Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins came to be seen and, in his line of work, the Robinson R66 Turbine helicopter is an appropriate mode of transport for such a mission. On Tuesday, eschewing the state’s roadways for the air, Collins and staffers paid visits to four in-state high schools via helicopter. It was one more way in which he is attempting to win the attention of high-school prospects. Or, perhaps students event younger than that.
“All the kids at the elementary school right next door to us – they were going crazy,” Schley County High coach Darren Alford said. “They were wondering what was happening.”
And so it went.
“A lot of the kids saw the helicopter,” Callaway High coach Pete Wiggins said. “It flew over our school and landed in the gym parking lot, so it was very cool, especially for Callaway High School.”
The first stop of the day was Carrollton High, where the football team left its first-period weight-training class to watch Collins, tight ends coach Chris Wiesehan and safeties coach Nathan Burton descend on the football field.
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“Our kids loved it,” Trojans coach Sean Calhoun said.
There is an element of efficiency to traveling by helicopter. By car, a loop to start in Atlanta, hit the four schools on Collins’ itinerary and return to campus would put about 360 miles on a car and require perhaps 6-1/2 hours of driving time without traffic, and that’s before spending any time at the high schools. Tuesday, Collins could visit the four talent-rich schools, make a Waffle House stop and get back to Tech in time to host an unofficial visit and sit courtside at McCamish Pavilion for the basketball game against Notre Dame.
That said, being noticed was no small part of the plan, one that had been in the works for a couple of weeks. Otherwise, why decorate a rental helicopter with decals with the interlocking “GT” logo, Collins’ Twitter handle (@coachcollins), the recruiting hashtag “#Goldblooded” and the slogan “Mayhem is here”?
Making high-school visits via helicopter has become part of the landscape of the curious world of college football recruiting. Collins did it himself at Temple. At Carrollton, not longer after Collins departed with Burton (Wiesehan was picked up by a staffer to make more conventional visits) departed, Florida coach Dan Mullen touched down.
“It was crazy,” Calhoun said. “I felt like the air-traffic-control guy.”
At Troup County High, helicopters are not entirely a novelty. Alabama coach Nick Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart have made visits to the LaGrange school via chopper, Glisson said.
“But I think the biggest thing was not, wow, there’s a helicopter,” Troup County coach Tanner Glisson said. “It’s, wow, Georgia Tech is serious about recruiting. That was the statement.”
Glisson already has experienced Collins’ recruiting heat.
A Tech fan, Glisson was watching the Jackets’ bowl game against Minnesota in December when the camera panned to Collins, who was on his phone sending a text message.
“And about three seconds later, my cellphone goes off,” Glisson said. “He’s texting me! I’m like, that’s dadgum cool.”
Collins was sending an introduction to Glisson, and the two have maintained communication “almost every day, Glisson said, mostly by text.
“He’s relentless, is the word I would put as far as recruiting and burning the midnight oil,” Glisson said. “He is wide open.”
The four coaches said that the visits were mostly about establishing relationships, not to talk about specific prospects. (It was presumably not a coincidence that all four schools have rising seniors who are ranked among the state’s top-25 prospects, per 247Sports Composite.) Collins visited with school principals, checked out the indoor practice facility under construction at Troup County (yes, really – Carrollton is building one, too) and hopped on Glisson’s golf cart to grab coffee at the Waffle House down the street from the school.
“He said, ‘Hey, man, I’m here for y’all,” Glisson said. “Which is really awesome. I know their time is really valuable, trying to hit as many places as they can.”
Said Wiggins, the coach at Callaway, “I think that’s a great way to build relationships. I think coach is doing a phenomenal job of that. And the word ‘relationship,’ I think, is key in what we’re talking about.”
He made an impression.
“You can be around coach Collins for about one minute and you can feel his passion and you can feel his energy for his profession,” said Calhoun, the coach at Carrollton.
Besides that, he apparently was causing lunchrooms to go quiet when he entered – as he did at Schley County, according to Alford – and sharing his recruiting plan for the state.
“He’s trying to make sure that he gets the best players that he can in the state, and he’s going to be going after those guys,” said Alford, at Schley County.
And, Tuesday, his approach was by flying around the state in a five-seat helicopter. It may not be his last voyage before the next signing period begins Feb. 6.
“The one thing that’s good is it creates a buzz,” Calhoun said. “Coach Collins told me everything he’s trying to do is for branding and for advertising, and he’s getting people talking about Georgia Tech.”
Just ask the kids at Schley County Elementary School.