Former Chiefs goalkeeper Graham Tutt is the next to talk with atlantasilverbacks.com in our "Exploring the Legacy" series. Tutt, who currently resides in the Atlanta area, will be one of the several former players honored on Saturday at the Silverbacks game.
When did you play for the Atlanta Chiefs?
“I played for the Chiefs from 1980-1981 as a goalkeeper. I wore number #00.”
Where are you originally from?
What were the highlights of your Chiefs career on and off the field?
“On the field, it was winning two NASL Division Championships – indoors and outdoors in 1981. My highlight off the field was meeting the fans and doing player clinics with the kids at Chiefs promotional events. They were lots of fun and we got to make many friends in the community.”
What made the Chiefs organization special?
“The Chiefs had a real "family feel" to it. We helped each other settle in, and we did two or three free soccer appearances per week. We were pioneering the game at dozens of youth facilities and various schools that reached thousands of children and parents. We simply and gladly got the Chiefs name out there.”
Do you hold any Chiefs records or do you remember any specific on-field accomplishments?
“Voted Best Looking Player!”
As a league, what was the original NASL like?
“The league was very exciting with a lot of quality players from all over the world. In our Division, there were three difficult opponents: Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Jacksonville Tea Men. The Florida clubs became great rivals, they were well-supported and produced some exciting games. We beat Tampa Bay 5-4 at home and 3-1 away and beat Fort Lauderdale in two shootouts: 1-0 in Florida and 4-3 in Atlanta.14,000 plus fans attended the 4-3 game at an experimental location that happened to be Dekalb Memorial College. Former German World Cup star Gerd Mueller scored a hat-trick against me at that game, but we managed to get a shootout win, which was very exciting for all present. I have a superb photograph or "momento" given to me by a Chiefs fan and on-field photographer David Berry. It was the last diving save of the game. I slightly touched the ball at full stretch to make it glance off the post, go wide, and win the game. Johan Cruyff and George Best were also great players to play against.”
How much support did the team receive from the city of Atlanta and its soccer fans?
“The city and fans were very supportive, mainly due to the amount of media coverage we received with it being one of Ted Turner’s sports franchises (he owned the Hawks, Braves and Flames). The TV coverage given to the Chiefs, home and away, on Turner's national TV network “Super Station Channel 17” was very good and the exposure was excellent. The Chiefs had billboards all over town advertising our next game. This, with Turner’s TV network promoting our next game resulted in a favorable response. The fans were great. They were loyal and ready to cheer on and promote the team.”
What makes Atlanta a special place to play/coach professional sports?
“Atlanta is a brilliant market for all pro sports franchises, especially soccer. The momentum of support for the Chiefs indoor team was very strong averaging 9,300 over 15 games at The Omni (now Philips Arena). The outdoor game suffered a little with an average of 6,300 fans for the 1981 outdoor season. This was probably due to playing such a huge venue as the Fulton County Stadium. We had, at best, around 15,000, at a home game when we played the New York Cosmos with the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and other superstar players.”
How far has the game of soccer come since your Chiefs days?
“The game has made huge strides with regards to participants (youth and adults). Also, the volume of indoor and outdoor facilities that have been developed since have been staggering. Back in 1981, there were only around 18,000 kids playing - compared to 80,000+ youth now currently playing in our state. The level of play and knowledge of the game has undoubtedly improved. Back then, soccer was often mistakenly spelled "socker" by many. Some called it "kickball" - that foreign "communist sport.” Strangely enough, the game has not made the impact with large attendances at the Atlanta pro-level. Television exposure for local Atlanta pro soccer has become difficult no doubt, whereas international exhibition games tend to be well-supported when they have been promoted correctly.”
What are you up to now?
“For the past several years I have been trying to develop a national pro indoor soccer league. I have identified 24 ideal US cities for indoor pro soccer and I’m now in the process of trying to find investors for each city. It’s a huge project that involves many people. The investor market appears to be shy presently, due to the current economy and the uncertainty as to who will take power politically in November. I enjoy coaching goalkeepers, mainly at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia. I give private lessons to several goalkeepers and outfield players, plus various summer soccer camps. Just over 38,000 kids have attended my soccer camps since finishing my career with the Chiefs. I think the Chiefs’ community soccer appearances opened my eyes to an untapped market of summer soccer camps. This is my 30th summer running soccer camps and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I coached college soccer for 10 years and had a decent winning record-over 80%.”
“I have been coaching soccer at Pace Academy for nearly 19 years. I enjoy developing players to play at their best playing level. It is fun watching a B/C player become an A level player, no matter the age or skill level. When playing with the Chiefs, and like most of Chiefs players, we lived in Conyers. I moved from Conyers to Marietta in 1982 and have lived in Marietta area for 30 years. I have been happily married to Liz, for 22 years. Liz started and has been the Head Ladies Soccer Coach, at Pace Academy since 1983. Her team got ranked #3 in the country at one time. We met while I was running a soccer camp at Auburn University in the mid 1980s. You could say we carry the same beliefs and passion for the game. We have two wonderful sons, Billy, 20 and Taylor, 18. Billy plays club soccer at Furman University and is toying with the idea of trying out for the college team. Because Furman has a tough academic program, he want to focus on passing and good grades. Our other lad Taylor recently left for college, and was a decent high school wrestler, placing 3rd in the state. He is studying music production and business at Belmont University in Nashville.”
What does it mean to you that the Silverbacks are hosting Chiefs Legacy Night to honor the history of the organization and its players/coaches?
“This means a lot to me. I, with the other lads, will no doubt feel very honored. I thought we had been forgotten and buried. Embracing the former pros is a huge benefit to all. It is also a wonderful excuse to see some great people that have helped mould the game. I look forward to the event, and meeting Boris and all at the Silverbacks players and staff. I sincerely hope that one day the Silverbacks play in front of 30,000 fans each week and are recognized alongside the other major Atlanta Sports franchises. I hope I can help in some way.”