I remember my high school days of football games and sock hops. The excitement of the football season and those cold nights cheering our players on to win were some of the best times of my life. The Jones County High School 1968 Football team, led by running back Gary Faulkner, was just the second team in Jones County’s history to win eight games in a season, finishing the year at 8-2. Gary Faulkner was a big deal in our little town of Gray, Georgia. He rushed for 1,117 yards and 25 touchdowns that season and was highly recruited. He accepted a scholarship to Georgia Tech and UGA fans were jumping ship everywhere to support our hometown boy. We had always watched him on our home field, but now, we could actually see him playing football on TV! We knew he was a big deal, and now everyone knew!
In the 1971 season at Georgia Tech, Gary was a sophomore and a starter safety for the Yellow Jackets. It was that season, that he set a Georgia Tech record that held the record for over 13 years. He had 102 tackles by a defensive back, and two interceptions. Those 102 tackles from that 1971 season, still rank in the top five in Georgia Tech history. When they played UGA that same season, he was in on 15 tackles, 10 were solo and five were assists.
As a junior, Gary continued to exceed his own records. He had 66 tackles that season, including 9 solo tackles against Tennessee and a combined 13 solo tackles and assists against Auburn. He also ran an impressive 49-yard touchdown, following a pass interception against Clemson. That interception was one of two he had in that game with Clemson.
In the 1972 Liberty Bowl 31-30 win over Iowa State, Gary was the game’s defensive MVP. In that game, he had a 19-yard touchdown run and a touchdown-saving tackle as well as a fumble recovery that set the Yellow Jackets in play for the winning touchdown.
I’ve been in contact with Gary over the years. He came to my mama’s funeral 7 years ago and I used to see him often in the grocery store, when I still lived in Gray. He would call whenever he was on a hiatus to St. Simons or Jekyll and we would catch up on what was going on with our families. We are friends on Facebook, so I’m always keeping up with his medical issues as well as his beautiful grandchildren!
Time travel…45 years.
Last week, I received a phone call from my friend, Gary Faulkner.
“Hey, Carla Roberts, LeAnn and I decided we want to get married again. Can you do that for us?”
So here we are today.
I had the distinct pleasure of performing the marriage of one of our home town heros! Gary and LeAnn Faulkner were remarried on the observation deck of The Westin Hotel on Jekyll Island, GA. And I married them! How cool is it, that I married these Jones County folks that I care so much about? I mean, you just read all that information on Gary, and so you have to know he is more than special, he is a big deal and his wife, LeAnn is just as big a deal. God has blessed them richly with loving family and with each other.
Despite Gary’s health concerns, they are fighting the battle together. And together, their personal dreams, hopes, and goals are more attainable. LeAnn is his person and he is hers.
As they held hands together and said their vows, one to the other, the words were comforting. “I pledge you endless strength, that you can count on when you are weak. I’ll be your music when you can’t hear, your sunshine when you can’t see. You’ll never need to look further than me. I’ll be your days and nights when you need them filled, your spark of life in the darkness, your hope when you’re down and out. I promise to care for you, honor you, and cherish you, for as long as we both shall live.”
I prayed with them and asked God to continue to bless them. And He will.
After I pronounced them husband and wife, there was a whole lotta kissing and hugging going on! Kinda like seeing Gary play football again and running the winning touchdown! It was great!
Links of interest:
Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine Vol.48, #01 1969 Suicide Every Saturday by Robert B. Wallace, Jr. page 28
Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine Vol.48, #05 1970 Spring Means Promise by Jim Schultz pg 16
Carla Roberts Pryor, Wedding Planner and Officiant