Georgia settled on Jim Donnan to be its new head coach after Glenn Mason's week of being head coach came and went. Goff was left out in the cold – not sure what his next move was, but certain he was not going to interfere with matters at Georgia.
"Since I left Georgia in 1995, I have tried to keep a very low profile," he said. "I don't go around a lot – and not because I am mad with anyone, but just because I like being by myself."
"When I left Georgia there were some things that were worked out," Goff said of his settlement with Georgia. "I was going to have to report to certain places and do certain work, and I was not interested in that and not because I didn't want to work for Georgia – it was not that. It had nothing to do with that. I didn't feel it was the right thing to do to Coach Donnan. I felt like if I was even seen around some of the players I recruited that there might be some split loyalties, or that some people would think that I was trying to undermine Coach Donnan, and I never would have none that. In the long run that may have hurt me financially, but I feel like it was the right thing."
"I will say this for Coach Donnan – he did the same thing for me as Coach Richt in wanting me to come around. But I didn't do that – there are too many head coaches around. I don't want to interfere. I had my day. It's kind of like a pig in slop – there are enough pigs around. I have had my day in the sunshine. I am going to wallow in the mud a little bit."
Dooley, on the other hand, has written that he would like Goff to be around the program more.
"My only regret is that Ray has become somewhat estranged from the program at Georgia. He has come to a few of the lettermen's barbecues and a few of the golf tournaments. I just hope that as time goes on, he'll feel that he is still a big part of Georgia and will come around a little more."
That, Goff says, is not something he's interested in doing.
"I like to keep my distance, and let people do their jobs," he said. "I still have a lot of friends up at Georgia. Obviously there are some people around that don't like me, but heck, that's true in anything in life. I have a lot of respect for Georgia, the Georgia people and its tradition."
And he's not interested in writing a tell-all book about his time in Athens.
"People have always told me that I should write a book, but if you do that you have to be honest, and I am not going to do that because it is going to hurt people. I am not here to hurt people – I am just not going to do that."
"I got hurt – yeah. Do I get mad with people? You bet. Do I sometimes want to get revenge? You bet. But that is real difficult for me to do. That's just not my nature. We are all human. We are all going to fall," he said.
Goff has stayed away most of the time after 1995, but I asked him what he was doing the night Georgia finally won the SEC Championship in 2002. He responded: "I was at the game. I was happy when they won it."
In fact, Georgia's current head coach has encouraged Goff to be around more. There is, in fact, a desire for Goff to be back around, and not just from Dooley. Some of it has to do with Goff's relationship with new Athletic Director Damon Evans and his associate Arthur Johnson, who Goff recruited to be his manager more than a decade ago at Georgia, but a lot of it is that the current football staff has embraced Goff.
"I have tremendous respect for Mark," Goff said of Richt. "I have known him for a while – since his days at Florida State. I don't call him every week and he doesn't call me every week, but he's been very kind to me. Every time he sees me he asks me to come around and to come to practices."
But even that can be hard after you have lived through the heat Goff felt his final seasons at Georgia. He says he doesn't like going to games because some fans don't know where to draw the line.
"Unfortunately some people can be very critical," Goff said. "I do a radio show on Sunday mornings now about the Georgia games, and I am not the guy to call and criticize about this program. I don't go to games a lot. The reason I don't go is not because I don't love to watch the games – I do – but I am not going to sit there and let people gripe. I can't handle it. I can't handle it when they start yelling and screaming at the players about how dumb and stupid they are. They don't have a clue what it's like to be down there as a player. They don't realize that guy is an 18 year-old kid. If everyone scrutinized everything they did every day and called them stupid and dumb and booed them – they could not take it. They take their frustrations out on these kids, and it gets my blood pressure up. I have to just walk off. I can't take it."
"I don't go to games because you have to sit around people. Those coaches and players – everyone – they are busting their rear ends to do the best they can. When you stand up and start screaming you don't know who the people are sitting around you. You don't know if that's the quarterback's mother, father or girlfriend sitting around you. You just don't know."
"I am in the top ten on both of those"
Goff loves the players he coached at Georgia. Only his two daughters top them on his list of caring. Passionate to the end about his players at Georgia and his girls, Goff says he hopes he provided both sets of his kids with the tools necessary to lead productive lives.
"I am proud of what we accomplished at Georgia," Goff said. "We didn't win every game, but we had good kids. We didn't get into trouble. The kids busted their butts and did the best they could, and that's all you can ask for. Our kids graduated, and people always used to say: ‘Aren't you proud of the guy that played pro football?' Sure I was, but I more proud of the guys that went out there and got a job because that's the real world out there. I didn't try to prepare guys to go play pro football. I tried to prepare guys to go get a real job."
"Sure, I would have loved to win every game and every championship, but we didn't. I wasn't the first coach that has happened to, and I won't be the last," he said.
"He cared deeply about every kid that came through Georgia," Zeier said. "And everybody on that staff, too. Coach Goff did it the right way: he led young men and prepared them for life after the game, and taught a lot of them valuable lessons."
"I feel good about the players we had and the experiences they had," Goff said. "I feel good about where they are in life."
Goff's time at Georgia, however, was not all "feel good." His two girls, Lindsey and Allison, learned a lot about life, too, when they watched their dad deal with the difficulties of being head coach at the same time they were dealing with the results of sticking up for their dad.
"I beat a lot of people up during school those years because they were talking bad about my dad," Lindsey Goff said of that turbulent time.
"People don't realize how they can say something about someone's family member – about their mom or dad – around their kids and how it will brand those kids for life. They will never forget those words. That was hard for my children," Goff said.
Goff's marriage, too, suffered and eventually he and his wife Stephanie split up following the tough times.
"It was hard, but I learned a lot from it. I definitely don't view public figures the way I once did now. I don't really care about famous people too much. I just really don't think they are all that special," Lindsey continued.
"That's because she knows I am not special," Goff interjected with a grin while listening to his daughter.
"I am not wooed by a big name or anything like that," she said. "It was not easy, but I learned a lot about life in a lot of different ways. I am glad it happened."
"Well, I'm not glad that it happened," Goff said, again with his grin.
"Well, I'm not glad it happened, but it taught my sister and me a lot about each other. If he had not gotten fired I, don't think he and I would be tight today," Lindsey said.
"Are we tight?" Goff teased.
"Yeah, we are tight, dad," she said, trying not to roll her eyes while laughing.
"I like that," he said.
"I don't really want to go through it again. I think that was kind of a one-time thing," she said laughing.
Goff said his younger daughter, Allison, was unaware, or put it out of her mind, that he got fired all the way up to her senior year in high school.
"One day she came home and told me that she didn't know that it had happened – not like that," Goff said. "She told me: ‘I Googled you and it had all this stuff about you, and I didn't know that you got fired.' I told her: ‘Yeah, I got fired, and I told you everything about it.' "
On the other hand, Lindsey was well aware of her father's departure and was not interested in going to school at Georgia. She wanted to start somewhere new.
"She decided to go to Auburn," Goff said. "She wanted to go to a place where no one knew who she was. I used to check those two Zaxby's (a franchise of which Goff is a part owner of) in Auburn all the time when Lindsey was at school there. I don't think I have been back since she left, but it gave her a good place to eat for free while she was there. She also worked there some."
Goff, who became a grandfather for the first time recently, said "I'm not sure I am old enough to be a grandfather, but I am excited."
His two girls are the thing that keeps him going. He admits that he is not sure what his fate would be if it were not for the two of them.
"The thing that gives me the most pride is my children. They are the pride and joy of my life. If I didn't have Allison and Lindsey, I am not sure I would be here right now. I am not sure I wouldn't have given up a long time ago," Goff said.
The former head coach admitted that he desperately wants to see his girls do well in life – to give them the same love his parents gave him and watch them succeed.
"I think sometimes in life, and I am as bad as anyone else, you don't want your children to fail, but that's not realistic," he said. "Life is not always about winning. I tell people that I always expected to win every game I went into as a coach. But I always prepared myself in case I lost. I have always prepared myself – in coaching and business – I want to know what the worst case scenario is going to be. I am going to work from worst case up. It's easy when you have made $2 million on a business deal to get up there in front of people and tell people how you did it. How are you going to explain it when you lose $2 million? If I can handle worst case, I know I can handle best case. If you want to learn how to win, you had better learn how to fail, too, because you are going to fail. But then you have to get up and survive and do it again, because that's what it's all about."
And survive is just what Goff had done. As Georgia's head coach or not, Goff continues to live life with a self-deprecating sense about himself that makes those that know him love him.
"God takes care of sinners and fools, and I am in the top ten on both of those," he laughed.
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