Vic Mell | Jim Walsh
John E. “Vic” Mell was born in Savannah on April 24, 1922. The Mells were a devout Catholic family, and Vic attended Cathedral Day and Marist Brothers School for Boys before entering Benedictine Military School in 1938. While at Benedictine, Mell was a notable athlete, excelling in football, basketball and baseball. He graduated from Benedictine in 1942, and earned a full scholarship to play football, basketball and baseball at the University of Miami.
However, Mell’s college plans were halted when he was drafted into the army shortly after graduation in 1942. Because of his military training at Benedictine, Mell quickly adjusted to military life, and was promoted from Private 1st Class to Sergeant in one day. After serving his time in the military, Mell graduated from the University of Miami in 1947.
Following graduation, Mell returned to Savannah, where he began his career as a teacher and coach at Commercial High School. In 1949, Mell returned to his beloved alma mater, Benedictine, as assistant coach for the football, basketball and baseball teams. He became head coach of the teams the next year, and also created track and golf teams for students interested in those sports.
In 1950, he married Virginia Barbee, and together they had five children; four daughters and one son. Today, the Mell family consists of fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Throughout his tenure as a coach and teacher at Benedictine, Mell was awarded many times over for his excellence in coaching and devotion to Benedictine. He was named the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s “Coach of the Year” for AAA twice; once in 1958 for football and once in 1960 for basketball. In 1967, he was voted Benedictine Athletic Association’s “Man of the Year.” In 1969, he retired from coaching, but remained a dedicated Benedictine fan.
Mell’s honors and awards did not stop with his retirement. In 1969 he was recognized by the Knights of Columbus Council 631 for his 20 years of outstanding service and dedication to Benedictine. Mell also created an award for loyalty to Benedictine called the Col. Stephen S. Koszewski Award, which he eventually won in 1970. In 1973, he was inducted into the Savannah Hall of Fame, and on February 24, 1984, he was elected the distinguished honor of Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Marshall. The following year he was awarded the Benedictine Medal of Excellence, and became the first person inducted into the Benedictine Hall of Fame as a player and coach.
On December 17, 1988 “the Coach” passed away. His burial service was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and the Benedictine fight song was played as his casket exited the Cathedral.
Following his death, several of his past players wanted to create a memorial for the coach who had made such a positive impact on their lives. To honor his love of sports, the Vic Mell Memorial Golf Tournament was created. To this date, the tournament has given back over $350,000 to Benedictine, and is a celebration of Mell’s unrelenting dedication and loyalty to Benedictine throughout his life.
Born in Philadelphia, PA on March 16, 1934, Jim Walsh’s family was a member of St. William’s Parish where he also attended grammar school. Walsh took interest in a variety of sports at a young age, participating in football and boxing, just to name a few. He attended Northeast Catholic High School, where he was an outstanding football player, and led his teams to three city championships. During Walsh’s senior year, he was recognized by the City of Philadelphia as “Most Outstanding Athlete.”
When the time came for Walsh to continue his education, he received football offers from some of the best colleges in the country. Among these were Penn State, Indiana, Villanova, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and many others. In the end Walsh chose Auburn, where he led the Tigers to three straight Gator Bowls. During his senior year, Walsh was drafted into the army, where he continued his football career by playing for the 4th Armoured Division and was chosen for the “All European” team.
After finishing his tour of duty, Walsh returned to Auburn to finish his degree, and became assistant football coach for the Auburn freshman team under Erk Russell. Shortly after, Walsh received an offer to become head coach at Pacelli High School, a new Catholic school in Columbus, GA. Walsh accepted the position, and spent the next 10 years developing the football program, which included building the school’s first football stadium. While in Columbus, Walsh met his wife Barbara and started a family.
In 1970, Walsh left Columbus to become head coach of the football team at Benedictine Military School in Savannah, GA. With Walsh leading the way, Benedictine was 63-7-0 from 1977 to 1982, and the Cadets were considered one of the state’s major powerhouses. During his 24 years at Benedictine, the Cadets captured 13 city championships, and Walsh became one of the few coaches in football history to win over 200 games.
Today, Walsh is Benedictine’s freshman football coach. With 50 years of coaching behind him, Walsh is thankful for the experiences he had throughout his football career, and is proud of the impact and legacy he has made at Benedictine.