MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — You wouldn’t find the GMC Bulldogs on the field Friday afternoon.
Instead, Friday's practice was off the field and inside the air-conditioned Goldstein Performing Arts Center. Still, it might have been one of the most important of the offseason so far.
“We are lifelong learners, so never feel like you've got it figured out.”
That was just one of the many pieces of wisdom former GMC linebackers coach Tony Gilbert had for the 2022 team.
The Bulldogs traded football pads in for a pad of paper and pen, to hear Gilbert speak at the first annual GMC Seminar on Leadership and Character in Athletics.
Gilbert, a former Central Charger and Georgia Bulldog, is now in his third year as the inside linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Taking advantage of your opportunity,” Gilbert said. “You're getting an opportunity to go to school, get an education, play football and get a chance to get re-recruited and you shouldn't take that lightly.”
Gilbert knows that for many student athletes, junior college ball is just a stepping stone for what's next.
His message on Friday afternoon? Lock in on that, and don't lose sight of it.
“It's like a negative deal saying, ‘I'm going to JuCo,’” Gilbert said. “You see Last Chance U, but it's not necessarily last chance. You want to look at this as a chance before you get another chance.”
Decades later, Gilbert still recalls his days at Central High School in Macon, because he too remembers the chip on the shoulder that he carried with him out of Central Georgia.
“Regardless of what the stigma was, you can go and disprove that stigma,” Gilbert said. “It's your opportunity to go prove you're right, others are wrong.”
“A lot of these guys, most of them have dreams of playing Division I,” Manchester said. “And for whatever reason, their grades or they weren't recruited because of the portal, all that -- gives them an opportunity to come in here and get Division I.”
Still, both Gilbert and Manchester were sure to take the opportunity to remind Bulldogs in attendance that football in the mid-state is still alive and well.
“It's just great football,” Manchester said. “And they're right in our backyards. Parents can come see their young men play and Central Georgia has just got great talent.”
Gilbert will of course continue to work closely with Upson Lee grad and former Georgia Bulldog Travon Walker, who was selected by the Jaguars with the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
The reigning national champ is right on schedule.
“We’re very excited about him. We just finished up our mini camp and he’s doing well, he’s going to be great for us,” Gilbert said. “We want him to succeed. We want to put him in the best situation, opportunity to succeed. We think he will because he has the right temperament, his calm, cool demeanor. Nothing really overexcites him.”
The GMC Bulldogs open their 2022 season on August 27 against Georgia Christian College in Milledgeville.