Andy McCollum remembers going to Georgia Tech games when he was a boy growing up in Marietta. He remembers waking up on Thanksgiving excited about going to watch the “Bullpups” and the Yellow Jackets play each year.
Now, after recently being hired as Tech’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, he said he’s excited about making some new memories.
“It’s an honor,” McCollum said on Thursday as he was driving from Raleigh to Atlanta with a car full of clothes.
McCollum and Tech coach Paul Johnson have known each other since the mid-1980s when McCollum was an assistant at Middle Tennessee State and Johnson an assistant at Georgia Southern.
The respect runs deep for the expertise that the other brings to that side of the ball.
When the two became head coaches at their schools, McCollum was in the process of leading the Blue Raiders from the I-AA to I-A level. As he was scheduling Georgia and Florida, he said Johnson called him and asked if he needed a game.
“I told him I didn’t just fall off the truck,” McCollum said. “I’m not playing Georgia Southern and I ‘m not playing you.”
That, more than anything, he said shows how much faith that he has in Johnson’s spread-option offense, which some still question, and his ability to lead a football team.
“That’s one of the exciting things for me,” McCollum said. “All I’ve got to do is practice against it and not defend it. Survey the country and ask any coach in the country, ask them if they want to defend it. It would be unbelievable.
“It’s proven. It’s not like it’s a one- and two-year deal at Navy. He whipped people there more than once.”
McCollum said most of his people still live in or around the Marietta area, including his 76-year-old father, his brother and his sister. After he gets settled in at Tech, he’s going to start looking for a high school for his son, who plays catcher.
Leaving N.C. State to come to Tech was a tough decision, he said. Mostly because when he arrived in Raleigh, the Wolfpack didn’t have any players from Georgia. When he resigned, they had 17.
“When you’ve got a relationship with your kids it makes it tough to leave,” McCollum said. “That’s the toughest part of our profession. You truly have a relationahip. I do and I believe that. Somebody’s family turned them over to you. That’s a dadgum responsibility.
“But I think there are a lot of parents that are exciting about turning over their kids to Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech.”