ATHENS - Rodney Garner worked for three seasons under Todd Grantham, and as he left the Georgia football program on Friday, Garner vowed that his relationship with Grantham was not one of the reasons for leaving.
Garner, who was announced as Auburn's new defensive line coach and assistant head coach late on Thursday night, met with Georgia head coach mark Richt and Grantham, the defensive coordinator, on Friday morning.
"There are no rifts on our staff. I have the most respect for Coach Grantham," Garner told the media in Auburn on Friday afternoon. " We sat down and we were hugging and talking, not that we are touchy feely people now, we are not that, but he was just like ‘Hey G, I really enjoyed working with you.’ I said, ‘Coach, I loved working with you. He said if I ever have the opportunity I will hire you again. I said, ‘Coach, I will work for you again in a heartbeat.’"
Garner left Georgia immediately and will not coach in the Capital One Bowl. His defensive line coaching duties will be taken over in Orlando by Grantham, who will also continue to coach the outside linebackers.
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Grantham will also basically be in charge of finding Garner's replacement, much like how he hired Kirk Olivadotti two years ago to be the inside linebackers coach. The early indications were that Grantham will once again try to hire someone with NFL experience - Olivadotti had been with the Washington Redskins.
Georgia had not named a new recruiting coordinator as of Friday evening, but the likelihood remains strong that Richt will pick a current member of his staff. The next time Richt is due to meet with the media is Dec. 26, when the team reports to Orlando.
Back to Garner. In talking about how difficult it was to leave Georgia, Garner recounted his recruiting visit with nose tackle John Jenkins a couple years ago.
"My 10-year-old this morning, she’s crying, and I’m sitting there trying to counsel her and talk her," Garner said. "I said, ‘Hey baby, it’s going to be all right. You can go recruiting with Daddy. Remember when you went with me to recruit Big John Jenkins? You’re the reason that I got Big John because I went on that trip. Don’t you want to go with me and get another Big John?."
His daughter still said she didn't want to go.
"Now I’m trying to recruit my kids along with trying to recruit for Auburn," Garner said.
Garner also said he was offered a job with the New Orleans Saints when Sean Peyton first became the head coach there. But he wanted to stay at Georgia.
"He came and tried to hire me, and I didn’t want to coach in pro ball at that time, but it was after Katrina and all that, but I just always came back and knew I didn’t want to leave those kids and as difficult as it was this morning to stand up there and tell them that I was leaving at the same time it felt so good knowing I was leaving Georgia but coming to Auburn, and I’m coming home, and this is not a stopover," Garner said.