Chapter OneOn Eagle's Wings
Okay, the car wasn't his style. If he were still single, he'd be driving
something low and muscular, with a big V-8 rumbling under the
hood. And a few dents, as well. A spot or two of rust. Just enough
to show that this baby had seen some action, put in some miles,
and wasn't to be messed with.
Instead, he was at the wheel of a blue Chevy Celebrity.
Not a bad car. It'd been their first big purchase as a married
couple, and Brooke had won him over with her argument that a
four-door would soon be a necessity.
He agreed. This was no longer the Grant Taylor show. He now
had a wife to think about, and children somewhere down the road.
Wow. There's a wild thought.
First things first, he decided. That was the way he liked to do
things-in order, with a specific plan.
Moderate success as a college quarterback? Check.
Bachelor of science, with a minor in sports management?
A beautiful bride of eight months? Check.
God had been good to them. And now, after years of athletics
and studies on both their parts, they were en route to his first
coaching position. They were leaving behind some fond memories
at Georgia Southern University, ready to create new ones amid the
tilled farms and pecan groves of little Albany, in the state's southwestern
FACING THE GIANTS
"This is the exit, Grant." Brooke leaned forward in the passenger
seat and looked up at the US 80 road sign. "We're still gonna stop,
"If that's what you want."
"Don't you wanna see it? The thing was built in 1880."
She brushed blonde hair back over her ear and looked sideways
"Okay," he said. "We'll stop."
A scenic detour. Another small concession on his part. And
why not? They had their whole lives charted out in front of them.
According to MapQuest, the trek from Statesboro to Albany would
take less than four hours. With the small U-Haul trailer, they
might lose a little time, but not much.
Soon they would pull into the driveway of the house they had
purchased two weeks ago, unload boxes, and begin making it into
a home. If things went as planned, if he had the sort of long-term
success that Coach Dooley had in his years at the University of
Georgia, Coach Grant Taylor would become a household name
and have hundreds, even thousands, of boys who would point
back to his influence in their young lives.
He was going from the GSU Eagles to the Eagles at Shiloh
Christian. For him, that had been a good sign. He was flying high. If
Brooke wanted to take a little side trip, then that's what they'd do.
"Ahhh," said Brooke. She took one skip toward the covered bridge,
then spun back around. She'd been hoping to visit George L. Smith
State Park for years. "Just look at it. It's so sweet."
Grant put his hands on his waist. "It's a bridge. With a roof."
"Built over a hundred years ago. Just think, people used to ride
their carriages along there. Let's go walk through it."
Her husband looked unimpressed.
"Come on," she said. "I thought I married a hopeless romantic."
"Tell me one football player you know who's a romantic."
He glanced at his watch.
"You don't fool me, Grant Taylor." She slipped her arm into his
and pulled him along, nearly skipping again. "We're going on a
The Parrish Mill Bridge was made of dark weathered wood,
with double doors opened on both ends. Beneath the structure, a
mill worked in conjunction with a dam. Inside, they found it to be
cool and quiet, except for the sounds of Fifteen Mile Creek cascading
Brooke stopped and let go of Grant's hand. "Can you see what
"No, it's too dark."
"Let your eyes adjust."
"I . You're ."
"I'm waiting for you to give me a kiss."
He didn't need any more prodding than that.
On the other side, they found a bench swing. They sat side by
side, rocking in the afternoon warmth. The sun was making a slow
descent into the west, outlining the shapes of trees and turning the
sky a ripe peach color.
"What's this remind you of?"
"Our first date," Grant said. "At the Brooklet Peanut Festival."
She had nothing to say after that. The fact that he remembered
was enough. On their trip to this point, they'd passed spook houses,
courthouse squares, and antebellum mansions that looked like sets
from Gone with the Wind. But this was her favorite place so far.
Even Grant seemed to like it, though he hadn't said so out loud.
Men, Brooke thought. They're just like little boys sometimes,
trying to act so tough.
The mere thought of having their own son one day brought a
huge smile to her face. Would he have Grant's same adorable gap
between his teeth? Would he get her eyes? If they had a girl,
Brooke just hoped the poor thing wouldn't inherit those bushy
"What're you thinking about?"
"You and me," she said. "Our future together."
"Must be good, judging by your smile."
"Albany, here we come."
Grant drove along Highway 300, his elbow propped out the
driver's window. Only a few more miles to Dougherty County. The
route took them past peanut farms and occasional stands of
cypress standing in black swamp water. Pines lined the road most
of the way.
Despite the wear of their trip, they felt a burst of excitement as
they pulled into town. This was it. On Monday, he would tour the
grounds at Shiloh Christian Academy, meet his new team, and
start putting them through daily doubles in preparation for the
first game of the season.
And their first victory.
Soon, winning would be the norm at SCA.
After unhitching the U-Haul at their house on Old Pretoria,
they headed up North Westover to grab a bite to eat.
"Sonic sound good?"
"Anything," Brooke answered. "I'm starved."
They pulled into a space at the Sonic Drive-In. This couldn't
beat Brooke's fried sweet potatoes and homemade biscuits, but it
would do. In the next weeks and months, they'd have plenty of
opportunities to start filling the house with the smells of life and
hard work and good home-cookin'.
Grant took Brooke's request, then hit the red button and
A man's garbled voice: "Good evenin'. You ready to order?"
"Yeah. We're new in town, so be easy on us." Then, because he
couldn't help but brag a bit, he added, "I'm taking over the coaching
job at Shiloh Christian."
"The Eagles football team?"
"Woohoo! Thank goodness. We've been waitin' on ya, Coach
Taylor, been prayin' too."
"You hear that?" Grant mouthed to his wife.
"An answer to their prayers," she whispered back.
Still wearing a silly grin, Grant placed their order.
His wife slipped her hand into his. "Guess they know a good
thing when they see it, Coach Taylor."
"I guess so."
"Of course, we haven't won any games yet."
"But we will," she assured him. "Lots of them."