Longtime Georgia assistant coach Rodney Garner got a chance to say his farewells to the defensive players on the team this morning.
Garner is headed to Auburn today, where the school will hold a news conference to formally introduce him as defensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach.
Garner held those same positions at Georgia, where he’s coached for the last 15 seasons.
Garner spoke with the Athens Banner-Herald before leaving Athens. He’ll be back to tie up loose ends as he departs a program where he’s been since 1998.
On mixed emotions as he takes a new job: ”It was a very tough decision, it was a difficult decision being here 15 years. I’ve actually been at Georgia longer than I was at Auburn. It’s a part of me. I struggled with this decision. I don’t think I would have left Georgia for anywhere but Auburn. This place has been really tremendous to me. Bree turned one here and the other four girls were born here. It’s had a significant meaning in our family. My kids have never moved before. It’s something we just prayed about and is something where we felt like we were just led to do this and go back and try to give back to Auburn, to something it’s given to me or I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for Auburn.”
On why he’s making the move now after having other opportunities to take other jobs: “I’ve had several opportunities to leave here for various places. Mark Richt is the main reason that I’ve stayed here as long as I have. I’m eternally grateful to coach (Jim) Donnan for giving me the opportunity to come here. I have tremendous respect for Jim. Me and him texted last night. I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him. I really appreciate him and the kind of man he was bringing me here. I appreciate coach Richt giving me the opportunity to stay.
“I played for coach )Pat) Dye, coached for him, worked with coach(Phillip) Fulmer at Tennessee. They and coach Donnan are already in the Hall of Fame and I think coach Richt will be in there whenever he retires. I’ve had a chance to work for, your talking about four tremendous head coaches, and I just feel like this is the right time. Right now with Auburn being in, I guess, a position of need. I felt like I could make a positive contribution to the program.”
On if he spoke to his guys today: “I did address the defense. Coach Grantham gave me an opportunity to do that. I spoke to them. It was tough. It was tough. It’s never an easy time. Leaving this staff, I was telling coach Richt it was the best staff I’ve ever been on. Everybody got along well. Everybody likes each other. Nobody has any agendas. It’s been an awesome experience. So it was a tough, tough decision. It sort of snowballed a little bit faster than what I wanted it to.”
On not coaching the bowl game: ”Me and coach Richt we talked about that. I don’t want to be a distraction to the players. It’s about these players and about it being a war for them. I don’t want it to be a distraction and it being a little bit awkward. Especially with the Auburn and Georgia being a rivarly. That part right there would be a little bit awkward and I don’t want to do anything that would be a distraction for these kids or this staff. This place means too much for me. We’ll be pulling for them in the bowl game and to get after Nebraska.”
On if Richt gave him the opportunity to stay through the bowl game: “No, no. He felt like it would be be best.”
On a perception by some that there may have been a rift with defensive coordintor Todd Grantham: ”A rift? …If given the opportunity I would hope and pray that we have a chance to work together again. I would hope that coach Grantham, I’m pretty certain, he would say that too. I can tell you right now there is a zero percent rift on this staff. Never.”
On Auburn job a chance for pay increase: “This is not about money. Not going to go there. …It has nothing to do with money. I’ve turned down more money in the past so that’s not the issue.
On reaction from his wife and five daughters at home (he has sixth daughter that lives in Alabama): ”They have mixed emotions. My wife went to Auburn. She’s excited, but the girls this is all they know.”
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