Further Review

Steve Hummer is a sports writer and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This much we’ve learned about Tech’s new coach: The guy can sell

The last thing I need is a rototiller. But if Geoff Collins were selling them, I’d probably be out this spring working my 6-by-6 flower bed like it was the family farm.

One month on the job, the new Georgia Tech football coach hasn’t yet had the chance to display certain important skills that go with the position.

Like, can he coach? We’ll see.

Can he sell? So far, he is doing his best impression of someone who gets paid on commission. 

The first impression of Collins is of someone who could sell heated toilets to a truck stop or an espresso maker to a Waffle House. People with his gift for persuasion are the reason there’re timeshares.

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When you ask Collins if a person actually can enjoy the long grind of recruiting, he upgrades to a higher emotion before saying yes. 

“I love it. I absolutely love it. I’ve loved it ever since I got into this line of work,” he said Friday, just before, well, boarding a private plane to go off recruiting. Already Tech coaches had visited players at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the first minute allowed in the current contact period that goes until Feb. 2.

He’ll tell about the job he had at Division III Albright College (Reading, Pa.), where the recruiting cycle is pretty much endless. “There is no signing period, you recruit guys until they put in their deposit to go to school,” he said.

That first year, 1997, when he was 26, Collins said he personally signed 45 players. “I had an absolute blast doing it,” he said. “Next year, same kind of numbers, and I had a blast doing it.”

He has told the story of arriving for the first time at Tech as a graduate assistant in 1999, immediately beseeching George O’Leary to let him help with recruiting. It took a year, but O’Leary relented, sort of, telling Collins there were six states where Tech concentrated its recruiting – he could have the other 44. 

“He thought that would shut me up, and it did not,” Collins said. He signed five that year from outside the usual footprint.

Thus far, some of Collins’ best recruiting work has been at home. His 2 1/2-year-old daughter Astrid already is sold on the Yellow Jackets, he said.

“She’s able to say Georgia Tech. If anybody says ‘Georgia,’ she immediately says ‘Tech.’ She’s ready. Got a Buzz stuffed toy that she carries with her everywhere,” he said.

Then there’s been his work filling the coaches’ offices at Tech with his guys. Collins has done some notable job recruiting, too. Along with the usual coaching positions, Collins has filled plenty of those new-age, corporate football titles like general manager and chief of staff. One of those, GM Patrick Suddes, was a right-hand man to Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

And when exactly was the last time it was even conceivable that Tech could hire away a prominent position coach from Alabama? Collins just did, hiring Bama offensive line coach Brent Key, a Tech alum.

“This place really matters to him and our relationship is special,” Collins said. “You win with people first. When you surround yourself with unbelievable men of character and relentless recruiters who give great effort and care about the student-athlete and want them to be successful in every single phase of their lives, and tie that together with a great place, you have a chance to build something special.”

You see, always selling.

When he couldn’t be out recruiting last week, Collins was meeting individually with every player on the Tech roster.  

“I wanted to get each of them to tell me three things that are really positive about their experience so far and three things they would like to see adjusted or fixed,” Collins said of the meetings. “I wanted to try to get a feel for who the leaders on the team are, who the really good teammates are, who are the really hard workers on the team. Build a composite that way.”

And, if in Collins’ first month on the job he also has sold a few fans on his designs for Tech football, then he’ll take that, too. 

“People are excited, they’re fired up about the energy and the passion this entire football staff is showing,” he said. “We want to connect to the fan base, we want to connect to the city of Atlanta.

“It’s a special place at a special time and we’re trying to tap into that excitement and get people excited about Georgia Tech football.”

About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.

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