Paul Johnson’s message is clear

Since the first time I had a conversation with Paul Johnson, seated in his office at Georgia Southern University, one thing sticks out in my mind: He never changes. He is comfortable with his life. My wife was with me, and he invited her to join us, which she did and soon joined in the fun herself.

A lot of coaches I know would have begun squirming about and looking for a way to bring this intrusion to an end. Not this coach. He has roamed the planet since he left Newland, N.C., (pop. 709), county seat of Avery County (pop. 17,167).

He played for a high school coach who left his mark on him as a lad. Western Carolina was his next move, but he never played football. He broke into coaching at his old high school, for the same coach he’d played for. Appalachian State was next, for a master’s degree, then the coaching whirligig began, at Lees-McRae, a junior college not far from his hometown.

From Lees-McRae to Georgia Southern to Hawaii to Navy, back to Georgia Southern, and this time his head coaching career was in gear. Navy called next, and what we were about to see was the formulation of a late-model football coach. His offense traveled with him wherever he went. It has borne all sorts of aliases, but he simply calls it “the option.”

He had dominated the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, that is, the championship of the three military academies. He took Navy teams to bowl games, an experience that had escaped the Middies for several seasons. He won the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, and pretty soon he was coaching in the stadium that bore the Dodd name, and so, here we are. Same man, same coach, same offense and a similar result.

Georgia Tech was ready for a change, tiring of five- and six-loss seasons. Oh, Tech had been going to bowl games, such as they were, Silicon Valley, Emerald and so-on. So, Johnson inherited a team that had been recruited for a pro-style offense. A few players walked, and even Jonathan Dwyer was tempted, I’ve read.
The first spring game was a comedy of errors, officially nine fumbles, 14 by my count. Conclusion was, if Tech won four games, count the season a success.

Tech won nine. Tech won its division in the ACC. Most of all, it won the “Athens Bowl.” This against a Georgia team forecast to be No. 1 in the USA. It was Dwyer again, the kid from Marietta on a toss sweep 60 yards down the sideline, and a team that had been down 28-12 at halftime came back, and an upset was on the way.

It was too rich for the Yellow Jackets’ blood. By the time their date with LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl came up, they were convinced they were invincible.

“I kept trying to tell them,” Johnson said, “then some alumnus would tell them how great they were, and they began to believe it. LSU was one tough football team, and they found out the hard way.”

Back to the drawing board. Johnson is still Johnson. The message has landed. This is one good-looking football squad, a stirring collection of large, well-oiled athletes.

After days of 95 degrees, a cooling wind wafted across the green field, and there was evidence that Roddy Jones is on Dwyer’s heels, that Morgan Burnett, Cooper Taylor and Derrick Morgan should be the backbone of the defense, and if you’re looking for the most popular name of the moment, it’s Tyler. There are six Tylers in this bunch. And the coach is the same coach, same offense, same Paul Johnson I met 12 years ago.

115 comments Add your comment


August 22nd, 2009
4:32 pm

13 days and some minutes until all the talk can stop and TOE MEETS LEATHER. 14 Days and some minutes until the Dawgs have their first loss of the 09 season. Damn I love college football. Win or lose I hope all the players on all the state teams have a good year and stay healthy.

Lilburn Dawg

August 22nd, 2009
4:41 pm

TOE MEETS LEATHER??? Heck, I can’t wait till our TOE MEETS A BEE’S BUTT!!!

Denver Dawg

August 22nd, 2009
4:47 pm

might be a step forward for you to NOT base your userid on a team you dislike – it shows a strong insecurity complex…


August 22nd, 2009
4:59 pm

fugg the nerds…losers

University of Gay Athletes

August 22nd, 2009
5:09 pm

No wonder you’re ‘military dog’. Can’t even make a competent sentence. LMAO


August 22nd, 2009
5:26 pm

Still keeping classy I see dawg fans. That’s what you do best. Why are you one this blog anyways? Shouldn’t you be looking at Richt diving off of the high dive or something.


August 22nd, 2009
5:41 pm

So, what is a “competent” sentence? And are you implying that the military is illiterate?

I graduated from GT and have a PhD, but I guess that is negated by having spent 22 years in the military.



August 22nd, 2009
6:40 pm

Getwrecked, calm down. He is not implying that the military is illiterate. He is implying that militarydawg joined the military because he had no other option, being illiterate and all.


August 22nd, 2009
6:49 pm

Did Tech play in the ACC championship last year? No? Then they didn’t win their division, grandpa.


August 22nd, 2009
7:25 pm

I agree with the outrage getwrecked voiced. Having completed over 19 years in the Navy, I am appalled when anyone makes a derogatory comment to a member of the Armed Forces, be it in jest or in all seriousness. It’s inappropriate and in extremely poor taste. Incidentally, that jackass’ sentence “Can’t even make a competent sentence.” is an incomplete sentence and makes him look like an even bigger jackass than he would have if he had kept his ignorant mouth shut. GO DAWGS and God Bless the USA!


August 22nd, 2009
7:45 pm

As a FL grad, I’m glad too see a little life injected into the GA/GT rivalry. Never too unhappy too see another tough game for the Dawgs.

For those GA fans that think last year was a flash-in-the-pan for GT, don’t bet on it. PJ’s system has worked everywhere he’s gone. And it has worked better the more time he has to implement it around his own players. Doesn’t mean the bugs will be NC contenders on a yearly basis, but expect them to consistently win 8+ games per year.

Ken Stallings

August 22nd, 2009
7:50 pm

Hey Furman! Here’s a trivia question for you …

In addition to Paul Johnson, what other famous athlete hails from Newland, North Carolina? Hint: He’s tall!

Pooh Dog

August 22nd, 2009
7:58 pm

Why do we have to come on here and act like idiots? People be polite. They whipped us last season in our own house running up over 400 yds of rushing. You’d think we might be a bit civil.


August 22nd, 2009
7:59 pm

If you appreciate the English language, if you appreciate truly creative writing, Bisher is still the best writer in sports.


August 22nd, 2009
8:17 pm

good luck in that tough opener Jackets–Jax St I believe. Your schedule is a joke

Rick H

August 22nd, 2009
8:33 pm

I don’t get it. I have never read an article on Georgia football, much less commented on one. What’s the attraction of going to the big rival’s articles and posting?

If UGA beats Tech this year none of you had anything to do with it like I won’t if Tech beats them. Here’s an idea – find something to identify with that you actually have an iota of control over.


August 22nd, 2009
8:36 pm

God bless Furman Bisher and to Hell with Georgia


August 22nd, 2009
9:08 pm

LILBURN DAWG, Toe meets a Bee’s Butt, you get a 15 yarder for unnecessary roughness, we score and win the game 7-0. You say the ref gave the game to the Bees. Isn’t that the way you think?


August 22nd, 2009
9:13 pm

Navy Dawg – the military is a composite of our regular population, which is largely comprised of uneducated opinionated, dolts. The military is no different. Their one collective virtue is that they volunteered for service, which is admirable….but by and large, they are government employess who are mostly lazy and stupid, but they know they can not get fired…just like other government employees….I met hundreds of such men and women in Iraq….laziest bunch of lumps (as officers) I ever met….they are a lot like the folks in congress and also at city hell and the DMV….and any other beauracracy you can think of.


August 22nd, 2009
9:17 pm

David, are you concerned that our OOC schedule is weak since we play 3 SEC schools? Maybe you would like us to find tougher opponents than Georgie?


August 22nd, 2009
9:53 pm

LILBURN DAWG – Toe meets a bees butt = STUNG AGAIN!

Ken Stallings

August 22nd, 2009
9:59 pm

Well, I’ve served 24 years thus far in the USAF. I am an instructor pilot of a multi-million dollar airplane. I also have an FAA Commercial Multi-Engine pilot’s license and instrument rating.

I realize we should not get angry when a fool decides to remove all doubt in public as to his affliction. However, neither should we ignore it!

It takes intelligence to go into combat, beat the enemy, and avoid death doing it! I suppose that’s enough if we decided merely to boil it down to an intelligence quotient. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. Willingness, courage, and study are just a few of the many other required qualities.

But the fact that we are at war, and some of us are killed in action, I must confess I find it more than a bit shocking that anyone in American society would actually lower himself simply to make a gutter-snipping remark in an online news blog.

Makes one wonder. I know Furman Bisher himself must so often shake his head in sadness as to the erosion of civility. I am reminded of the poignant rejoinder uttered by a man to then-Senator Joe McCarthy, “Have you no decency, sir!”


August 22nd, 2009
10:14 pm

ACC 6-4 vs sec 2009

old Tech fan in NC

August 23rd, 2009
12:04 am

the other tall gent from the high country was named Tommy. He and four of his friends won a few basketball games for NCSU.

BS Patrol

August 23rd, 2009
12:27 am

Furman, You are one damn good sports writer. This unfortunately is an art that seems to be disappearing.


August 23rd, 2009
1:18 am

ACC 6-6 vs SEC last year, not 6-4. It’s convenient to forget the peach bowl I suppose.


August 23rd, 2009
1:19 am

Also, the SEC holds a 255-123-10 (.670) all-time advantage vs the ACC.

Dan A.

August 23rd, 2009
1:55 am

Furman, the reason why Johnson doesn’t care about your intrusiveness is because you’re a senile old writer whose column nobody reads. You’re about as threatening as a 7 year old kid looking for an autograph.


August 23rd, 2009
6:06 am

Furman, good article, as always. I’m a Dawg fan who is also a Paul Johnson fan–have been since he was OC at GSU. He’s a great coach and a class act–as you are, sir. I’ve been reading your work for 30 years, and you are part of a vanishing breed: a good journalist who is also a good writer. Keep it up.

Oh, and Dan A? Shut up. That comment was unwarranted and classless.

Ken Stallings, excellent post. My best regards to you and your colleagues in the military. Thanks for all you do for the rest of us.


August 23rd, 2009
6:19 am

If you idiotic dawgs think that playing Paul Johnson is the same as playing chan gomer gailey…then you are too stupid to be dealt with.

Paul Johnson is a genius and he finally has the talent to show what this offense can really do.

He is going to leave everyone else in the dust and you dawgs are going to sitting around saying…..whah happend???

Thank God and Greyhound that the worst coach in the history of the world is gone forever.

And thank God for Paul Johnson.

PJ = a Militery Idiot

August 23rd, 2009
7:02 am

I saw the comments about where someone was saying Paul Johnson joined the militery because he did not have any other thing to do. I think this is probably right. In my experience, the people who joined the militery are dumb as hell. Most of them couldn’t get real jobs so they said they were patriotic and joined the damn militery instead. Every time they get shipped home in a box I think “What a dumass!” And I think Paul Johnson is a militery type of dumass too – because he must have coach at Navy – a militery school! – before he came to GA Tech. Tech is supposed to be smart people – so then tell me how they get this dumb coach? UGA will beat Tech by 30 points this year! Go Dawgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


August 23rd, 2009
7:05 am

As a 29-year veteran of the Air Force, let me provide you some stats. ‘

Say 10 individuals, all decide to join the military by going into a recruiting office. Here’s what happens:

10 walk in
9 will take the test, the other will balk
8 will pass it, the other can’t
7 will make to the examining station, the other has “bad paper”
6 will pass the physical and interviews, the other will be tripped up
5 will make it to basic training, the other get homesick
4 will make it to technical school, the other, old ways come back
3 will make to the end of their first enlistment, the other gets “bad paper”
2 will will reenlist, the other will choose not to do so; free country
1 will make it a career

The others are walking the streets of Hall County.

Go Jackets…


August 23rd, 2009
7:55 am

Furman is not the greatest anymore but still more than deserves a space in the paper! He is certainly one of the best.

Paul Johnson certainly has the chance to become one of the greatest coaches in college football history.

Both are throwbacks and I am thankful we have them both!

As for UGA they can go to hell!


August 23rd, 2009
7:56 am

The tide has changed in Georgia. All of this mutt crud you see hanging in the dollar store will soon diminish. I love this. The leg-humpers are hitting this wonderful article by Mr. Bisher kind of like slapping their cane fishing poles on top of da wader. The University of Georgie will be looking for another coach in a couple of years. I can see MR as head coach of FSU.
Go You Hairy YELLOW JACKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


August 23rd, 2009
8:05 am

Kinda funny/sad, the vitriol displayed here by both ’sides’. But then, the 80-20 Rule is a basic fact of life. What I really can’t fathom is the rag on the military. You don’t find many folks willing to write the USA an open-ended contract, smart or dumb. Respect that if you can respect nothing else. Wouldn’t it be better to just keep some of this to yourselves and try not to live your lives of quiet desperation vicariously through 20 year-old kids?
They say one of the great things about free speech is it makes spotting the idiots so much easier. Dan H – you read the column, dude. Don’t make it too easy for us.
Play hard, play fair; no one gets hurt. And I’ll buy the first round of Terrapin Rye Ale for everyone after the game.


August 23rd, 2009
8:17 am

the posts on this blog are pathetic. no wonder Furman hasn’t responded. there’s nothing to respond to………..I hope some of you don’t vote either…..


August 23rd, 2009
8:33 am

whats wrong with hall county????


August 23rd, 2009
9:52 am

Nothing is wrong with Hall county; tdone just needed a snappy end.

old Tech fan in NC

August 23rd, 2009
11:34 am

some of these comments remind me that we used to have a draft. I’d like to see the guy above on Tank Hill in Fort Jackson with a Ranger for Company Commander…those Rangers really love to run early in the AM.
GT71, I’ll take a Carolina Blond made locally.

Diehard ATL Fan

August 23rd, 2009
11:43 am

Some of you should go thank a vet that he has courage, heart, & commitment. All giving you the right to insult him/her over a keyboard without penalty.

I think I speak for both schools when I say YOU DISGRACE GT, UGA, the MILITARY, and THE USA with this nonsense!!!

If you really feel military=dumb then associate your real name behind the statement big guy(s).

August 23rd, 2009
12:27 pm

Go Jackets!!

Ken Stallings

August 23rd, 2009
12:38 pm

Old Tech Fan in NC, you are correct, sir!

Tommy Burleson hails from Avery County and is currently living with his family in Newland, NC. He is as much a gentleman and kind-hearted family man as he was a basketball superstar. No mere accident that when he graduated ahead of David Thompson by a year that NC State could not repeat as conference and national champion. Burleson was the winning margin in a truly outstanding basketball conference with at least three teams that could have won a national championship (NC State, Maryland, and UNC). Then before the decade was out, Bill Foster at Duke turned that team into a national power.

The mid seventies were a purple patch in basketball in North Carolina. We just didn’t fully appreciate it back then. Even as Lefty Drisell lamented his fate in 1974 with a team widely considered the second best in the country, but doomed to be in the same conference with the team widely considered the best!


August 23rd, 2009
12:46 pm

Civility. Two gentlemen wrote earlier in this blog: “I know Furman Bisher himself must so often shake his head in sadness as to the erosion of civility.” and ” Why do we have to come on here and act like idiots? People be polite. They whipped us last season in our own house running up over 400 yds of rushing. You’d think we might be a bit civil.” Two classy comments. So why are these posts so often uncivil? Because they are anonymous. Saying many of these things out loud in a public place would invite a serious beatdown. And the first person to let the slaps fly would be their own mother. It is absolutely gutless and cowardly to talk trash anonymously. Gutless. Cowardly.

"THE" University of "GEORGIA"

August 23rd, 2009
1:01 pm

Tech we really enjoy all the modern enhancements and technologies that GIT afford us. I also really enjoy the great peanuts that UGA grads produce as so forth.

You get my drift.

A thought: You put Paul Johnson at UGA, a NC game within 2 years. It will take him 2 to 3 more years to make a BCS.

I think Johnson is a little bitter, I hear he had the opportunity as an up and coming coach at UGA and was passed upon. I know Paul deep down would have put UGA above GIT if he had both offers.


August 23rd, 2009
1:08 pm

Furman, I hope you overlook idiots like Dan A. I have been enjoying your well written articles for many years and hope to continue reading them for many more. Dan A. you do not know how stupid your comments appear. Furman Bisher has been writing articles and winning awards for as long as I can remember. He was and is such an influence on other great writers like Lewis Grizzard and so many others. Keep your mouth shout you dumb ass idiot!


August 23rd, 2009
1:13 pm

laughing, and sorry of the spelling “keep your mouth shut” sorry attended English classes at Georgia once upon a time.


August 23rd, 2009
1:30 pm

re UGA & Ga Tech. Look, UGA under Richt has had a top 10 recruiting class every year he has been at UGA. Ga Tech has never had a top 10 recruiting class. They usually rank 30 to 50 & occasionally get into the upper 20’s. The only reason UGA should ever loose to Ga Tech in football is just the odds over time, lousy coaching or lousy performances by the players. The surprise is that the score is not at least UGA 48 – GT 7 every year.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 23rd, 2009
1:49 pm

Dan A writes Furman, the reason why Johnson doesn’t care about your intrusiveness is because you’re a senile old writer whose column nobody reads. You’re about as threatening as a 7 year old kid looking for an autograph.

Didn’t you have to read the column in order to know what was in it, to take a slam at Furman? Seems saying nobody reads his column isn’t true because you, yourself, read it.


August 23rd, 2009
4:13 pm

Dan A…how dare you take that tone with Furman.. He is beloved by many and a legend in his field of journalism. You crass uneducated moron. People like you make all decent folks want to puke.

Not Disappointed

August 23rd, 2009
4:24 pm

Great read. Thanks Mr. Furman Bisher. I wasn’t sold on Coach Paul Johnson when he first came here. Boy, was I wrong!

God Bless the Military and My Jackets! Okay! God keep the pups healthy too, but that’s it!

College football is almost near Gents and Girls!! Ramblin Wreck!

Ps. Really bloggers it’s almost football time and looks like it’s going to be a good year for the players who represent State of Georgia. How can you not be happy for them? College Football is the best!