Indeed, if football was war, Jim Kremer would be the commander. An imposing former offensive lineman, Kremer walks the sidelines of football games like a caged tiger, yelling at anyone and anything in his path. And there is no place he'd rather be.
"I told my wife when we were in 10th grade -- we were high school sweethearts -- that I wanted to coach football, I wanted to teach school and coach football," he said. "I believe coaching is a calling -- it's kinda like preaching and other things -- and I knew at a very young age what I wanted to do."
Growing up in Florida the eldest of seven children, Kremer said he thought his high school football coaches "walked on water." They would eventually help him earn a scholarship to Troy University, where he played football.
Kremer has coached players, including Warren Sapp, in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, serving eight years at his current rival, Calhoun High School, before arriving in Bartow County more than three years ago.
After leading the Tigers to the second round of the state playoffs this fall, Kremer faces new battles in 2012 -- a shake-up to region alignments and the loss of his son, Cody, at quarterback among them -- with a few weapons in his arsenal like 27 returning seniors and a proven plan of attack.
Name: Jim Kremer
City of Residence: Adairsville
Family: Married to wife Kelly for 29 years; son, Cody, a senior; daughter, Carley, a sophomore
Occupation: Adairsville High School football head coach, and physical education and health teacher
Education: Bachelor's in physical education and health from Troy University
What has been your secret to success in the three years you have coached at Adairsville?
A: That's easy. ... I was very fortunate to be with Coach [Hal] Lamb at Calhoun High School for eight years. I came in with him, and I think he kind of laid the groundwork on what I'm trying to do here.
First and foremost was to hire really good people and surround myself with good people. To get that done, you've got to have administrative support, and at this point, the administration here in Bartow County -- Dr. Harper and them -- have allowed me to surround myself with those kind of people because you cannot get it done by yourself. The work is -- it is a tremendous amount of preparation -- prepping these kids. There are a lot of people out there who think we just throw kids in a bag and throw them out on the field, and the Xs and the Os is the easy part, it's all the other things, the little things of having them act right, to creating a good team chemistry, which is very, very important for us, where they care about one another, where they will play harder for one another.
Basically, I am using the same blueprint we had at Calhoun with a few tweaks here cause it's different every place you go, but it's basically the same type of blueprint that we used up there here.
What are your thoughts on the GHSA changes to regions, which places Adairsville in the same region with Cartersville?
A: ... I know in the past Cartersville's been a tremendous game, and there's been a lot of competitive games in the past. I think a lot of people are excited. I think we are ready to step up to the plate and compete with them. It's going to take a lot of hard work to possibly defeat them, and that's ultimately what we want to do. It's going to be a challenge to our kids in all our sports to compete with Cartersville because they do have a great reputation. But I think, at the same time, Adairsville, we're getting those winning feelings and we are on the way up, and if we continue to work hard, I think we can compete with them.
Make a prediction for next season.
A: For next season? We want to get better and we try to stay away from the record thing ... because each team takes on their own personality. You know, we lost 22 seniors, perhaps one of the best senior classes I've ever been around, not just talent but high-character kids. We just had our banquet [Monday] night. These kids, I'm telling you, this year -- the 2012 graduate class that we had ... their average GPA is like an 88.7, which is considerably high for a senior football class. We will replace them; we will have 27 seniors next year. But, out of this senior class of 22, eight of them actually started as sophomores. ... So we had a lot, we felt like we were going to have a lot of success this year. [It] ended too soon. We would like to have continued, but we are very proud of this team.
Next year, my predication is our kids are going to prepare as hard as they can just like we did this past year. Depending upon the team chemistry, I think all that will dictate what kind of year we will have as far as our victories are concerned. ... There's been years, and coaches will tell you this, there's been years that, not too many, that won a lot of games where we didn't feel like we reached our potential. On the other hand, there have been teams I've been with where we won five or six games and felt like we reached our potential. So, that remains to be seen, and time will tell as far as our team is concerned next year.
If you could coach, walk the sidelines, with one of the coaching legends, who would you pick and why?
A: That's easy. I would love to be a fly on the wall with Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. I grew up being a Coach Bryant fan, and even when I was playing in Florida, that's where I wanted to play. My high school coach actually sent film to [the University of] Alabama for me, and Coach Bryant -- he showed me the letter he wrote back -- and they wanted me to come as a preferred walk-on. Of course, back then they were giving about 120 scholarships. I actually thought about doing it, but I didn't think I could afford it even though I know I would have qualified for government help. But I had no clue about that, being a high school senior.
So he sent some film to Troy, Ala., and the Citadel and they actually offered me [scholarships]. I took the scholarship and I went to Alabama. I got as close as I could to Tuscaloosa. But I was always real fond of the way the Alabama teams played. Even though I was from Florida, I was always a Crimson Tide-type guy. ... But now that my son is going to [the University of] Georgia to play baseball, I am a Dawg fan, so we gotta make that clear.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: What makes Bartow County special? When I was at Calhoun, we would obviously play Adairsville, and I saw the kind of people that were here, not just in Adairsville but northwest Georgia. Being a Florida guy and it was probably one of the greatest places -- me and my wife grew up there together -- one of the greatest places, I think, in the late '70s, early '80s. But, as time went on and then we went off to school together, when we went back, things changed dramatically down there. And when we came to northwest Georgia, it was so much, just a so much better place to raise a family. It slowed down, the mountains and everything.
But, to answer your question: When I was at Calhoun, I remember seeing the people and competing against Adairsville. I saw the community getting behind their teams. A small town in northwest Georgia in the mountains, I mean, there's a lot of people that would do a lot to get, to be in a position like this. I'm family-first. I wanted my family to be in a great situation, and overall, you know, there might be schools out there that have a ton more athletes and all that kind of stuff, but we do have good high school football players here, certainly good enough to win. You asked earlier what was the most important thing [in being successful]: to surround yourself with good coaches but to have some good players as well, which we do have.
... Here's what I really like: You have salt-of-the-earth people here. ... As professionals, we got in this to help people, and you could just sense the appreciation. We knew we weren't going to get rich doing this, ... and you just feel the people in the community, most, not all, really appreciate the kind of things we try to do for these kids. The kind of high-character kids that we got this past year are a direct result of parents and us meeting in the middle and coming out with a good product at the end, which is a good citizen of our young men.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: They'd probably be surprised that most of the time I'm actually very patient and calm. I do get rather intense in games. Some people call it excuses or whatever, but sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me and then I'll feel bad about it later. I've always felt this way, when you invest in something so hard and so long, you want it so bad. It's like your own son or daughter, you want it so bad for them and you see them not doing the things necessary to get to that point. Sometimes it brings out the worst in me.
I certainly don't have wings growing out of my back. And I've made some mistakes in that area, but the people that really know me, especially my players and my coaches know, you can swallow a bitter pill at times when you know their heart is right. Those kids know my heart is right for them, and they allow me a few free passes during the year, thank goodness.
I think people would probably be surprised that most of the time, under adverse conditions, I'm pretty calm, as long as I see everyone doing what they're supposed to be doing.
What would you be doing in you weren't coaching football? What is your dream job?
A: Dream job? My dream job, honestly, is now. I mean it really is.
I had a few opportunities early, you know. As a graduate assistant at Troy after I was done playing, I got to coach with Chan Gailey, who was at Georgia Tech and now is with the Buffalo Bills. But you know as a coach you always think about maybe an opportunity and taking the short path to big time football. I was just never willing to move my family around as much as it takes to get to that. I just wanted to settle down in a small town, raise my family and coach high school kids. So, theoretically, I'm doing what I really wanted to do.
What is your favorite meal?
A: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. That's easy.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
A: Not Panama City or Destin. There's a little place to the left of Destin; it's kind of away from the hoopla. ... Aw, shoot, my wife's going to kill me because it's our favorite place. .... What's that place? Seaside, that's it. At one point, we were going quite a bit.