Al Groh: I Wanted A Legacy of Success

After speculation about whether Coach Al Groh would be coming to the flats or was headed to Miami an announcement was made today that he was taking over Georgia Tech's defense. We talked with Coach Groh about how he arrived at Georgia Tech.

How excited are you to take this opportunity with Georgia Tech?

"From the outset I knew I wanted to be active in coaching this year. In that time frame teams were going on to play bowl games and the NFL season was yet to be completed. It gave me a little slow time and quiet time to reflect on things. It allowed me to develop a set of criteria for the circumstance I'd like to be in the future. I wanted to be active in a set of circumstances that I thought would be the most gratifying. I already had the criteria in place before the Georgia Tech opportunity came up. It met most of the criteria that was important for me."

What were the criteria?

"Number one I wanted to be in a place where there was an apparent total commitment to winning; to where there was a high level of integrity where there was collaboration at all levels. I wanted a legacy of success which Georgia Tech has a great history of success in football and has the personnel in place to have a smile on our face when the game is over. I wanted to be with a veteran coach who knew what he was doing and not necessarily someone who was getting on the job training."

When you attended Tech's practice did you get any sense of what type of personnel you'll be dealing with here?

"I had a little bit of an idea. I was looking at it more as a spectator. I had an opportunity during that time frame to occupy myself and educate myself by watching a few teams practice that were getting ready for a bowl game. I was interested in developing my awareness and my skills and watching practice organization and skills, schemes, and drills as much as watching personnel. I do have a little idea and obviously have quite a few notes around here from our two games against Tech. I've been able to make some reference to that. I have a lot of work to do on the personnel but I have a little idea of where we are."

What will the fans see from your defense?

"First of all, I've been looking at a sign every day for the past ten years. It says "coaches with schemes but without talent become coaches of unimportant teams." I've coached some very good players and I've coached some very good defenses. It's about the players. It's not all about the coach and it's not all about the scheme. A lot of it is about developing the talent that we have and continuing to upgrade the talent level. In my conversations with Coach Johnson, he's pleased with what he's accomplished but he's not satisfied with it. He wants to go higher and do better and that involves higher performance on all levels. We'll be developing the talent and we'll be doing it on a foundation of toughness; to be a tough physical team and a high energy aggressive team. We want to trust and believe in teamwork. If we can get a high level of buy in we'll be off to a good start."

How close did you come to having a deal with the Miami Dolphins?

"It was about finding out what the criteria were and before the Miami thing I was ready to pack my bags and head to the Flats."

Is there anything about coaching college athletes that you like as opposed to the NFL?

"What NFL players are is former college players grown up. A lot more ways than not, they're the same guys. The most important thing about players on any level is the ambition to be successful. If a person has a high level of achievement and is willing to embrace the process that's what real football players are."

Why are you ready to keep going?

"I find competition very challenging and very gratifying. I have a lot of energy and a lot of ambition to achieve more things. I have a lot to prove. I feel the same way I did thirty years ago. I'm the same guy and to me it's always been about what can we do next? I try to live in the present and see the future. We've achieved some things along the way and those will be nice to look back on and enjoy some day and look at the pictures on the wall but now we're just trying to put another picture on the wall."

How encouraging is it to know that you have eight starters and a few injured starters returning when you take over a defense?

"Very much so, there's players that have been in a lot of winning games and have an expectation of winning and success. That's a really good start. If they can come in with an open mind because it's going to be a transition because number one you have a guy with a different personality and a different set of values. This isn't the only way to do things and this isn't the only way that works. We did know that this system and the principles that it's based on worked at a number of places on different levels. It's a proven system and not necessarily all about me. I've learned it from two of the best coaches in the history of football. If everybody comes in with an open mind and is willing to make the adjustment and will buy into the process that goes with it I think we'll all have some fun."

The fans want to know who will be the nose guard. Do you have any idea?

"I don't know them by name but I do know them by height and weight and where they are on the depth chart (laughter). At that position you either are one or you're not one. It's a unique position. There are a lot of guys who are really, really good football players that are not nose tackles. That is a position that is not prevalent in any other style of defense. The classic nose type is not available every place. The same thing goes for outside linebackers. We've had some terrific guys play outside linebacker for us and I've been fortunate enough to be associated with two guys who are in the hall-of-fame. Those are two of the key positions in the defense." Top Stories