Office Space: A look at some of the more unique items inside the Georgia Tech football coaches’ offices
Inside The Chart | By Andy Demetra – The Voice of the Yellow Jackets
At various times it’s their laboratory, sanctuary, study hall, and on rare occasions, their sleeping chamber.
Whatever its use, Georgia Tech’s football coaches see their offices more than their own beds this time of year. So you can’t blame them for wanting to dress up with their spaces with the usual array of pictures, children’s drawings and other tributes to their families and careers.
Some of Georgia Tech’s coaches leave their offices proudly, purposefully barren. There’s no time for decoration or distraction, no matter the time of year. But take a peek inside others and you’ll also spot some more unexpected bric-a-brac.
So on a recent walk through the Georgia Tech football offices, I decided to pop in and pose a simple question:
What’s the most interesting item you have on display in your office?
Not all of Tech’s coaches had something they considered cool or unusual (and pay no mind to the inflated air mattress propped up on the wall of offensive line coach Geep Wade’s office – that seems self-explanatory). But those who did were more than happy to share their stories.
Travares Tillman, defensive backs coach
From a distance it looks like a roll of fluorescent electrical tape. Until you tap it and hear the unmistakable clang of metal.
On a shelf in defensive backs coach Travares Tillman’s office, beneath the Funko Pops of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, is a sheared-off piece of the Bobby Dodd Stadium goalpost, torn down following Tech’s 51-48 overtime win over Georgia in 1999. Tillman was a senior captain on that team (Brent Key also has a piece of the goalpost on display in his office).
“It was crazy going out with a win over our most hated rival,” Tillman said in a radio interview this fall.
Now that he’s coaching at his alma mater, he says the goalpost is as much a motivation as a memory.
“The guys come in, they look at it, and it gives them a little bit of motivation to go out and work hard. When I come in my office every day, I look at it and it just encourages me to work hard,” Tillman said.
Chris Weinke, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Chris Weinke doesn’t have any mementos honoring his 2000 Heisman Trophy award. Nor does he have any photos celebrating his six-year NFL career.
But the Yellow Jackets’ co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach does have his own bobblehead in his office.
Last June, the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, honored Weinke with his own bobblehead night. Before he embarked on his football career, Weinke spent six years in the Blue Jays organization, which included a stint in Dunedin in 1993.
“It brought back some memories,” Weinke said. A corner infielder, he hit 17 home runs and drove in 98 runs en route to earning a Florida State League All-Star Game appearance with Dunedin.
“Quite frankly I was honored. I thought that was a pretty cool deal,” Weinke said of being commemorated by the organization in bobblehead form.
Weinke’s bobblehead keeps watch on a side table, surrounded by a nest of family photos. Asked if it accurately portrayed what he looked like 30 years ago, Weinke joked that he had a lot more hair back then (though most of it is covered by a ball cap).
When Dunedin asked Weinke if they could pay tribute to him with a bobblehead night, he agreed – on a condition.
“I said yeah, as long as you send me some,” he replied.
The Blue Jays sent him a shipment over the summer, which he handed out to any staffer who wanted one. Several have them displayed in their own offices, making it the unofficial “Elf On A Shelf” of the Georgia Tech football facility.
Norval McKenzie, running backs coach
In the stereotypical layout of a desk, it’s where you’d normally find the name plate.
But front and center on Norval McKenzie’s desk, the running backs coach keeps one of his more meaningful possessions: a carved omega symbol honoring his membership in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“I think it’s the greatest fraternity in the land,” said McKenzie, a Powder Springs, Ga., native who became an Omega while a student-athlete at Vanderbilt in 2003.
McKenzie’s academic advisor, also a “Que,” gifted him the figurine when he was an undergraduate there. McKenzie has found company at Tech: cornerback Myles Sims and linebacker Tyson Meiguez are also members of Omega Psi Phi, as is his colleague across the hall, Yellow Jackets chief of staff Dr. Donald Hill-Eley.
McKenzie says he displays it so prominently because of the way the fraternity molded him as a person.
“It helped me become who I am today. It helped me grow. It helped me with direction and things of that nature,” he said.
It turns out coaching isn’t the only fraternity that means a lot to him.
Marco Coleman, defensive line coach
A staged, 30-year-old photo shoot can often be a minefield of cringe.
Not for defensive line coach and former Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Famer Marco Coleman.
“I really enjoyed it. It was a really cool picture. It’s one of my favorite ones that I’ve ever taken,” he said.
He brought it home a couple weeks ago with the impending renovations to the Edge Athletic Center, but for a while this year, Coleman’s office featured a poster of him, safety Ken Swilling and quarterback Shawn Jones that was made as part of a 1991 preseason All-America marketing campaign.
The movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day had come out that summer, on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of 1991. Georgia Tech’s marketing and media relations team, deciding to ride the pop culture zeitgeist, made promotional posters that had Coleman, Swilling and Jones sitting on motorcycles and wearing leather jackets, shooting their best, Schwarzenegger-esque scowls at the camera.
The title at the bottom of the poster? Naturally, Terminators 3.
Though Coleman had a different character in mind when he mugged for the cameras that day.
“Remember ‘Happy Days’? The Fonz? I was like, ‘Aayyy,’ because I had the leather jacket like the Fonz,” he laughed.
“I had never been on a motorcycle, really. These were nice Harleys too.”
Little did he know the poster, which calls to mind the iconic Costacos Brothers posters of the 80’s and 90’s, would be a precursor to Coleman actually appearing in a movie a few years later. And when he had it in his office, his defensive linemen didn’t mind having some fun with it.
“They were talking about how young I looked,” Coleman said. “I actually had hair.”
Buster Faulkner, offensive coordinator/tight ends coach
The letter has mostly gone the way of the steam engine, and Buster Faulkner has penned plenty of those in his coaching career. But inside his otherwise spartan office, the Yellow Jackets’ offensive coordinator keeps a pair of letters that were written to him, both nearly two decades old.
“He’s a guy that means that world to me, and a guy I’ve always sought for advice,” Faulkner said of Robert Hill, his former head coach at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga.
After Faulkner graduated from Parkview in 2000, before he set off for an All-America career as a quarterback at Valdosta State, Hill wrote his former player a heartfelt letter.
“A lot of it was about how life isn’t easy. Adversity is going to strike. You’ve been going through that as a high school athlete with the tribulations of ups and downs, and wins and losses, and state championships and early exits – just how it paralleled life,” Faulkner recalled.
Not long after, Faulkner received a letter from his father which covered many of the same topics. All these years later, their words still resonate, and Faulkner keeps both around for inspiration.
“Those are two things that have always been sentimental to me, and really the only two things I carry other than my pictures of my family,” he said.
Brent Key, head coach
A head coach’s office can look as much like a museum as a workspace, and Brent Key has all the conversation pieces you’d expect of someone who regularly welcomes in recruits and high-level visitors. A glass case full of conference and national championship rings. Game balls and plaques from assorted big wins. His framed No. 70 Georgia Tech jersey on the wall.
Key’s office also includes some more unexpected items. In a glass cabinet behind his desk, there’s an autographed racing helmet from NASCAR driver Joey Logano (Key is friends the co-founder of Wheels Up, which counts Logano as a client).
Also on that shelf, lying flat and sheathed in a plastic cover, is a 1957 copy of LOOK magazine.
Sports Illustrated? Phil Steele? Nowhere to be found.
A faded, 66-year-old edition of a general-interest lifestyle magazine that’s been defunct for half a century? Absolutely.
As always, there’s a story behind that. The magazine was a gift from Ed Dudley, Jr., the head coach at Blessed Trinity Catholic in Roswell, Ga., whom Key has known for years. It originally belonged to his father, Ed Sr., a legendary coach in his own right.
Key flipped through the magazine’s brittle, browned pages. On page 50 was a first-person story titled “Why the head coach doesn’t coach anymore.”
The story’s author? Bobby Dodd.
“I thought it was a really cool piece of history – of college football history, of Atlanta history, [and] of Georgia Tech history,” Key said.
Legendary Atlanta Journal-Constitution sportswriter Furman Bisher co-wrote the column and signed the page for Dudley Sr. As the title implies, Dodd discusses all the different hats a coach must wear that don’t directly relate to coaching.
66 years later, how prescient were his words?
Very, according to the man who holds his job at Tech.
“It just shows how [at the] forefront he was in the way he coached, the way he thought, and the way he saw the game,” Key said.
The Yellow Jackets’ coaches have bunkered down in their offices this week, working hard to get Tech back in the win column against No. 17 North Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field (8 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports). They’ll gladly keep their gaze on game film rather than memorabilia.
Though as any of them will attest, they don’t mind doing a little redecorating during the season.
Especially if it involves a game ball celebrating a victory.
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