Nolan Atkins could just plain coach. His influence and coaching skill was so great that he made Sweetwater High School the model for small town high school football in the state of Alabama.
Nolan Atkins graduated from Lee High School in Columbus, Ms and earned a degree from Mississippi State University and a Master degree from Livingston University. H e served as an assistant coach in Mississippi, Florida, and Atmore, Al. before becoming the head football coach at Sweetwater High School in 1966. Sweetwater would never be the same.
Sweetwater was not a football powerhouse, with more losing seasons that winning seasons. But Nolan Atkins got the Bulldogs going, improving their record each year. Using an aggressive defense and a Wing-T offense, the Bulldogs achieved their first undefeated season in school history in 1969. They reached the state championship game before losing to Excel in the finals.
In 1970, the school board closed Sweetwater High School and Coach Atkins went to Jay, Florida for one year. When the school reopened, they hired their coach back. Beginning in late 1972 until the middle of the 1975 season, his teams won 33 consecutive regular season games, but could not get through the playoffs to win their first state championship game. That all changed in 1978 and 1979 when the Bulldogs won back to back state championships. The ’78 team went 13-0 and in the championship game defeated West Jefferson 34-0. The ’79 team did even better, going 14-0 and beating Carrollton 35-0 in the final game. In 1982 following a 9-1 regular season, Sweetwater won its 3rd championship, defeating Calera 14-7 in the title game. Coach Atkins led the Bulldogs to their 4th title in 1986. Following a 8-2 regular season with losses to 4A Thomasville and Livingston, the Bulldogs again went on a playoff run and beat Courtland 26-14 in the State Championship game.
Coach Atkins remained at Sweetwater a total of 23 seasons and left with a record of 216-50-5. He later coach Patrician Academy and Sumter Academy in the AISA and would end his career with 270 wins.
In seven seasons as baseball coach at Sweetwater, his teams won 6 state championships and was runner up the other season.
Nolan Atkins is in the East Mississippi Junior College Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. He was selected in the first class of the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. The stadium at Sweetwater High school is named in his honor.