GAINESVILLE — Lee Shaw couldn't stand retirement.
The man who built Flowery Branch football from nothing to a powerhouse program and duplicated it in Rabun County announced on Monday that he has traded the retirement life for a return to the sidelines as head football coach at Lakeview Academy.
“Yeah, that (retirement) didn’t last too long, did it? I started out watching games from the stands last season at Rabun County, then I ended up standing along the fence, then I was on the field, then I ended up in the coaches box. And the night I tried to call a timeout I figured maybe it was time to get back into coaching,” said Shaw, 54, who racked up a 163-94 record through 22 seasons spent at three different schools – White County (1995-99), Flowery Branch (2002-11) and Rabun County (2012-18), including six region titles and two state championship game appearances, while reaching the state quarterfinals or better eight times.
“I’ve been involved with football since I was 6 or 7, it’s all I’ve known, and I missed being around young people and helping them create a vision for success. Coaching has really been a gift from God to me, and I just wanted to get back to using that gift.”
Shaw takes over the program from Matthew Gruhn -- the program's only coach in its 13-year history. Gruhn stepped down as coach of the Lions back in December, finishing with a 32-66 career record.
“This is very exciting for our school and for our football program,” said Lakeview athletics director Deuce Roark. “His resume speaks for itself. He’s built some incredible programs around this area, does a great job working with the kids at each program and is exactly what we were looking for when the position came open.”
Now Shaw will take his turn to put his stamp on the Lions, which he says will include the spread offense and attacking defense that were the standards of his Falcons and Wildcats teams.
“I’m a program builder, and I saw a program that I felt I could plug in the blueprint I’ve used elsewhere. And I know they’ve got great kids that are hungry for success. It’s a perfect storm really,” said Shaw, who added that he took about a week to consider the position. “When I met the folks in charge over there, Deuce Roark and (interim) Head of School John Simpson, it didn’t take me long to see I would be working with people who get my vision.”
Certainly, the Lions are optimistic about the prospects of what Shaw – who coached 46 all-state players, recorded 10 campaigns with double-digit victories and did not miss the playoffs in 14 straight seasons after leading the Falcons to their first postseason in 2005 – will bring to the program.
“I’m looking forward to working with him,” Roark said. “Coach Shaw will continue the progression of our program.”
Shaw is also intrigued by the prospects of coaching at the smallest school he’s ever helmed and at the first private institution, he’s ever led. Following years competing in Region 8-A, the Lions will play in Region 6-A beginning in 2020-21, a league that includes Fellowship Christian (a Class A Private semifinalist in 2019), King’s Ridge, Mt. Pisgah Christian, Pinecrest Academy and St. Francis.
“I’m still learning the dynamics of this school, but I’ve got a plan I’m going to implement, and where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Shaw said. “I’m a Lakeview Lion as of today, and I’m excited and ready to get to work.”
“As we approach this milestone anniversary, there is no better time to position Lakeview for the next 50 years,” Simpson said. “We’re excited about many things here on campus. We welcome our new Head of School Dr. Kirsty Montgomery from Northwestern University in July; we have begun an amazing partnership with Brenau University to propel our arts and just started construction on a new state-of-the-art athletic facility. It truly is a great time to be a Lakeview Lion.”