Jeff Prickett has kept statistics for Commerce football since 1972.
In 45 seasons, the 71-year-old Commerce alumnus and historian has compiled some impressive stats of his own.
Prickett – who retired after working his final game Friday – kept detailed records for 572 Commerce Tiger games.
He’s the only Georgia statistician to maintain the yardage for two all-time state record-holders in rushing.
Ronald ‘’Runt’’ Moon set the career mark with 5,683 yards from 1971 to 1973. That was magic number that Herschel Walker chased and surpassed in 1979.
Then from 1997 to 2000, Prickett documented the career of another Commerce great, Monte Williams, whose 8,844 career rushing yards are now the Georgia record.
Prickett has researched Commerce football history to the first game in 1909. He’s authored the Commerce football programs since 1981 and written 278 Tiger flashback articles from past games that have appeared in them.
Prickett has maintained the stats for 14 region winners, two state champions and more than 100 all-state players in a small northeast Georgia town that reveres its football teams and tradition.
“I am not glad that it is over,’’ said Prickett, who made the decision to make this his final season last summer. “It has been a most enjoyable task in dealing with the younger guys in the players and coaches and the enthusiasm of the Commerce fans. It is a job for a younger man with all of the travel and dealing with colder weather in an outside sport. We have the history of the Tiger team established, and now we will turn the task of record keeping over to someone else.’’
It wasn’t just a Friday night gig for Prickett. While many statisticians work on a computer these days, Prickett continued to use pencil and paper. In recent years, he would transfer the data to a spreadsheet on Saturday mornings and give the final statistics in an 18-page report to the coaches later that day.
One might say Prickett was born for the job. Prickett’s father, Horace, was an avid Tigers fan, and Jeff grew up going to Commerce games and heard many a story through the years from Horace of the past accomplishments of Commerce football players and teams.
Prickett didn’t play high school football himself but was on the golf team for four years. He graduated in 1963.
Prickett went off to what was then Georgia Southern College and returned to his hometown. He began teaching U.S. and Georgia history at Commerce Junior High in January of 1968 and retired from Commerce Middle School after 30 ½ years in the classroom.
During that time, Prickett also coached eighth-grade and high school basketball primarily as an assistant coach for 29 seasons. He was Commerce’s golf coach for 18 years.
Prickett began helping out the football team under coach Ray Lamb in 1970 when he filmed the Tigers’ games in 1970 and 1971.
In 1972, Lamb needed a statistician. Prickett volunteered. His first game was the team’s fourth in 1972, a Sept. 29 contest against White County. Each team had a great running back - Moon for Commerce and Jesse Dorsey at White County.
‘’They both put on quite a show that night to set off my stats career with a bang,’’ Prickett said. Commerce won 28-19 and went on to a region championship.
When Prickett started, Commerce had stats researched to 1958. In the summer of 1979, Prickett went to the local library and began scouring the old copies of The Commerce News to 1939.
In 1981, he published his first 36 editions of the Commerce Tiger football yearbook, which included many records and statistics he’d unearthed or maintained.
Maybe the football gods smiled on Prickett’s work because the Tigers would win the Class AA championship that year. The quarterback was Bobby Lamb, now Mercer University’s head coach, and the leading receiver was Hal Lamb, now Calhoun’s head coach.
Prickett’s final game – a 44-0 loss to Clinch County on Friday – didn’t bring sadness, except perhaps that Commerce lost. If there was consolation, the weather was mild in Homerville.
In Class A, many of the press boxes don’t have room for a visiting statistician, so Prickett was left to walk the sidelines or sit in the stands to keep his play-by-play account.
‘’This situation is not too bad because I have done it this way for 45 years,’’ Prickett said. “However, now at my age of 71 and with having to take various kinds of medications, I just have a difficult time with the cold weather that appears in late October and most of November. The cold weather just eats me up.’’
Prickett says he'll continue to attend games as a regular fan in the bleachers.
“I gave it my best in researching the history of Commerce football back to 1909 and keeping the records through today,’’ Prickett said. “I am not sad at all. What a great community to be a part of. What a great fan base of support for the team here in Commerce. I am glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of something very special in our community.’’