Back in the late ’80s Evans High School was experiencing a “sports awakening.” The Knights fielded some of the school’s all-time best football teams, the basketball team overachieved, and the baseball team was capturing state titles in Georgia’s largest classification. Craig Cassedy was a major factor in all of this success.
He was an All-State signal caller for the Knights football team, he started for Danny Black’s basketball squad, and he was a four-year starter for one of the most successfully baseball coaches in Georgia history. Yes, in those days on Cox Road, Craig Cassedy was a big man on campus. We all knew a guy in high school that all the girls loved and all the guys envied. Well, that was Craig Cassedy.
In all honesty, he was groomed for the role of star athlete. His father, Coley Cassedy, was the Knights’ football coach and was a quarterback at Auburn. As a matter of fact, when Cassedy earned first team All-State honors in 1987, he did not even earn bragging rights in his own home. Coley Cassedy was a first team All-State quarterback and led Statesboro to a share of a state title in 1957. Craig’s brother, Collin, was a first team All-State quarterback in 1983 and led the Westside Patriots to a school record in wins in ’82 and ’83.
His uncle Joe Ben Cassedy was a Knights defensive coach and played college ball at Florida State and McNeese State. Also, legendary Evans baseball coach Terry Holder and Knights basketball coach Danny Black were a part of Cassedy’s life from a very early age.
Each of those men were strict, no-nonsense disciplinarians and a bit of each of them rubbed off on Cassedy. Perhaps that is why, despite being a star athlete, Cassedy rarely said a word unless asked a question. Or, when someone wanted to recognize him for his on field exploits, he was quick to deflect the attention away from himself by praising a teammate. I remember when a teammate of mine at Evans, who also played with Cassedy, used to say “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” He was using the saying to describe Craig Cassedy.
He would say that Cassedy seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. He seemed to always get the loose balls in basketball, hit the ball in just the right spot in baseball, or come up with a huge play when the team needed it in football. I should have corrected him. It was not luck. Cassedy simply worked hard, went about his business, and let others have the spotlight. That is the way he was raised.
The hard work paid off. Here are a few of Cassedy’s highlights from his days at Evans High.
Cassedy was the most efficient quarterback I have ever seen. He seemed to go 12 for 15 for 169 yards and two touchdowns every game. He led Evans to a 12-1 mark and completed nearly 80 percent of his passes in 1987, despite playing most of the year with a broken left wrist.
• Two-year starter at QB, with a record of 22-2 (10-1 in 1986 and 12-1 in 1987)
• A perfect 20-0 mark during regular season games in his two years as starter
• Completed 79 percent of his passes
• First team All-State in 1987
• Signed football scholarship to Valdosta State
He was just a solid, all-around player. He did everything Danny Black asked him to do. He got all the attention for football and baseball, but Cassedy was an underrated prep basketball player.
• Two-year starter on the Knights’ varsity (missed his senior year with a wrist injury.)
Cassedy started from the second he stepped on the Evans campus. He started his first three years at shortstop. However, when his injured left wrist was going to force him to miss his senior season, he moved to the mound and became the team’s closer. Despite never pitching at the varsity level, he was sensational in his new role and did not suffer a single blown save all year.
• Four-year varsity starter
• Helped lead team to over 100 wins during his four years
• Had the team’s highest batting average as a freshman in 1985 as team reached the AAAA State Championship Series
• Helped lead team to school’s first state title as a senior in 1988.
As you can see Cassedy was a winner. Likely a quality he learned from his dad. In addition to Coley Cassedy’s achievements as a player, he was also one of the state’s all-time great coaches. He earned a reputation for turning programs around during stints at ARC, Evans (twice), and Westside. He got his first head coaching job at Richmond Academy in 1970. The Musketeers had been a powerhouse in past years, but had not been to the playoffs in several years. Cassedy led ARC to an 11-2 mark with a win over 2-time defending state champ Valdosta in the playoffs. The Musketeers lost in the state championship game 7-6 to Lakeside-Atlanta. He stayed one more season at ARC before accepting the Evans head coaching position. The next year, in 1972, ARC went 1-9 without Cassedy at the helm. The Knights were coming off a 1-9 season too, when Cassedy took over. Just two seasons later he led the Knights to the best season in school history as they finished 9-1.
That season Evans’ defense posted six shutouts, and allowed just 48 points all season. At Westside it was the same story. He took over a team that had won just 11 games in five years prior to his arrival. After going 6-4 in 1975, Cassedy compiled an incredible 77-12-3 mark over the next eight seasons. In all, Cassedy was 106-18-2 (85.5 percent) between 1976 and 1987. Collin Cassedy (Craig’s older brother) was also a great role model. In his two seasons at the helm of the Westside offense, the Patriots went 24-3 (12-1 in ’82 and 12-2 in ’83). So, it seemed only fitting that Cassedy capped his prep career with a state baseball title,
After high school, Cassedy moved to Valdosta to play QB at Valdosta State. However, the wrist he injured during his senior season was not 100 percent. He decided to give up football and joined two of his old high school buddies, Lenny Springs and Ryan Bennett, on the baseball team at Southern Union JUCO in Wadley, Ala. There Cassedy played for Joe “Jabo” Jordan, another hard-nosed coach that would help mold him into the man he is today. From there, Cassedy would join two more of his old Evans pals.
This time he was in his dad’s hometown of Statesboro, playing with Todd Greene and Buddy Holder at Georgia Southern University. Cassedy roamed the outfield for three seasons for the Eagles, starting his final two seasons in ’92 and ’93. As a matter of fact, during the 1993 season, GSU’s starting outfield consisted of a trio of Knights: Cassedy, Todd Greene, and Mark Hamlin. (Evans product Buddy Holder also started at catcher and former Knight Ben Hayslip was a reserve first baseman).
After a solid collegiate career, it was time for Cassedy to move into the real world. He had graduated with a degree in health and physical education. His plan was to coach at the high school level. However, in 1994 he made a decision that would change his life. At the urging of former high school teammate and Evans two-sport standout Allen Dempsey, and Ronnie Hayslip, the father of former Evans teammate Ben Hayslip, Cassedy decided to get in the insurance business. It might seem a quiet guy like Cassedy would have a tough time as a salesman, but he certainly did not struggle.
He excelled. He had a couple of key things going for him. First, he used the same hard work approach in his job that he did during his playing days. Also, remember – everyone loved Craig Cassedy. He could call on all his classmates and teammates who knew him to be an honest, hard-working person. And, just about everyone else in the county remembered cheering for him when he wore the black and gold for Evans.
This was a match made in heaven. It took a lot of time and hard work, but Cassedy soon built a huge client list. He was doing well enough selling insurance that several years ago when he heard that former UGA football star Theron Sapp (the father of a good friend of Cassedy’s) wanted to sell his chicken restaurant that he opened in 1968, he jumped at the chance to put up the money to become a co-owner of Maryland’s Fried Chicken with his friend Theron Sapp Jr. The restaurant was located on East Boundary in Augusta, and is an extremely popular eating spot for the residents in the area.
Never one to be satisfied, Cassedy soon learned that another Maryland’s location was for sale. This store was located on Washington Road, near Pollard’s Corner and had once been a frequent stop of lake goers each summer. The restaurant needed a lot of work, and it took several months to agree on the details, but Cassedy eventually purchased the restaurant.
He was the sole owner of this location and quickly made the upgrades to make his second restaurant a popular spot for lake goers and tailgaters on their way to Athens. From the second restaurant came Cassedy’s third location.
This store is located in Evans, across from Wal-Mart. Not bad for an old ballplayer.
Like just about any “overnight” success story, Cassedy put in years of hard work and plenty of blood, sweat and tears to become a business success. When he is not meeting with insurance clients, or potential clients, Cassedy is making daily runs to his stores. He credits his days as an athlete with the success he has had in business. “There is no doubt it help,” stated Cassedy. “
‘‘You have to have a good work ethic. You can’t make excuses. Just like in sports, you have to hold yourself accountable. You have to get up each day and get the job done. If you don’t, someone else will,” added the former Evans’ Star.
Cassedy has not changed much from high school. He does not really like the attention. He would much rather see his employees get the credit. He is happy just working hard and going about his business, just like he did on the field during his playing days for the Evans Knights.