ATHENS — Kirk Olivadotti’s father didn’t push him into the family business.
Quite the opposite.
“I had a suspicion when I was in high school what I wanted to do, but my father always told me he was going to punch me right in the face if I became a football coach,” Olivadotti said. “So I kind of kept it from him.”
The 37-year-old son of long-time NFL defensive coach Tom Olivadotti is Georgia’s new inside linebackers coach, hired on Feb. 18 from the defensive staff of the Washington Redskins. He spent last week settling into his new job, meeting his players and watching film of their games and practices. Late Friday afternoon, he chatted amiably about growing up as the son of a coach, following in his father’s footsteps and now making the move to Georgia:
The advice he got from his father upon revealing his career choice: “Well, first he tried to talk me out of it. And then once he realized that I was [committed to] it, the one thing he said was, ‘It’s not really a job. It’s a lifestyle.’ And that has proven true. At that point, I was a sophomore in college [at Purdue], so I didn’t really understand what he meant. But now I have a wife and two kids, and it is a lifestyle. It’s a family lifestyle that everybody has to be a part of.”
The nomadic coaching profession (his father was an assistant for five NFL teams): “I got lucky because I went to the same high school all four years [while his father was on the Miami Dolphins' staff]. My sister went to four different high schools. She kind of hit my dad in a transition period.”
First coaching job at Maine Maritime: “It’s a little Division III school . . . up in the Penobscot Bay [area of Maine]. . . . If you’ve ever seen ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ at the end when they hide the nuclear submarine, they can’t find it because they’re in Penobscot Bay. So it’s a real little town; nobody even thinks to look there.”
Keeping a job with the Redskins for the past 11 seasons through seven different head coaches (Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan): “They did have me pack my office up a couple of times, and then I was asked to come back in. It was luck a little bit. When Coach Schottenheimer came in, my dad had worked with Marty, so he at least knew my name. But I had to go interview just like everybody else in that situation. I broke a sweat in that interview. And when Coach Spurrier came in . . . probably I got that [job] because I kind of knew how to work everything in the building. . . . I was out of the building for six weeks before Coach Gibbs rehired me. . . . I mean literally packed up, boxes in my house.”
His decision to move from the NFL to UGA: “I’ve had a couple different [college coaching] opportunities come up over the years, but this one felt right. The timing was right, and my wife gave it the OK. . . . And once I came down here and saw everything, there was no doubt the University of Georgia wants to win football games. This is a great opportunity.”
His connection to Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: “He worked with my old man with the Texans [in 2004], and we got to know each other then.” [An aside: If you're wondering, Tom Olivadotti is currently the defensive coordinator of the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks.]
First meeting with Georgia’s inside linebackers: “They’re going to run to the ball, and they’re going to hit something; that’s what I’ve told them. That was the first meeting that we did. I told them, ‘You play if you run to the ball and hit something.’ We’ll take it from there.”
The anticipated adjustment from coaching NFL players to coaching college players: “There’s going to be a difference. I remember when I was 20 years old. . . . But at the same time people are people. You’re going to have guys that are going to work their butts off; you’re going to have guys that you’re going to have to motivate, and you’re going to have guys that you have to always make it their idea in order for them to want to do it. Those are the different things that you do in life. I have to do it with my 3-year-old daughter.”
–Tim Tucker, AJC