Rene Godfrey was always the kid who could run faster, jump further, catch better and hit the ball better than anyone else. Rene went to McCaysville and then to Epworth Elementary School. He recalls that the only game that his teams at Epworth played against a team from another school was during his 8th grade season of 1956. Epworth met the McCaysville/Copperhill ‘River Rats’ in a game played at halftime of the Copper Basin vs. West Fannin game at West Fannin. Epworth won 24-0 with Godfrey running for four touchdowns in the short contest.
Godfrey, who will be inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame in the 2014 class, was on the athletic stage at West Fannin High School from the fall of 1957 through the 1960-61 school year. From the moment that Rene first stepped onto the West Fannin campus as a freshman, he was a major factor in the athletic efforts at the school. In his four years as a Yellow Jacket, Rene earned an astounding fourteen letters in the four sports in which the school competed. He was awarded four letters in football, four in track and field, three in basketball (missing a letter for only his freshman year) and three in baseball (the maximum possible since the school dropped baseball from the athletic program in Rene’s senior year).
Although baseball was his favorite sport, Rene Godfrey’s most newsworthy accomplishments occurred on the football field and in track and field competition. His football exploits were legion, but two games stand out during his career. West Fannin played Murphy, North Carolina High School 18 times over the years, but were only able to defeat the Bulldogs on two occasions. The most memorable victory over Murphy occurred on the night of September 19, 1958 at the West Fannin field. On the first play after the kickoff, West Fannin shocked Murphy with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Carlton Guthrie to Rene Godfrey. This play obviously energized the team, the fans. and the coaches—-and probably had just the opposite effect on the Murphy side of the field. Led by Rene and Guthrie, the Yellow Jacket offense continued to click on all cylinders and piled up 41 points against the visitors from the Tarheel State. Murphy scored 25 points, but on that night it was not nearly enough. Godfrey had an outstanding night running the football and scored again in the second half on an 85-yard kickoff return. For his efforts, Rene was named to the Atlanta Constitution Prep Honor Roll of the Week. The headline of the game coverage in the Chattanooga Times was ‘Their Man Godfrey’.
The other huge West Fannin football victory with Rene playing the starring role, was the 7-6 victory over Dalton in 1960, Godfrey’s senior year. Dalton was, and continues to be, a football powerhouse in the state of Georgia and West Fannin would have ten games against the Catamounts over the years. The only West Fannin victory was the one-point win in 1960. The Jackets had lost the opening game that year to Stephens County, but did come away from that game with a new play that Stephens County ran numerous times with a lot of success. The play essentially involved a couple of fakes to two running backs with a slightly delayed handoff to the other back who would run wide either to the right or left side. Godfrey was the man who ran the ball on this play and he ran it often and with great results. Rene scored the touchdown against Dalton on a 20-yard run following an even longer run to put the ball in scoring position. Both plays were the same play lifted from the Stephens County playbook. In addition to scoring the winning TD, Rene had an overall outstanding effort in the Dalton game that included his interception of a Dalton pass at a key point late in the game.
Rene Godfrey’s football career saw him being named Back of the Week five times by the Copper City Advance, named to the Atlanta Constitution Prep Honor Roll three times and earning Honorable Mention status on the 1960 Georgia Associated Press Class AA All-State team. He scored 8 touchdowns as a senior in 1960. He gained approximately 2000 yards rushing in his career, was a stout defender and dangerous kick return man.
Godfrey also garnered a lot of headlines for his track and field accomplishments. He was a member of the 440-yard relay that won first place in the 1960 Region 3AA track meet. At that same meet, Rene captured a gold medal in the broad jump with a leap of 20’ 7”, that was good enough to set a Region record. In 1961, as a senior, he once again won the region title in the broad jump. He won the broad jump event in every meet that West Fannin entered in 1961.
Rene was the starting center fielder for the West Fannin baseball teams during his first three years and also lettered in basketball for three years. He was a starter for the basketball team for three seasons and, due to his leaping ability and competitiveness, was an outstanding rebounder and steady scorer. He was the high point man with 19 points in the 1961 State Tournament Game against Headland High School, the first state tournament game in school history. The Yellow Jackets lost a narrow 63-60 decision to the eventual state champions.
After graduation from West Fannin, Godfrey was offered a partial scholarship to play football for the Moccasins of the University of Chattanooga (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga). He was one of 22 freshman halfbacks on the squad, but did impress the coaches sufficiently to grant him a full scholarship in the spring of 1962. He was also a member of the Chattanooga track and field team in the spring of 1962, competing in the broad jump and as a member of the 880-yard relay squad. Like many small town boys, however, Rene decided to give up his college football and track career and move back to Fannin County and settle down to the quiet life of the ‘country’.
He was called into military service during the Vietnam War and served as a combat military policeman for a year in Vietnam. After returning home, Rene resumed his career with the Tennessee Copper Company. He worked at TCC for 38 years.
Rene Godfrey remained involved in sports after his official playing days were over. He was a fixture in local softball circles over the years and served as the president of the West Fannin Booster Club in the early and mid-1970s. Rene and his wife Cynthia have 3 grown children, and continue to reside in the McCaysville/Mineral Bluff area.