Cronic wasn’t just sharing the news about the position he would soon hold — he was asking for advice.
The men have a long history that dates back to when Prather was coaching under Cronic at Cherokee High School in the mid-1970s. They have remained friends through the years as their career paths went in different directions.
Neither expected they would one day be coaching together again — just a few miles down the road from Cherokee High School, no less.
Cronic’s hire at Reinhardt was officially announced May 19, 2011, and he began his duties six weeks later on July 1. Somewhere in between, Prather decided it might be fun to give football another try and joined the Eagles’ staff as a volunteer coach within a few months.
“You can take ‘volunteer’ out of it,” Cronic said of Prather. “He is always there. He is working. He has a motor. He motivates other people and he is always doing something to help other people.”
A former head coach at Jefferson, Cherokee and Central-Carrollton high schools, Prather also served as an NFL scout and a high school football analyst for local television and radio broadcasts. His also spent time as a high school administrator.
Prather’s primary duty at Reinhardt is as the running backs coach.
“I’m a gofer,” Prather said. “’Go help.’ Go do this. Since I live here, it’s easier for me to go run (to Canton) to whatever store. I’m just familiar with people and have been an administrator in the school system for so long I know about some things. Having experience in pro scouting helps. I can tell the recruits the advantages of being here and seeing if it matches with what they want.”
Prather wouldn’t be the only former Cherokee assistant Cronic would recruit to Reinhardt. He also reached out to Will Heath.
Perhaps better known as a basketball coach at Cherokee, Heath was an assistant under Cronic. He retired in 2004 after 34 years of teaching, most recently in Gwinnett County. He was also instrumental in founding the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame.
“Will is one of the wisest people I have ever been around,” Cronic said. “He has good judgment and, boy, have we been calling on him a lot lately.”
Heath is now on staff full-time at Reinhardt at the receivers coach.
“I have been here since Day 1,” he said. “At first, I liked being retired and playing golf all the time, but I saw what Reinhardt was doing and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Heath said he particularly enjoys the recruiting aspect of it.
“I like to see these guys that maybe won’t go to some of these other schools, like Georgia, get an opportunity to play in college,” Heath said. “Some of them can play college football and you get to help them reach that dream. To see them grow and develop and play ball is something I really like.”
When Cronic finished tapping into his former assistants, he looked a bit closer to home.
He added his son, Drew, to the staff as the offensive coordinator.
The younger Cronic, who, like his father, played at Georgia, spent one season as an assistant at Central-Carrollton, before the bulk of his experience came during nine years on the staff at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. He also spent time at James Madison and West Georgia.
Drew Cronic, in turn, then used some of his connections from Furman to add two more coaches in Steve Wilson, Julius Dixon, and
Wilson, who served at Furman for 24 years as a player and later a coach, is Reinhardt’s defensive coordinator. Dixon, who spent 20 years with the Paladins, now coaches defensive backs.
Drew Cronic, Wilson and Dixon all coached under current Mercer coach Bobby Lamb — whom the Eagles will face in tonight’s inaugural game.
Building the coaching staff at Reinhardt wasn’t always been easy. Earlier this year, when the campus emptied for spring break, Danny Cronic returned to find that all of the assistant coaches on defense had departed.
“Every one of them got a big raise and they generally moved back closer to where their wife was at,” Cronic said. “So, how am I going to fix that? You can’t, but we really are excited about the people that we brought on.”
In addition to the two Cronics, there are two other former Georgia players assisting with the team. Former Bulldogs linebacker Tony Taylor, who also played briefly in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, is a volunteer coach of the defensive line. Former Georgia All-American Quentin Moses, who spent four years in the NFL, is coaching defensive ends.
“It’s nice to have those young guys,” Cronic said. “Around here, we call anyone under 30 young.”
Also on staff are Reggie Perkins (offensive line), Davie Ford (offensive assistant), Jake Robertson (tight ends), Alex Derenthal (strength and conditioning), Tom Tarquinio (assistant coach) and Joel McKown (manager).
“A lot of our guys are volunteer coaches,” Cronic said. “Like Ford is a fireman. He is there most of the time. Tom Tarquinio is just a blessing. He is an airline pilot for Delta and he flies internationally, but he has his schedule so that he can be with us for every home game.”
Cronic said the coaching staff shares more connections than he can list.
From playing and coaching together to attending church together, the men are as much family as they are co-workers. They look at coaching as a calling, more than a career. There are only six assistants drawing a salary, yet each have experience playing, at least at the college level.
“They are real dedicated men,” Cronic said. “Not just to football, but to these kids. We want to see them succeed on the field and in life.”