NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The coaching journey that has brought Florida State special teams and linebackers coach Charles Kelly to Monday night's BCS national championship started in Phenix City under the leadership of former Central Coach Wayne Trawick.
Kelly, fresh out of Auburn and the son of a high school coach, was hired by Trawick in 1990 and spent three years on the Central staff studying the game and Trawick, one of the top high school coaches in the state.
"Coach Trawick played a huge role in my career," Kelly said.
And he went to school on Trawick, who coached the Red Devils for 26 years.
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"I watched the way Coach Trawick handled people," Kelly said. "He could handle people as good as anybody I have ever been around. Don't get me wrong, he knows the X's and O's, but he also knew how to handle people."
In this era when coaches like Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Mississippi's Hugh Freeze have made the jump from high schools to the collegiate game, Kelly believes Trawick had the ability to be a successful college coach.
"Coach Trawick could have coached at any major college in the country -- there is no doubt in my mind," Kelly said. "If you can coach, you can coach. He can coach."
It was Trawick who told Kelly he should seriously consider an offer from Auburn to become a graduate assistant in 1992.
"When Coach Wayne Hall came in and offered me the job, I went to Coach Trawick and asked for his advice," Kelly said. "He said if that is something I wanted to do, I should seriously think about it."
Kelly keeps in contact with Trawick, former Central Coach Ron Nelson and Griff Gordy, who was a quarterback when Kelly coached in Phenix City.
Kelly coached Gordy in the ninth grade, but left the year before Gordy led Central to the 1993 Alabama 6A title.
"I can still remember going by the Gordy's house when I took the Auburn job to tell Griff and his parents," Kelly said. "That was a very difficult thing to do."
Kelly also remembers coaching that freshman team that became the core of the Central state title.
"I thought all along that group was capable of that," he said.
Kelly made a big impression on Gordy, now a Phenix City optometrist.
"He was the first coach I remember who demanded the best from me each and every day on the field as well as off the field." Gordy said Saturday via email. "He demanded the same thing out of himself and I saw that through his actions each and every day."
Kelly spent a year at Auburn before joining the Jacksonville State staff. He has been at Henderson State, Nicholls State before becoming the Georgia Tech special teams coordinator in 2006. In the middle of that journey was a two-year return to high school coaching, where he was a Eufaula assistant in 2000 and 2001.
He left Tech for FSU this year, where he was reunited with head coach Jimbo Fisher and assistant head coach Rick Trickett, both of whom were on the Auburn staff when he was a graduate assistant.
Kelly, a native of Ozark, Ala., who was a football and baseball standout at G.W. Long High School, remembers his Central days with great fondness.
"It was a great place to coach, a great place to work and a great place to learn," Kelly said. "I remember it like it was yesterday."
Kelly also left his mark in Phenix City.
"The strongest impact he made on my life was in 2009," Gordy said. "He was a defensive coach at Georgia Tech and during the middle of their spring practices he made his way from Atlanta to Montgomery to visit me after my dad passed away. He'll never know how much that simple act of kindness touched my heart."