ATHENS, Ga. - Three years ago, he was the head of the University of Georgia baseball program, now Dave Perno is a high school football coach. If it's shocking to you, you're not alone.
"At some point, I did want to come back and do this. I just didn't expect it at this age. Playing for a national championship not too long ago in baseball, I didn't expect it," says Perno.
It's clear why Perno is at Clarke Central. He's an Athens native and former Gladiator football player himself. He was a part of a star-studded 1985 Clarke Central team that won a state title. Perno was a fullback, Dallas Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley was a tight end, former Falcon Chuck Smith played defense and longtime Panthers kicker John Kasay was there as well. The team was coached by the man whose name is now on the stadium, Billy Henderson.
"I'm capable of embracing what he did so well and the history of this program, but I can't be Billy," says Perno.
To get his alma mater back on top, Perno will need help. What better for a first time football coach than a man who has done it successfully for two decades? Perno has hired former Athens Academy head coach Michael Gunn to run the offense. Gunn took Athens Academy to 20 playoff appearances and a pair of semifinal games.
"Probably where he was he had to do everything. Now we're making his world simple. Just score points baby. Get these guys to do the right thing offensively," says Perno
The new era at Clarke Central starts next month with spring practice and if Perno can motivate his football team the way he did his baseball teams, success could be on the horizon.
"I know what our players are supposed to look like. I know what our players are supposed to act like. I don't think the transition is going to be difficult at all."