ALPHARETTA, Ga. — One day at a time.
That’s the saying former coach John Thompson has lived by throughout his career that has taken him from Arkansas to South Carolina to Georgia State University.
Thompson has coached at more than 10 Division I football programs in the country and some notable southeastern conference teams that include Louisiana State University, the University of Florida, the University of Alabama and Ole Miss.
Coaching is something Thompson has been around since his early childhood. His father was a coach, and his mother was a teacher.
The influence that he saw his father have on student-athletes was something that struck the younger Thompson and encouraged him to follow the same career path, a path that uprooted his family several times.
“It was a ride,” he said. “Every one of the places we went, we felt like it was supposed to be what we’re doing. I loved every minute of it up until the week that I quit.”
Now retired from coaching, Thompson, along with his wife Charleen, own a men’s clothing store in downtown Alpharetta called The Clothes Horse. The store is decorated with wooden boards on the inside with some old football helmets thrown in where Thompson used to coach.
Thompson points to his wife as having an important influence in his life and how he has gone about his career decisions.
“I look back on it and I sometimes wish we were only at one or two places at one time,” he said. “Charleen always tells me, ‘Let’s look forward not behind, and is God smiling at you or is the devil laughing at you?’”
When faced with the tough decision of quitting coaching, Thompson described the situation that eased the transition to move back to Alpharetta, where his family settled when he coached at Georgia State under Bill Curry.
It was a move that his wife helped get him through.
“That was the right thing,” he said. “We’d been here before. Our boys went to Webb Bridge Middle School and Alpharetta High School — that’s where they’re most familiar.”
The decision came after a rough stay at Texas State University that opened the door for a new life in Alpharetta.
“It was the best place to be,” he said. “Being apart from my family was not good. We knew this was the best opportunity for us for whatever it was we were going to do.”
Now John and Charleen can be found in their small store on Milton Ave. in downtown Alpharetta where they are working together for the first time in their careers.
Charleen praised the downtown area for helping the couple jumpstart the small business.
“It couldn’t be better,” she said. “To be a part of the community, the growth, the energy and the camaraderie among the shop owners is great and local government is trying to help and listen.”
And even though he has been approached several times by his peers wondering if he will get back into coaching anytime soon, John maintains he is content with what he is doing now.
“That ship has sailed,” he said. “I miss the players, I miss the coaches. That’s the hardest thing — the brotherhood with them. Thirty-seven is a lot of staffs and a lot of players. I was blessed to be around those people.”
Charleen said that the city’s new developments have made it fun to be a part of the new vibrant downtown Alpharetta area.
“It’s really a special place to be and a special time,” she said.