4 FoCo football moms share stories about their sons, UGA, and the road to becoming national champions

Michelle Hall

Drew Southern, Oscar Delp, Dylan Fairchild and Cooper Johnson on the field at Sanford Stadium for the Kent State game on Sept. 24.Photo byMary Delp

(Forsyth County, GA) It’s been a whirlwind week and a half since the University of Georgia Bulldogs won its second straight national college football championship, and four mothers in Forsyth County have been riding that high just as much as their football player sons.

As previously reported, four former West Forsyth High School (WFHS) football players are on the roster at UGA:

  • #4 Oscar Delp (tight end) - WFHS Class of 2022 (graduated early)
  • #37 Drew Southern (defensive back) - WFHS Class of 2021
  • #48 Cooper Johnson (tight end) - WFHS Class of 2022
  • #53 Dylan Fairchild (offensive lineman) - WFHS Class of 2021

TCU football player Abe Camara graduated from West Forsyth High School in 2019Photo byTCU Football

In the championship game against TCU, the WFHS alumni played against former teammate #14 Abe Camara (safety), who graduated WFHS in 2019.

For these Bulldogs, playing for UGA is a dream come true, let alone winning “The Natty.” Southern and Fairchild are among the players who get the claim to fame of back to back wins.

For their moms, the championship is the pinnacle of their careers of serving as their boys’ biggest fans.

The Delp family at Oscar's signing event (back row: Henry and Topher; front row: Mary, Oscar and Chris)Photo byMary Delp

“It’s surreal. It’s like a storybook feeling that you can’t believe that this is your life and this is your child,” said Mary Delp, mother of Oscar. “And yet it is and you’re not surprised because there’s always been something different about him. He was always bigger, he was always stronger, he was always faster. He had a special ‘it’ factor from day one and he has never let go of it and has never let it out of his sights and his dreams.”

“He’s always been a champion in my eyes,” said Kim Southern, mother of Drew. “He is just one of those kids who never settled for anything but excellence. I’m just so glad that UGA football saw in Drew what I have from day one!”

The Southern family (David, Brandon, Drew and Kim) at the game against Georgia Tech on Nov. 26.Photo byKim Southern

Cooper Johnson’s mother, Malinda, said knowing her son is on the number one team in the country is “surreal.”

“I know how hard these boys work and train for this day,” said Johnson. “For seven months they have worked out, attended meetings, eaten well and practiced hard to prepare to win every game this season. I am so proud they were able to accomplish their goals and win back to back championships.”

“It feels amazing,” said Charlene Fairchild, mother of Dylan. “He chose Georgia because he wanted to play with the best so he could make himself better. The past two years have been so exciting and now he is playing for the best team!”

Years of preparation

Parents of athletes have years of stories to share of shuttling their children to practices and games, whether for travel ball or their schools. These mothers all agree the foundation the players received by training and competing in Forsyth County laid the groundwork for their achievements.

Oscar Delp, Drew Southern and Dylan Fairchild played together at West Forsyth High School before heading to UGA.Photo byMary Delp

“I’m so proud of him and the support this community gives to their students,” said Southern. “All the amazing coaches, teachers, friends and family have played a role in his journey so far. I want to thank his little league coaches, his Vickery Creek Middle School and West Forsyth High School coaches and teachers for seeing a spark in a young, passionate kid and ignited a belief that he could reach for the best.”

“Moving to Forsyth County was a definite positive move for Cooper before his eighth grade year,” said Johnson. “It was an opportunity to attend a great school (West Forsyth) and play sports in a competitive 7A program. Being a part of the sports program at West Forsyth gave him the opportunity to play with other great players and gain skills from them.”

The Johnson family (Malinda, Cooper, Haidyn and Tom) on the field at Sanford Stadium for the Kent State game on Sept. 24Photo byMalinda Johnson

Choosing UGA

Why was UGA the ultimate choice for these players when it came to deciding where to attend college? The reputation of the academics and athletics programs speaks for itself. But these moms said the coaches were the ones who made the boys feel like they were part of the family.

“Georgia won me over through the recruitment,” said Delp, whose son was heavily recruited by several Division I schools. “The coaches are amazing. There’s not one person I have met affiliated with the Georgia football program that I haven’t fallen in love with.”

Delp said since part of the recruitment process happened during the COVID-19 lockdown, most of their meetings with colleges early on were video calls.

The four football players from West Forsyth celebrating after winning the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.Photo byEllie Williamson on West Forsyth Football Facebook page

“Some of them were easy to be on and some of them were awkward,” Delp explained. “Georgia was never awkward. When they finally opened up the school to meet in person, every time we were with Georgia it felt like we had known them and been a part of their program for years.”

Southern made the team as a preferred walk-on, meaning he received a spot on the roster but could not earn a football scholarship his first year. His mom said that does not make a difference because he is treated as well as a number one recruit.

“They treat him like a star athlete from my perspective,” said Southern. “The coaches, the staff, everybody from what I've witnessed are so amazing to their players and so gracious to us parents as well. As a mama, I am so grateful for how well they take care of my baby.”

Cooper Johnson had committed before his senior year of high school to play at Charleston Southern University on a full scholarship. His decision changed, however, after attending a game with Delp (who had already chosen to attend UGA). Johnson was introduced to the UGA assistant coach for tight ends, Todd Hartley, who later offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on.

“He told him to think about it for a few days and let him know,” recalls Johnson. “However, he didn't need any time to make his decision. He knew he wanted to play for UGA! It was his childhood dream!”

“I let Dylan make the decision where he wanted to go but I was very involved in all aspects of his decision,” said Fairchild. “We talked everything through and weighed options and when he chose Georgia I just knew it was the right decision for him.”

Dylan and Charlene Fairchild in Los Angeles for the National College Football ChampionshipPhoto byCharlene Fairchild

Cheering Sections

These players have so many loved ones cheering for them, but as expected, some cheer louder than others, even off the field.

“His biggest fan?” repeated Delp when asked the question ‘Who is Oscar’s biggest fan?’. “Me. That would be me.” Oscar Delp is also cheered on by his dad, Chris, and younger brothers Henry and Topher.

“Besides his dad [David]. Brother [Brandon] and me, it would have to be his two grannies (Nana Carol in Forsyth County and Granny Phyllis in Haralson County),” answered Southern. “Both of them will celebrate their 80th birthdays this year, and while they can’t make it to the games, they will proudly wear their #37 jerseys come gameday.”

“Cooper has lots of fans, but I would say his number one fan is his Dad [Tom],” answered Johnson. “Cooper and his Dad have practiced football together and talked football together his whole life. They have a really tight bond.”

That bond, Johnson added, is now reinforced by the fact that both Johnson men are college football players, since Tom played when he was in school. Johnson’s fan base also includes his sister, Haidyn, and spreads to West Virginia where his proud aunts and “Poppa” think “he is the greatest.”

Cooper Johnson and his proud PoppaPhoto byMalinda Johnson

“Even with a busy college schedule, he calls his 86-year-old grandfather daily to check on him and update him on what's going on,” Johnson said.

As for Dylan Fairchild, his biggest fan had a big reason to be extra loud while cheering during the championship game.

“His momma is his biggest fan!” declared Fairchild. “When #53 Dylan Fairchild went out on the field to play, Momma was so happy to see her boy play in the championship game.”

Dreams Come True

The first championship ring Drew Southern received at UGAPhoto byDrew Southern

These mothers talked about the experience of witnessing their sons live out their dreams, and how much it means to them as well as the athletes.

“[It’s] difficult to put into words… my children’s dreams are my dreams,” explained Delp. “Oscar has always dreamt of playing on a nationally ranked number one SEC football team and winning the championship. He did that. Incredibly, as a freshman in college. Again, his dream is my dream. I watched our dreams come true. How can I explain that feeling? Blessed, extremely blessed.”

“He’s living his best life,” said Southern. “It was fun,I will say,because they are adorned with their football stuff and I was at the hotel and some lady was asking to take his picture and he was so sweet. I walked away and asked Drew if he knew who she was and he had no idea. It was so cool to see people be so excited to see my son. It puts it in perspective how big a deal this was. I lose sight because at the end of the day this is just my boy.”

Offensive Lineman Dylan Fairchild playing in the College Football National Championship game.Photo byCharlene Fairchild

“Dreams do come true!” declared Johnson. “But not without hard work, determination, a good attitude and faith. As long as Cooper stays committed and focused on his faith, he will accomplish other great things in life. I can't wait to see what is ahead in his future, I know it is going to be bright.”

“Dylan has played football since he was six years old and even as a young kid he would say he wanted to play for Georgia,” said Fairchild. “Dylan is a big boy, six feet five inches and looks scary with that beard, but he’s just a big ole teddy bear and would do anything for anyone in need. I’m a very proud momma!”

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, email Michelle Hall at michelle.hall@newsbreak.com

Comments / 0

Published by

Journalist, storyteller, and editor. I love sharing stories and finding the right words to help others write their own.

Cumming, GA

More from Michelle Hall

Comments / 0