Friday, August 27, 2010
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is the consummate teacher on the field, acting as more of a father figure behind the scenes. He also serves as Mark Richt’s rambunctious alter-ego on the sidelines.
By RACHEL G. BOWERS
August 26, 2010
In just seven months, Todd Grantham’s impact on the Georgia defense is undeniable.
In just seven months, he has gained the trust of his players.
In just seven months, he has earned the ultimate title from his players.
“He’s like a father figure,” safety Bacarri Rambo said. “I feel like I can go to him and talk to him about stuff that’s not related to football. Like if I’m having a family problem or school problem, I can go to his office and he always talks to me and [tells] me to come to his office and talk to him about my personal problems and stuff.”
Georgia’s defensive coordinator, who was hired Jan. 15, has managed to cultivate worthwhile relationships with his student-athletes and has played a significant role in their lives on a day-to-day basis since arriving in Athens.
Achieving that was something Grantham considered essential when he made the decision to accept his new job — returning to the college game after 11 years coaching in the NFL.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be in college football, because I do think you can affect a young man’s life at this age. I enjoy being around players. If a player is going to go out and give you everything he’s got, I think trust is important there,” Grantham said. “I do think you have to do what’s best for the player, as a coach.”
Cornerback Brandon Boykin said Grantham is ferocious and impassioned in motivating his players to perform on the field, but Grantham’s off-the-field persona is quite contrasting, though he still remains a mentor in both arenas.
“Outside the field, he’s a great person. Not even a coach. You wouldn’t view him as a coach,” Boykin said. “He’s just someone you can talk to. Sit down and talk to about anything — sports or girls or anything like that. I feel like that’s the type of relationship you really want with your coach outside of football.”
With his office door always open and his text message inbox full of messages from his players, the accessible Grantham established a strong level of comfort and trust with his student athletes from his very first day on campus.
The Pulaski, Va. native came in as a straight shooter, while using sincerity to lay a solid foundation.
“The first meeting we had, he came in straightforward. He said, ‘On the field, I’m going to be a [disciplinarian], and we’re going to play aggressive. But other than that, we’re going to have fun.’ And that’s something he emphasized,” senior linebacker Darryl Gamble said. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to go along with.”
The Virginia Tech alumnus has created the perfect balance between fiery, on-the-field leader and compassionate, off-the-field mentor.
Grantham’s clear-cut, distinct approach to taking over the defensive side of the program allowed him to efficiently introduce and install a new 3-4 scheme to
Georgia’s defense, while simultaneously fusing bonds between he and his players on a personal level.
“Coach Grantham, you know, anytime you can just call him or text him, he’s there. He always responds even on the field, off the field,” safety Jakar Hamilton said. “He’s always the teacher at every position. He expects a lot out of us at all times. He’s trying to make sure we get the best of everything.”
Just as Grantham’s demeanor on and off the field fall into equilibrium with one another, his game time coaching style also balances out with that of his boss, head coach Mark Richt.
Though Richt is infamous for maintaining a cool head during pressure situations on the field, Grantham brings another facet of emotion to the Georgia sideline — obvious, unbridled intensity.
“They pretty much seem to balance each other out. Coach Richt is more of a laid back kind of guy. He’s going to make his points, but he’s not going to make them as loudly as Coach Grantham would,” linebacker Cornelius Washington said. “That’s Coach Richt’s personality and Coach Grantham has his, and he’s going to be a little bit more intense.”
Grantham’s ability to light a flame under his defense coupled with his resolve to ensure the connections with his players remain steady has made for a fast-moving, fulfilling first seven months. And with the season opener just a week away, Grantham said he wants to be able to keep the lines of communication open to discuss and improve on the bad as well as celebrate the good.
“[Players] have to trust that you believe in them and that you’re looking out for their best interest,” Grantham said. “I think it’s just about treating each person with the respect that you would want as a player and just trying to get to know your players and always communicate with them.”
TODD GRANTHAM’S ROAD TO GEORGIA
• 1990-96 — Virginia Tech
graduate assistant, defensive line coach last two seasons under Frank Beamer
• 1996-98 — Michigan State
defensive line coach under Nick Saban, served as assistant head coach in 1998
• 1999-2001 — Broke into NFL coaching ranks as defensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts under Jim Mora
• 2002-04 — Hired as defensive line coach on the inaugural staff of the Houston Texans
• 2005-07 — Became defensive coordinator for the first time in his career for the Cleveland Browns under Romeo Crennel
• 2008-09 — After three less-than-stellar seasons in Cleveland, stepped down to defensive line coach under Wade Phillips for the Dallas Cowboys