A little over a year ago, I sat in Dell McGee’s office at Carver High doing an interview for a feature story we would run on him in the Ledger-Enquirer.
We spoke for a little over an hour about coaching high school football, how he got into it and whether he had any other long-term aspirations for his career. The subject eventually moved to coaching college football, something he said he’d like to do at some point.
At the time, it sounded like one of those things people say, whether it is a distinct possibility or not.
Sure, I’d love to write for Sports Illustrated. That doesn’t mean I’m taking Peter King’s job anytime soon.
Honestly, I figured that was all it was. If you had asked me then where I thought McGee would be today, I’d have guessed he’d be reviewing film from the 2013 Carver football season.
Not that he didn’t have the ability to coach in college. It just seemed like a world away.
Flash forward, and we can see how wrong that guess would have been. McGee just accepted a position as the running backs coach at Georgia Southern University on Monday. Yes, the same Georgia Southern that stunned the Florida Gators this past season and will begin play in Division-I in 2014.
Not a bad gig.
The fact is the gap between high school and college has been bridged. Over the past few years, we have seen coaches not just make the jump to the college ranks, but have enormous success when they do.
Just look at two prominent Southeastern Conference coaches:
Hugh Freeze, who coached high school until 2004, has Ole Miss in position to become a major player in the SEC. Seven years after taking his first college job, tight ends coach at Ole Miss, Freeze has hauled in one top-10 recruiting class and has a chance at another.
His team wasn’t great in 2013, losing five conference contests, but it did go 8-5 and win a bowl game.
And, of course, there is Gus Malzahn, arguably the hottest coach in the entire country. He coached high school until 2005.
I don’t think a review of his college resume is necessary at this point.
So is this something McGee can do? Should we expect to hear is name in more prominent circles a few years down the line?
It’s too early to make any guesses. After all, he hasn’t spent a single day in Statesboro yet. What we know about him, though, suggests a bright future.
We know he’s a proven winner.
He took over a Carver program bereft of any extended success at the state level and turned it into one of the premier football programs in the state of Georgia. In eight years, he won 88 games, a state title and went to the semifinals four times.
Speak to his former players and, to a man, they all praise his leadership on and off the field. His players buy into what he sells and that’s often the most important part of a successful program.
I don’t know what the future holds for McGee, but there are certainly opportunities that weren’t there a few years ago.