Each football season hundreds of Wildcats take to the gridiron as they help to continue a 100 year tradition. And each season hundreds, even thousands of fans show their support of these combatants by joining the Valdosta Touchdown Club.
For 68 years the Valdosta Touchdown Club's sole purpose has been to support and help perpetuate the Valdosta football program. As fans enjoy watching the Wildcat action, behind the scenes Touchdown Club members have been hard at work all year preparing for the few months of the season. The Touchdown Club was an idea first born after the 1943 season. Wildcat Head Coach L.P. "Buck" Thomas was making plans for the 1944 season when two area businessmen approached him about gathering support for the Wildcat program. "George Morgan and J.A. Cooey asked me if they could help raise money to pay for football camp for the team," Thomas said. "Well it was certainly fine with me and I knew the team would like it because players had to pay their own way for camp in those days."
Long before the 1944 season, "Football Camp" had cemented its way into Wildcat history. Summer football camp is as ingrained to the Wildcat program as the colors black and gold. Football camp is the annual pilgrimage that lasts for two weeks prior to the start of school. During these long hot, two-a-day practice sessions, players learn quickly if they have what it takes to be a Wildcat. And with the players eating, sleeping, and working side by side those that survive camp, developed a bond. It is during these grueling camp days that the "team" is born.
Just as today's camps are revered as benchmarks to a successful fall campaign, the camps of old were instrumental in preparing for the upcoming battles. VHS camps have been held at various sites including an area known as, "Blue Springs", located near Quitman. By the 1940's camp had settled in at a location known as the "Guard Shack". The Guard Shack was located off Staten Road and was part of the local National Guard Armory. The camp consisted of some old barracks and a kitchen. According to Coach Thomas, local businessman Nelse "Papa" Holcombe, who was also Captain of the National Guard, would make all the arrangements to feed and house the team for the two weeks of camp. Holcombe would help defray camp costs by soliciting area businesses for donations or discounts on food and supplies. But even in those days to house and feed a team for two weeks takes a lot of money. Because of that each player had to pay a fee to attend camp. "It was not a lot of money, three or four dollars each I think," Thomas said. "But for a young student back then it could be some good money." Thus Morgan and Cooey approached Thomas offering help because they felt the community should help the team.
Help was needed the most in providing a quality camp without the players having to pay for it. Morgan and Cooey soon had other businessmen committed. Their efforts at fund raising and "papa" Holcombe's careful spending proved to be so successful that after camps completion Coach Thomas was able to hand back over half of the proceeds. With such a success and half of the money back in an account all of the contributors felt it would be appropriate to start an organization to support camp each year. By 1945 the first officers were elected and not only was camp held but a banquet was given in honor of the team.
The first Valdosta Touchdown Club officers were J. Al Simmons, Eddie Laws, and Turner Rockwell. Thus the Valdosta Touchdown Club was created to insure a quality summer camp. Because of the ground swell of support a Banquet has become an added tradition. And through the years many traditions have been added as the Cats have maintained their winning ways. Because the Club is part of the community, membership is simple and unrestrictive. Anybody can join, the price and privileges are the same for everybody, and the sole purpose is to support the Wildcats. The dedication to the Wildcats that saw the birth of the Touchdown Club in 1945 is still evident today.
Everyday, somebody, somewhere, is doing volunteer work for the program. And each year the Touchdown Club sends the Cats to camp and hosts a banquet to honor the players. Many, many projects are conducted by the Valdosta Touchdown Club. Hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars are given for the love of those amazing Wildcats. Below you will find a partial list of some of the projects the Touchdown Club supports. Over the years thousands of area citizens have joined the Club and given of themselves for the support of our community's greatest legacy. No other city can claim the prestige Valdosta holds. Perhaps that is why no other city seems to have a club that lends its support like the Valdosta Touchdown Club.
It may never be known for certain just how much the Touchdown Club and its members untiring effort have contributed to making the Wildcats the winningest prep-football team in the world. But for certain, without the Touchdown Club members, the winning way would be a rougher road to follow. If you are not a current member of the Valdosta Touchdown Club please join today.