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

fiddycent

September 1st, 2009
9:10 am

Yo, yo, you, my tecky peeps. I wants whuts uze smokin bro! I luvs that uze gots passhun fo yo team, but dang bro. Be carefil yo mouth aint puttin out checks yo body cant cash. no what iz sayin bro? U feelin me Buzz?

Corrine Brown

September 1st, 2009
10:33 am

But 2 Tech season tickets and get $50 off on your assault weapon

Fillin' up @ Juniors

September 1st, 2009
2:21 pm

Wow, this is one of the most embarrassing comment boards I may have ever read. An attack on military intelligence, retarded comments not pertaining to anything to do with football, plenty of generalizations about nothing, add in a few “getto-tastic” posts and not a single good point made the entire time. I feed bad for this country and especially this state if this is the way we talk with each other. I hope when my Jackets meet the dawgs both teams are undefeated, tech wins in a great game and then we all focus on the Falcons…after bowl season of course.

PS. If this post offends you, you might need to grow up. Just a test.

TechFan69

September 1st, 2009
4:09 pm

Does anyone want to come to my house and start an impromptu tickle pile? You guys are delusional. One win in 8 years doesn’t mean jack squat. Your annual beating is coming you pi$$ colored retards. Just because we have all the women shouldn’t make you nerds so jealous.

Old Tech

September 1st, 2009
4:50 pm

In the rankings that truly matter, Ga Tech 7, UGA 21, Florida 15, Alabama 43.

As much as we all love college football, please remember that there are much more important lessons to be learned than how to spell GEORGIA out loud. (Does spelling GEORGIA at halftime still count as a 3 hour “A”?)

red goat

September 1st, 2009
6:16 pm

I’m sick of seeing this article on your website. Does Bisher only contribute once a month now? Seriously, the next time the AJC trims its staff, it’s time to take a long-hard look at this guy.

dawes

September 1st, 2009
10:15 pm

paul johnson hell with georgia tech

The University of Georgia Tech

September 3rd, 2009
9:18 am

Best dang football coach in the business…I just hope we can keep em’. Notre Dame will call in a couple of years to have him bring back the ole’ smash mouth days of lou holtz and GT will loose another great to ND…just hope there are no lying issues with Coach Johnson….like CoachO’Leary

WADE

September 3rd, 2009
9:38 am

all i have to say is GOOOOOOOOO!! COWBOYS!!!!

Coach BoBo

September 3rd, 2009
1:15 pm

collegeballfan – good post. The reason Tech will beat UGA is coaching and discipline.

TDone – Clarke County, not Hall County

macrotech

September 4th, 2009
11:19 am

PJ = a Militery Idiot, your 7:02 am post is, without ANY doubt, the greatest display of moronic dribble I have EVER read!!! I know it’s the internet and all, but I REALLY want to meet you somewhere!!! You don’t deserve the freedom that these “idiots” have paid for with their lives!!! I think I speak for everyone, regardless of their school affilitation….you can go straight to hell!!!!

dawes

September 4th, 2009
2:36 pm

all i can say go jackspnville

AUGT

September 6th, 2009
6:35 am

Pi$$onaDawg wrote “14 Days and some minutes until the Dawgs have their first loss of the 09 season.”

YOU ARE CORRECT SIR, OSU BEAT THE DAWGS 24-10. DAWGIES ARE 0-1

No hater

September 10th, 2009
11:42 pm

I likes um both. Dogs and jackets. Can’t understand all this hate for cross state rivals. UGA has all the great facilities the larger fan base and supporting alum. with money. Thats why GT is always the underdog. All you ball fans need to visit the Butts Mear building in Athens to see what a great atheletic facility looks like. And you tech fans need to go and see what you need to do to improve your athletic facility. Ga always gets the great recruits because that stuff impresses young kids.

lARRY WILLIAMS

September 18th, 2009
11:33 am

I FIND ITDIFFICULT TO WATCH LAST YEARS ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR, JONATHAN DWYER, ONLY BEING USED AS A BLOCKING BACK OR CARRIER ONLY BETWEEN THE GUARDS. THE KID IS THE FASTEST PLAYER ON THE TEAM BUT THIS YEAR DOES NOT CARRY THE BALL OUTSIDE THE TACKLES OR ENDS. CHECK WHERE ALL OF HIS TDS HAVE COME FROM. I SURE HATE TO SEE A WASTE OF TALENT WHO WILL STAY HURT TRYING TO MOVE 300 LB. LINEMEN. IT IS APPARENT “SOME COACH” ON THE TEAM IS PLAYING WITH THE FUTURE OF A GREAT KID. WHY IS THERE NO COMPLAINIG IN ATLANTA.
A NORTH CAROLINA FAN.