Oct. 13, 2012
By Jon Cooper
On paper, a quarterback standing 6-2, 200, with an average arm, and average speed doesn’t necessarily stand out.
But football games aren’t played on paper and height and time in the 40 can’t measure things like a quarterback’s intelligence or pedigree or work ethic or competitiveness.
In 1998, those latter four elements came to Georgia Tech in a 6-2, 205-pound package named George Godsey.
Over the next four years, the last two as the starter, Godsey became one of the most efficient passers and greatest leaders not only in Georgia Tech history but in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He will be recognized for his accomplishments when he is inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame Friday night in ceremonies at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, joining teammate Jon Carman, Becky Megesi and Tomas Motiejunas (track and field), Carlton Forrester (golf), Maja Pachale (volleyball) and Cory Vance (baseball) The entire class also will be recognized at halftime of the next day’s football game against Boston College at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“I’m very humbled. It’s a prestigious group of people,” said Godsey, who graduated in May, 2001 but played his final year while in pursuit of his Master’s in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a concentration in manufacturing and logistics. “To be selected into the Hall of Fame, when you say those three words, obviously, it’s special. It kind of hit me. Just kind of looking back at your career and what others thought of it.”
Anyone who saw Godsey couldn’t help but be impressed.
From a football family — his dad, played at Alabama for Bear Bryant, his older brother played at Air Force and his younger brother at Notre Dame — Godsey threw for 6,137 yards, with 41 touchdowns (he added six more on the ground) against 18 interceptions.
But he was best known for his efficiency. His .633 completion percentage (484 completions in 765 attempts) is a school record and he hit .636 and .648 percent his final two seasons. His 143.64 pass efficiency ranks second in school history (behind Hamilton) and is fifth all-time in ACC history.
Other impressive marks include the top two seasons for a Tech quarterback for completions and two of the top four seasons for touchdown passes and yardage. He ranks fourth among Tech quarterbacks in career passing yards (6,137), touchdown passes (41), completions (484), total offense (6,125), and touchdown responsibility (47), trailing only Hamilton, Shawn Jones and Reggie Ball, all of whom started four years.
He credits his coaches for his success.
“Being disciplined and doing what the coaches had game planned for each week,” he said. “The coaches obviously did a great job with me as far as putting me in a position to succeed. Then I just tried to execute what the coaches presented to me.
“I didn’t try to do anything individually for attention,” he continued. “I always thought the mark of a good football player was being coachable and executing the game plan through their eyes. I didn’t have the rocket arm but the quicker you made your decision, the more open the receiver.”
Godsey couldn’t help but attract attention, however. A three-sport star at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla., he completed 63.9 percent of his passes as a senior. That got the attention of Georgia Tech.
“We recruited him out of high school as a quarterback,” recalled then-head football coach George O’Leary. “He was a very, very intelligent and very competitive athlete in high school. He came in and he waited his turn at Tech.”
Godsey didn’t wait idly, however, serving as a key observer and an extra coach Hamilton, the starter, during his 1999 Heisman Trophy runner-up season.
“He was a big help to Joe, as far as things that Joe would miss on,” recalled O’Leary. “He was on the sideline and he’d tell him, ‘Here’s what I see.’ He was a team player all the way. His teammates had great respect for him.
“He had to wait his turn to play and when he got the opportunity he made the most of it,” O’Leary added. “He very rarely made mistakes. He always got you in the right check. The number one thing about him, was his competitiveness but also his perseverance.”
Under Godsey, Georgia Tech won 17 of 25 games, and played in a pair of bowl games, including the 2001 Seattle Bowl, in which he earned MVP, orchestrating the Jackets’ 24-14 upset of No. 11 Stanford. Godsey had a 3-1 record against Georgia, quarterbacking Tech to a third straight win over the Bulldogs in 2000, a 27-15 win in Athens. He scored on a 33-yard touchdown dash around right end to put Tech ahead for good in the first quarter.
“Any time you beat Georgia it’s a good memory,” he said. “It’s a game you have marked on the calendar the whole year. What really is important about that game, is that we improved to that point to be able to beat a team like Georgia that has a bunch of good players on it.”
Another Godsey trademark was his knack of getting better the later the game got. In his two years as a starter, he completed 67.7 percent of his fourth-quarter throws (103-for-152), with 13 touchdowns). The most dramatic of which might have been 22-yard rainbow to Kerry Watkins that beat Clemson, one of three fourth-quarter, game-winning drives that year.
As good as Godsey was, he was even more modest and grateful. He still is, especially when it comes to his Hall of Fame induction.
“Whenever something individually is achieved there’s more than just one person involved,” he said. “I really learned the game of football from the head coach at that time, George O’Leary, and his assistant coaches, [Offensive Coordinator] Ralph Friedgen and then [Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Billy O’Brien.
“As a football coach now, you can’t estimate how much time goes into those people’s lives and how much they gave to you and the information that they gave you so you could go out on the field that’s successful.”
Beginning in 2004 he began his coaching career, working, for O’Leary at Central Florida. He spent seven years in Orlando as a graduate assistant, quarterbacks coach, and finally running backs coach.
Two years ago, he moved to the pros after getting a call from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. Godsey was hired as an offensive assistant — working side-by-side with O’Brien — before moving into his current role as tight ends coach.
O’Leary believes Godsey’s work ethic is the key to his ascension, which is just getting started.
“He is a workaholic. He’s going to be in his office until 11, 12, 1:00 in the morning, studying film and doing things that get you ahead in the coaching game,” said O’Leary. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see him be a coordinator pretty early in his career in the pros. He’s getting to be the complete football coach.”
For now, as he did early on at Tech, Godsey is going about his business, with his eyes open wide.
“Coach Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time and I’m just trying to learn from him each day and get better as a coach,” he said. “Obviously, you’re a good coach when your players execute well. I’m fortunate to have a bunch of good players and a bunch of good coaches surrounding me.
“Right now I just try to take each day and get better,” he added. “Then just see where it leads me.”