Staying Involved

ATHENS - Antavious Coates, as any diehard Georgia fan knows, has had some time on his hands recently.

That's the bad news. In case you're not a diehard, or just need a refresher course, the Cliff Notes version of one of the hardest luck stories in recent Bulldogs follows.

Coates came to Georgia from Greenwood, S.C. with the body of an NFL safety and a pedigree that suggested he might one day be one. He had 50 tackles and three interceptions in the only four games he played as a senior in high school was considered on the top three safeties in his home state, but Coates never made it to the NFL. In fact, he never made it onto the field as a Bulldog.

In his freshman season of 2005, Coates tore his ACL, the same one he had torn during his senior season at Greenwood High School. After a year of rehab, Coates returned to the team the next fall eager to make up for lost time, only to tear the other ACL during preseason practice. Clearly, Coates is not scared off easily because he endured another entire year of rehab and returned in time for fall practice once again.

And then, on Aug. 25 of 2007, he suffered another ACL tear, making a grand total of four in four years, three to the same leg. Coates finally succumbed to the reality of his situation and gave up football, taking a medical redshirt but promising to stay as involved as possible with the football program.

Now here's the good news: he has made good on that promise.

He took two classes in the spring semester and will graduate in May with a degree in child and family development with a minor in consumer economics.

Coates' first inclination after giving up on playing football was to be a coach. He worked as a volunteer assistant with the defensive staff, even charting plays during games for a while.

(Coates was named a captain for the 2007 game against South Carolina, one of the games in which he charted plays.)

However, the coaching bug soon came replaced by another idea. Why be a coach when you can hire a coach?

While biding his time at the team's Butts-Mehre practice facility, Coates struck up a friendship with Georgia assistant athletic director Arthur Johnson, who has an office on the third floor of the building, two flights above the football locker room.

The more Coates and Johnson talked, the more the idea of sports management seemed like a good one.

"Since I quit playing, I had a lot of time to sit down and think about what I wanted to do," Coates said. "I really want a job around football a lot because that's all I've been around all my life. I kind of wanted something that I could have fun with and could also be a career."

So Coates began to question Johnson about how to make his new dream happen.

"I would talk to him and then more often I started going to his office and talking to him and letting him know what I wanted to do," Coates said. "He told me the things he has done to get where he is at. I'm around Arthur a lot. Me and Arthur are a really close. He has guided me in the right direction."

Coates took the GRE in March and hopes to enter Georgia's school of sports management in the fall.

Coates still gets the pang of longing to play occasionally, mostly on Sundays when he watches former teammates in the NFL and knows that could have been him. Mostly, though, he's moved on to thinking about the next phase of his life and tutoring the Bulldogs current players on the fact that football can be gone at a moment's notice.

"I always tie (the injury) into it when I sit around and talk to them," he said, "let them know that you can't play football forever."


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