QUITMAN — Some phrases just really catch on.
Some have such a lasting effect they become transcendent.
Such is so at Brooks County, where football coach Maurice Freeman’s “Bring the Hammer” mantra has been inspiring the school system for nearly a decade.
“I was looking for something that would really stick here at Brooks when I got here,” said the ninth-year coach, refering to the early days of his second stint with the program.
“I found (the motto) from a team in Minnesota, a college team that brings the hammer. They run out on the field with the hammer. We don’t necessarily run out on the field with the hammer, but I like the motto of it.”
The coach not only wanted to impart that blue-collar philosophy on to his players, but he also wanted to add the tangable aspect, as well.
For that, Freeman turned to friend Clay Lee Phillips and the Quitman Fire Department.
Phillips, now chief of the department, was happy to oblige, providing Freeman with a sledgehammer.
As the Trojans were preparing for a game against the Valdosta Wildcats, Freeman carried the hammer and an old football helmet to the practice field. He wanted to show his players how a sledgehammer was “much stronger than a helmet if swung the right way.”
The coach lay the helmet on the turf, lifted the hammer and brought the heavy, metal head down on the helmet.
“Of course, the helmet did colapse and I think they got the understanding of what we have to do vs. our opponent, which we want to bring our body,” Freeman said. “We want to explode into people just like a hammer explodes into a nail.”
Just like that, the motto became adopted by the Brooks County football team.
But it didn’t stop there.
The “Bring the Hammer” phrase quickly spread through all of Brooks County’s athletic programs and the school system. It’s in classrooms, hallways, locker rooms and hearts.
“It’s a great feeling to know that every student in the school, every sport in the school believes in the same thing — and that’s any motto at any school,” Freeman said. “You want everbody to buy into it. Brooks County High School and Brooks County Middle School has bought into the phrase, ‘Bring the Hammer.’”
The original sledgehammer was painted and kept, and sparked a tradition. Every time the Brooks County football team wins a region title, it gets a new hammer.
“We got five of them,” Freeman said.
Each new hammer is provided by Quitman Elementary principal Charles Perry, father of Brooks High quarterback Mac Perry. The new hammers are cleaned. The word ‘Trojans’ is painted red on the handle. Then, they become new members of the Trojans’ family.
The newest of the hammers even makes appearances at Friday night football games, becoming a secondary mascot. It can often be seen resting on Freeman’s shoulder as he carries it onto the field with pride, while the Trojans rip through the 10-foot tall celebratory paper banner and erupt onto the sideline at Veterans Stadium.
Once in a while Brooks County’s Player of the Week will have the honor of carrying the hammer out during pregame introductions. Senior defensive back Jarrious Rose is one player yet to have that chance, but wouldn’t hesitate if given the opportunity.
“It would mean everything, because I know they trust in me,” Rose said. “I know they believe in me.”
“Bring the Hammer” is used by Brooks County as a battlecry, but it’s also something more. It’s treasured by Quitman and has become a point of pride with the community.
“To me, that phrase means strike fear in your opponent, force your opponent to quit,” Freeman said. “To my guys, it means mental and physical toughness. They have to be able to fight for four quarters and then have enough energy, if need be, to go into that fifth quarter and be just as fresh as you were the first quarter.”
Added Rose: “That phrase means give it your all, play to your best ability and make sure you come with it. Make sure you aren’t just playing around, you’re coming to play hard every down.”
The Trojans have certainly taken to bringing the hammer to their opponents during Freeman’s tenure. They have made a state playoff appearance every season since 2008, and have competed in the second round or better in those seasons.
They’ve built that success while playing elite competition from higher classifications.
“We are a small 2A school with a lot less players than other schools,” said Austin White, a Valdosta State freshman offensive lineman and former Brooks County standout.
“We must execute at a high level of intensity to play at the level of other larger teams that have deep depth charts. We have a lot of kids that play both ways and they must be physically and mentally stronger on both sides of the ball. We have to bring our biggest and baddest A-game to the field if we want to be the best.”
White played all four years at Brooks County as an offensive guard and a defensive tackle. He was a senior on last year’s team that produced a 10-game winning streak before eventually losing to Greater Atlanta Christian in the Class 2A quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
During his time at Brooks County, White became part of the Trojans’ winning tradition and understood how important it was to continue exemplifying the team’s winning motto.
“Bringing the hammer is not only for current players, it’s for the former players that have passed the hammer down to the next generation to keep the tradition alive,” he said.