The third winner of the 2017 season is Zach Grage of Thomasville High School in Thomasville. Grage was nominated by Chris Merritt, the athletic director at Thomasville.
"Coach is a tremendous leader of student-athletes," Merritt said in his nomination. "He always looks for ways to help those around him."
Before taking the head coaching job at Thomasville in 2016, Grage was the offensive coordinator for the 2014 state champion Colquitt County Packers. After leaving Colquitt, he led the Gilmer program for the 2015 season. This year, Thomasville is 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in Class AA. The Bulldogs have wins over Cairo, Thomas County Central and Monroe thus far.
For all of the successes on the field, Grage leads his team, and his community, off the field as well.
"They help clean up after storms hit the community," Merritt said. "There are volunteer projects and they go read to the elementary schools in the district. He is also very active in making sure our student-athletes receive proper nutrition through donations. He has also made our strength and conditioning program the best in the state."
"We try to do as much as we can to get out in the community, because we ask a lot of the community in wanting support on Friday nights, of course," Grage said. "But also [we ask for help in] the way we feed our players. We ask churches, community members to help out. We ask a lot. So when we can, we know we need to give some back, too. Last spring, we had some tornados come through and we got a bunch of guys together and cleaned up five houses that had asked for a little help."
For Grage, coaching doesn't stop when his team leaves the field. Grage's care and consideration for his players reaches far beyond the coach's desk. "I have seen this coach make sure his athletes have food when they go home," Merritt said. "I have seen him go to his student-athletes' houses to make sure they are doing right."