June 6, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
You notice right away in Brad Waggoner a man on the move. He speaks at a quick clip, touching upon topics one after another. It is easy to detect dogged determination, and that has plenty to do with his return to Georgia Tech.
Taking a brief break Thursday as he marked his first week on the job as the assistant director of player personnel for head coach Paul Johnson and the football program, Waggoner gave the impression that his persistence can only help Tech’s recruiting efforts – his primary responsibility.
This is not a man who sits tight, or stays still.
Waggoner spent the last 10 years as a high school head coach in Florida, Alabama and his native Georgia, bouncing through six jobs while wanting nearly all that time to return to the college ranks.
That’s why he kept calling, texting, e-mailing and mailing Johnson for years.
He interviewed for a position in February. Soon, however, Johnson hired Matt Griffin as director of player personnel and Pete Hurt as the assistant. Griffin has since left the program, and Hurt was promoted last week to director.
“I pursued a job [at Tech] for the last five years, to be honest. I’ve pursued as hard as I could,” Waggoner said. “It’s hard to get hold of a college head coach. I e-mailed him several times, mailed letters. Sometimes, you don’t get a response.
“Other times you get a standard response that nothing’s available. Back in February . . . I finally got an interview and I didn’t get the job. They gave the job to Pete Hurt, and he has a lot more experience than I have; it was a no brainer. I sent a simple e-mail or text, just remember me if anything comes open.”
Waggoner, 39, and football go together.
He wasn’t overly gifted, yet he scrapped his way to a solid career at Landmark Christian in Fayette County in the early 1990s before joining the Tech squad in ’94.
A few roadblocks popped up on The Flats so he transferred to Liberty University (Va.) in ’95.
“I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to coach. I knew I wasn’t going to play in the NFL, but I’d always wanted to play in college,” he said. “I loved Georgia Tech, but I was a good player and not a great player.
Soon after graduating from Liberty in ’97, Waggoner took to the gypsy trail known by so many coaches.
After a year as a video coordinator at Virginia Military Institute, he worked, studied and coached as a graduate assistant at Alabama in ’98, and wrapped up his first tour through the college ranks as a special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at West Alabama in ’99-’00.
First, there was a stop as Fayette County High’s defensive coordinator (`03), and then in ’04 he became the boss at Crescent City High (Fla.).
Keeping track of Waggoner would’ve required steady surveillance.
He has also been the head coach at Luverne (Ala.), Pike County (Ala.), Chattooga (Ga.), Decatur (Ga.) and Lumpkin County (Ga.).
There have been quite a few change-of-address forms.
“I liked Decatur. It was a situation where I could never get my wife [a school counselor] a job there,” Waggoner explained. “It was a little bit easier [moving around] 10 years ago because I was single. I’ve been married for three years. You’re always trying to move up. You’ve got to go different places to make a name for yourself . . . My wife knows that I’ve really, really wanted to get back to the college level.”
There will not be much down time for Waggoner.
He hopes to join his family, which includes former Alabama defensive end Clint Waggoner, for a few days around the July 4th holiday, when they typically make a beach trip.
Today, however, Tech is holding its youth football camp, and Saturday and Sunday will be filled by a prospect camp for high school players.
Over the rest of the month, recruiting will occupy the staff. Waggoner’s responsibilities will center on promoting a program and a school that he said has improved dramatically since his brief time as a Tech student.
“It’s night and day. There are so many more opportunities for students . . . and the landscape of campus has changed,” he said. “I will mainly do on-campus and unofficial and game-day visits, and kids that pop in out of the blue. My job will be to sell Georgia Tech on campus.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to get my foot back in the door. I have a high ambition, and I’m going to make it back to the field at the college level some how, some way. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and I’m going to work as hard as I can for coach Johnson.”
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