McDuffie County has been blessed with many great athletes who have gone on to outstanding careers at the collegiate level. Three of those young men played for Clemson University in the 1980s. James Farr, who lettered four years for the Tigers, was one of those gentlemen.
Farr played offensive guard and on the defensive line for Bill
Reese’s Thomson Bulldogs, who had a run-oriented, wishbone offense. In 1979, he was, according to teammate Alvin Wright, then a sophomore, the glue that held the team together in its run to the first region championship for Thomson since 1971. In addition to being being named to the Atlanta Journal Constitution first team AAA All-State team, he helped encourage the younger players on the team.
After his stellar senior campaign, Farr received several scholarship offers. Georgia and South Carolina were considered; however, he chose Clemson because of its coach, Danny Ford. Farr said, “I loved the small-town atmosphere of Clemson and the down-home, country-boy demeanor of Ford,” who was one of the youngest head coaches in college football at the time. Despite growing up in downtown Thomson, Farr was a country boy himself who loved working on his father, Bob’s, dairy farm outside of town.
Farr arrived in Clemson and initially was moved to defensive end. He stood 6-feet 3-inches tall, but after a hard summer on the farm and preseason workouts, James weighed only 205 pounds. He received a baptism of fire when Clemson’s first two centers went down to injury early in the 1980 season and James was moved to the starting center position against Georgia. He had to line up against Bulldog noseguard Eddie “Meat Cleaver” Weaver, who outweighed him by 100 pounds. Georgia won that day because of a punt return for a touchdown and an interception return by Scott Woerner setting up another Bulldog touchdown. Ironically, Farr remembers Coach Ford warning his Tigers before the game not to let Woerner beat them.
The next year Farr became a starter at offensive guard and was on Clemson’s 1981 national championship team, defeating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to finish the season 12-0. Unfortunately, that would be the Tigers’ last bowl game for a while. Despite finishing each of the next two seasons with outstanding 9-1-1 records, the Tigers would be denied bowl participation because of NCAA probation. They were also denied the 1983 ACC championship despite having the best conference record. Farr started 35 consecutive games in his last three seasons with the Tigers. He had 122 knockdown blocks in his career. He received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for both the ACC and the state of South Carolina in 1983 and was named first-team Atlantic Coast Conference. He was also co-captain of the team and was named third-team All-American. Clemson’s combined record during James’ career was 36-7-2.
After playing in two all-star games, the Blue-Gray Classic and the East-West Shrine game, Farr chose to join the Washington Federals of the newly formed United States Football League. There he was a teammate of current CBS college football analyst Craig James. Because of financial woes, the team moved to Orlando, Fla., the next year as the Renegades and Farr was coached by current ESPN football analyst Lee Corso. After the league folded, James ended his football career after a brief tryout with the New York Jets and returned home to Thomson. He was offered an opportunity by the Atlanta Falcons to join their replacement team during the 1987 strike season, but had taken a job teaching and coaching in nearby Harlem under his high school mentor, Bill Reese.
In 1989 James went to work with Shaw Industries in Thomson and eventually transferred with them to Cartersville where he still lives. In 1995, he joined a firm selling extrusion equipment. He now owns the company, Providence Machinery and Parts
Farr is another example of a McDuffie County native who used his football skills to build a successful future.