From his fourth floor office in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity can look out to the practice fields and catch a glimpse of the Bulldogs’ football team at work.
David Manning/Staff Using messages from Jon Gordon’s books as inspiration, Georgia coach Mark Richt has attempted to bring a new energy level to the Bulldogs’ practices this year.
McGarity took a closer view last week when he watched a preseason practice from the sideline.
“You could see that the passion and energy and enthusiasm is there,” McGarity said of a team he thought lacked those qualities during last year’s 1-4 start in what turned out to be a 6-7 season. “That’s what kids want. They want energy and enthusiasm.”
There is an abundance of that around the program now, players and coaches also say, with less than three weeks to go before a new season begins on Sept. 3 against Boise State.
“Energy and enthusiasm can be contagious,” coach Mark Richt said. “I’m trying to coach it and teach it and cultivate it. Yeah, I’ve made more of a concerted effort to do that.”
Richt earlier this summer provided players a copy of Jon Gordon’s book “The Energy Bus”, which offers “10 rules to fuel your life, work and team with positive energy.”
Richt heard about the book from Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith when he spoke at UGA’s spring high school coaching clinic.
During the NFL lockout, Smith spent a half-day huddling with Richt at the Falcons’ complex in Flowery Branch.
In his office, Smith had other books by Gordon including “The No Complaining Rule,” “Training Camp” and “The Shark and the Goldfish.”
Smith recommended them to Richt, who has read all four.
Richt later gave a copy of “The Energy Bus’ to McGarity.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to read this book.’ I read it,” said McGarity, who then gave it to a good friend. “It’s a great story, it’s a quick read. It was really refreshing that Mark went and met with Mike Smith. That to me sent a message that’s Mark’s reaching out. He’s trying — what are some successful things that you’ve done which you can bring back? Mark was obviously inspired by that book. Anybody who reads it is going to get inspired.”
According to his website, Gordon’s clients also include Campbell Soup, Wells Fargo, State Farm, Novartis and Bayer.
Richt went so far as to speak to Gordon by phone and ask him how he should implement what he read in the books.
“He said, ‘Coach, don’t try to get them to read two books, just one,’ ” Richt said.
So players were asked to read “The Energy Bus” and were told about the no-complaining rule.
Receiver Marlon Brown wore a “Get On The Bus” T-shirt last week that on the back had an illustration of a bus with Richt driving it to the Georgia Dome, a place the Bulldogs hope to reach for the Southeastern Conference championship game for the first time since 2005.
Players are wearing “No Complaining” bracelets. So is Richt.
Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell even wore one in his hair when he met with reporters last week.
Those who do complain and aren’t positive are called “Energy Vampires,” and their pictures are posted in the locker room with horns and fangs added.
Freshman defensive back Chris Sanders said he got stuck with that label last week.
“I showed up two minutes late to a meeting,” said Sanders, wearing a no complaining bracelet.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree was bitten with the vampire tag for being late to a team meal.
“Anybody could end up on the energy vampire board,” Richt said. “It could be me, it could be anybody.”
Only days after Georgia’s first losing season since 1996, McGarity said he hoped that Richt would publicly show more fire “to show his passion and express it in ways that perhaps he hasn’t done before. I encourage him to do that.”
Seven months later, quarterback Aaron Murray said the 20-minute speech Richt gave to the team on the eve of preseason camp was his favorite in three seasons in Athens and that Richt was “ready to go out there and fight someone right now.”
Richt said that he actually planned a different talk that night, but something that happened during the day “got me mad. So it kind of helped me add a little juice to it.”
On the field, instead of a lull the day after a hard-hitting practice last week, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was pleased that he saw his players snap right back.
“The players have bought in really of being energized and positive out there,” Bobo said. “It’s brought a lot of excitement to practice every day.”
Whether the Bulldogs will still have that energy when adversity hits this season remains to be seen, but McGarity said he gave them this message on the day they reported two weeks ago: “I’m on the bus. So let’s go.”