Chumley said. “He was part of that group with Erk Russell and those teams played with a lot of enthusiasm.
“People ask me, do I miss being a head coach? Sometimes, but I can spend more time with the kids now. The best part of coaching is coaching the kids.”