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Magill: Native Athenian Perno doing well

It was good to see native Athenian David Perno draw praise for recruiting an outstanding group of players that will enter Georgia as freshmen this fall.

Incidentally, Perno is only the second native Athenian to be a head coach of a Georgia sport. Yours Truly was the first (tennis, 34 years, 1955-88).

There have been numerous native sons to play sports at Georgia, led by the Bulldogs’ first All-American, Bob McWhorter, in 1913. He also was the first Bulldog to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Francis Tarkenton led Georgia to the Southeastern Conference title in 1959 and the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls, and Andy Johnson starred nine years for New England in the NFL in the 1980s and ’90s.

Perno this fall will begin his 11th season as head coach of the Bulldogs. As a utility infielder at Georgia, he was a member of the 1990 national championship team.

He starred in baseball and football at Clarke Central, making all-state as a senior in baseball and football (running back). He also played on the 1985 Athens American Legion state championship team.

He is married to native Athenian Melaney Chastain, and they have two children, Saidee (12) and Hayes (7).

He began his coaching career in 1991 at Cortland (N.Y.) College and was assistant coach at Marshall University from 1993-95, assistant coach at Middle Georgia Junior College in 1996, assistant coach at Georgia from1996-2001 and head coach at Georgia from July 20, 2001 to the present.

His teams have participated in the College World Series three times: 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Three of his protégés are in the Major Leagues now: Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), Mitchell Boggs (St. Louis Cardinals) and Jeff Keppinger (Houston Astros).

Incidentally, a cousin of his is Anthony "Zippy" Morocco, Georgia’s first All-American basketball player (1953). Zippy is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, but liked Athens so much he decided to live here.

Quite a few Italian-Americans have starred in athletics at Georgia, including the great Charley Trippi of Pittston, Pa., who also has made Athens his home.

Native Athenian Leo Costa, another Italian-American, was a star place-kicker at Georgia. He scored in every Georgia game between his freshman and senior years. The Costa family in the late 1980s moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Athens.

Note: Derek Dooley (Vince’s son) is certainly a native Athenian, but he is head coach at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He and Perno are close friends.

• Dan Magill is a contributing columnist for the Athens Banner-Herald.

E-mail: tennishof@sports.uga.edu

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