Richt was meeting with young people in East Cobb at the Sports-a-Rama for a workshop about life after football. He took questions from the crowd – most of them teenagers and younger. The most interesting response came from a question about what the Georgia head coach did before he got into coaching:
“It took me about four or five years of floundering around to try to figure out what to do. I tried out for the NFL. I had a chance to play for the Denver Broncos, and within an hour of me signing my contract they traded for John Elway.”
“After I was let go – I had a business degree – and I tried out the life insurance business, but that didn’t work out. Then I started valeting cars because I had to feed myself; I was parking cars and running back and forth, and I thought that I was in pretty good shape.”
“So I tried the NFL one more time… this time with the Dolphins. And the first guy I met was Dan Marino, so that didn’t work out either. I even tended bar for a while until I got fired from that job. But the owner of the place asked me to stick around because he had another job for me. From about 2 AM until about ten in the morning I was cleaning bars and scrubbing the floors and the bathrooms. And I decided: ‘Surely there has to be something besides this.’”
“Then I was offered to be a coach. I will say this: When you get into coaching at the start as a graduate assistant you get next to nothing, but you do get an opportunity to work and gain experience.”
“What happened at Miami was that I saw Jim Kelly living out my dream. I was crushed, but I realize now that I was a very shallow human being, and I think that helped me understand my need for the Lord.”
A small child asked him why he chose Georgia:
“I loved Florida State. I was there for 15 years. I loved Coach Bowden and working for him. But I wanted to find a place where I could coach the rest of my career. I felt like Georgia was the place where I could spend the rest of my career because it is in a great city, and it is a great university.”
After the event Richt spend some time with me to talk…
Legge: What would you be doing if you were not in coaching?
Richt: Oh gosh, I don’t know. There are a lot of things you can do, but people sometimes wait their entire lives to find a job that really is exciting and is rewarding; is one that can help people; is one that can maybe help change lives for the positive. And I doubt that I could find anything better than what I am doing right now.
"There is so much passion and love for Georgia. Some of the folks have never stepped foot on campus and love it – that is their team"
Legge: From your first group of players in 2001 on – how much do you keep in touch with those guys?
Richt: Well, there are a lot of guys who I do keep in touch with. A lot of them do a good job of keeping in touch with us by coming back to ball games or spring games. I want them all to feel that they are welcome back – and not just the guys that I coached. That’s the best way to connect. I will be honest… it is very, very hard to keep up with that many guys and still do the job I have to do. When I hear this guy is doing this, and that guy is doing that, or someone comes back and says thank you for taking us through the character education process.
Legge: I know that’s a big thing for y’all… can you talk about that for a little bit?
Richt: We do it, number one, because we love them. We want them to do right. For a lot of the guys it is a review. For some of the guys… they are hearing things for the first time. We just want them to understand that we live in a society where people need to… just do right – because it is the right thing to do; for the sake of being right.
Legge: Is it strange to see the way people cheer for you?
Richt: It is not strange… its just that way. You are asking, and I would say there are a lot of people who deserve a whole lot more applause than I do, but for whatever reason they do.
Legge: Why is Georgia so special to people?
Richt: I think sports is a very exciting thing. You know how people like Reality TV? It is unpredictable, and you don’t know what’s going to happen – sports is that way. There is a human element to it; sacrifice… emotion… and the victory. And, really, no one knows what the outcome will be – they may think they know, but they don’t always know. I think it is a great feeling. A lot of people have an emotional attachment to the University.
Legge: Do you understand that with folks (the attachment to Georgia)?
Richt: Oh yeah.
Legge: When do you think you started to understand that – when you were at Florida State watching it? Or at Miami? Or at Georgia?
Richt: Well it is very, very dramatic at Georgia. There is so much passion and love for Georgia. Some of the folks have never stepped foot on campus and love it – that is their team; they want them to do well. And I understand that. And then when people gripe and moan about this, that or the other, I mean, mainly because they love their team. Some, I guess, like to complain because they like to complain. I don’t really get bent out of shape when people get emotional about it.
Legge: When you think about guys like Mikey Henderson, guys who have come and done their thing, and then have moved on… the vast majority of the guys don’t play in the NFL… are those the kinds of guys that y’all are trying to reach?
Richt: Well we are reaching the kind of guys that want to be a Bulldog. We are not looking for a certain guy to try to rehabilitate – that’s not what we are trying to do. We are trying to find guys who have the skill set for us to win the SEC championship. One, he is ours it is our responsibility to try to see him though to the end no matter if he acts like choir boy the entire time or doesn’t. Life is about experiences; life is about learning; life is about making mistakes; learning from them and moving forward. If you have children you want to help them make it, and that’s what we are trying to do.
Legge: One last thing… do you ever think that this could be Knowshon’s last year?
Richt: I would have just liked to have had him last year. If we would have kept just a couple of those jokers for one more year it would have been nice, but what can you do?
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