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Homecoming at Furman

By Robbie Ross
SouthernPigskin.com
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The two head coaches will be on opposing sidelines for the first time on Homecoming weekend at Furman University, where they had a role in 9 of Furman’s 13 league championships.

It’s homecoming this weekend at Furman University as the Paladins welcome the Mercer Bears to Greenville.  On the field two teams with identical 4-3 records, hopes to remain in the SoCon Title race and an FCS Playoff berth will do battle for the 2nd time in Paladin Stadium.  Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb is in the midst of building a program he took over after a 41-year hiatus.  Furman head coach Clay Hendrix is trying to rebuild a program that has won a record 13 SoCon Titles.  The two head coaches will be on opposing sidelines for the first time on Homecoming weekend at Furman University, where they had a role in 9 of Furman’s 13 league championships. 

Commerce, Georgia, eighty-six miles from the campus of Furman University, is a small town in Northeast Georgia with one of the richest high school football traditions in the state.  Home to 6,788 people in the northeast corner of Jackson County, Commerce High School has won 17 Region Titles and 2 State Titles.  Commerce, Georgia is the hometown of Bobby Lamb and Clay Hendrix as the two grew up across the street from one another on Dogwood Trail from the time the two were in seventh grade.  Lamb said the two were friends long before the move to Dogwood Trail. “We had always been friends at school growing up but then moving right across the street from him we became even better friends, best friends.”  Growing up in Commerce sports were a way of life.  While both Hendrix and Lamb played football that was the only sport that they played together.  Lamb played basketball in the winter, played tennis and ran track in the spring.  Hendrix wrestled in the winter and played golf in the spring. “Everything was centered around being a better football player but away from sports we would hunt squirrels, fish and just I guess what you would call hang out”. 

Bobby Lamb and Clay Hendrix have been on the same sideline of a football field for at least 326 games, although some in Commerce say that number is well over 400 counting Pee Wee Football and Junior High School.  At Commerce High the two were coached by Lamb’s father Ray Lamb and compiled a 41-8-2 record with three Region titles.  Their high school career culminated with the 1981 Class AA Georgia High School State Championship with Lamb as the quarterback and Hendrix as an offensive lineman and linebacker.  Lamb’s brother Hal, now the head coach at Calhoun, GA High School, was also on the state title team as a wide receiver.  “It couldn’t have ended any better with my dad being the coach, my best friend being the linebacker slash offensive guard and then my brother being the wide receiver.”

The next step in the best friends lives took them to Greenville, SC and Furman University.  As Paladin players the two racked up three SoCon titles, three 1-AA (Now FCS) playoff appearances, 4 Division 1-A (now FBS) wins (NC State twice, South Carolina and Georgia Tech) and National Runner-Up in 1985.  During their time playing for Furman Hendrix and Lamb compiled a record quite similar to their high school record at 39-10-1.  Over their 8 years playing football together at Commerce and then at Furman Lamb and Hendrix’s record was 80-18-2, playing the last possible game in their senior season at both levels. 

The 1986 and 1987 football seasons were the only two seasons from 1978 to 2007 that Lamb and Hendrix were on different sidelines as Lamb stayed at Furman as a student assistant coach and Hendrix moved on to NC State as a Graduate Assistant when then Furman coach Dick Sheridan was tabbed to lead the Wolfpack.  The 1988 season would prove to be a special one for the two coaches as they were reunited at Furman.  Hendrix was hired as the Offensive Line Coach and Lamb was promoted to Quarterbacks Coach.  The Paladins would go on to win the 1-AA National Championship defeating Georgia Southern in Pocatello, Idaho.  The Paladins would also win the first of 6 SoCon titles with Lamb and Hendrix roaming the sidelines together in Greenville.  The quarterback on the 1999 SoCon title team Justin Hill said playing for the coaches was a privilege for he and all his teammates.  “Both Clay and Bobby are first class people who happen to be fantastic coaches.  My teammates and I thought highly of both guys, and we were fortunate to learn from them as some of the best in the SoCon.”  The 1999 team continued the Paladin tradition of beating FBS foes, defeating the North Carolina Tarheels 28-3 in Chapel Hill that season.  During the seasons of 1988 to 2001 as Paladin Assistant Coaches Lamb and Hendrix helped lead Furman to a 112-58 record, 5 SoCon titles, a National Runner-Up in 2001 and the 1988 National title.  After the 2001 season, Bobby Lamb was promoted to Furman Head Coach, Lamb retained Hendrix as the Offensive Line Coach when Bobby Johnson was hired at Vanderbilt.  From 2002 to 2006, Furman continued success notching a 43-19 record with a SoCon title and 3 FCS Playoff appearances.  After the 2006 season, Hendrix moved on to coach the Offensive Line for the Air Force Academy.  Lamb would continue to coach Furman through the 2010 season before being tabbed to resurrect football at Mercer in January of 2011.  All told for the 19 seasons that Hendrix and Lamb were on the sidelines coaching for Furman together they compiled a 155-74 record. Including their playing days, the Paladins record with Lamb and Hendrix wearing purple was 194-84-1 over a remarkable 23 seasons.

Bobby Lamb and Clay Hendrix, childhood playmates, high school State Champions, college teammates, coaching colleagues and now on Saturday opponents for the first time ever.  Ben Hall, Head Coach at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, played for and coached with Lamb and Hendrix says after all the two have been through this week can’t be easy.  “I think both guys will internalize their emotions but you know that they are there.  You want to eliminate all the externalities and focus on the game but they do play a role in the week’s preparation for sure.”  Homecoming Saturday at Furman will have the Paladins and Bears looking to stay alive in the SoCon Title race on the field.  Homecoming Saturday at Furman on the sidelines it will have two best friends entering new territory, two best friends wearing different colors in Paladin Stadium for the first time and two best friends looking across a field from each other that they shared for 23 years.  

Robbie Ross - Robbie Ross is Southern Pigskin's lead SoCon writer. A 19-year veteran of the Furman Radio Network, Ross also spent time with the Georgia State Radio Network prior to his ventures with Southern Pigskin. He is a voter in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll.