Patrick Suddes has been trained to help build ‘a giant’ at Georgia Tech

October 21, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech fans cheer for their team during an NCAA college football game against the Wake Forest at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



October 21, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech fans cheer for their team during an NCAA college football game against the Wake Forest at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

When he was starting his career in the football business, Patrick Suddes had to choose a path – did he want to pursue a job on the coaching side or on the player-personnel side? His own history guided his choice.

When he was a wide receiver at the Marist School – coach Alan Chadwick’s scouting report: Smart, hardworking, team-first player but “not a real gifted player in terms of his abilities” – he tried to figure out which of his teammates he would start if he were the coach.

Growing up in Dunwoody and playing video games like EA Sports NCAA Football and Madden NFL, he chose the game modes that allowed him to build teams through recruiting and the draft and wasn’t as interested in the actual game play. In advance of the NFL draft, he put together his own mock draft.

“I would play the (video) games vs. my buddies, but it was always ‘create the team’ and then I would try to trade everybody for six first-round draft picks that year and all that kind of stuff,” Suddes told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s kind of where I grew up just loving it.”

So now Suddes finds himself, at the age of 36, holding the newly created title of Georgia Tech general manager, in charge of gathering talent for coach Geoff Collins. He brings with him a 10-year apprenticeship under Alabama czar Nick Saban and experience heading up recruiting departments at Texas, Arizona State and Auburn.

“And to bring all of that experience back here to the Flats and his hometown of Atlanta, I think that’s just huge moving forward,” Collins said.

The experience that Suddes can draw from is manifold. Not least, Suddes has sharpened his eye for talent and for projecting what kind of size a high-school sophomore can attain by the time he’s a fifth-year senior in college and not only that, but whether he can fit into the schemes that his teams play.

“And sometimes that’s hard to evaluate from high-school film because their coaches don’t ask them to do those things,” Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. (The two worked together at Auburn the past two seasons, Lindsey as offensive coordinator and Suddes as assistant athletic director for football.) “So I think he’s very thorough. He looks at a lot of film and did a really good job of figuring out who fits in our offense or defense.”

For Suddes, watching prospects’ game video, often on his phone, is a responsibility with literally no days off. He said his time with Saban with the Miami Dolphins (Suddes was a defensive assistant, then an offensive assistant in 2005-06), learning criteria for measurements and other factors “gave me a great foundation for (evaluation) as far as what you’re looking for physically from players.”

While Tech is trying to catch up on the class of rising seniors, Suddes and his staff are on to evaluating rising juniors, sophomores and even freshmen. With eighth-graders, projecting is difficult “because you just don’t know body types,” Suddes said. “But there could be a quarterback out there that’s just big-time, and he’s already 6-2, 6-3.”

Aside from evaluating, Suddes oversees all aspects of player personnel, whether it’s on-campus visits, organizing camps, arranging coaches visits to high schools and prospects homes and keeping an eye on the transfer portal. He describes his role as an “air-traffic controller” when the off-campus evaluation period hits, as he and his staff book flights and make schedules for coaches to visit as many high schools and lay eyes on as many prospects as possible, plans that sometimes change on the fly.

He has relied on notes that he has taken wherever he’s been, starting with an internship at LSU for Saban in 2004 when Suddes was an undergrad at Alabama (he and his parents ran into Saban near the coach’s lake house on Lake Burton in North Georgia), and keeping hold of every document, form and manual that he has used at each stop. Among coaches he worked with at LSU, the Dolphins and Alabama alone – Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp, Derek Dooley, Kirby Smart, Jeremy Pruitt, Dan Quinn and Jason Garrett – all past or present power-conference or NFL head coaches.

With Saban, he helped operate a machine that has won five national championships and assembled the nation’s top recruiting class for seven consecutive years (247Sports Composite).

Suddes said, “I was just a sponge, and I soaked up everything that he said.”

“I think Patrick does a really good job of establishing a recruiting plan for the entire staff,” said Lindsey, the Troy coach. “’Hey, our guys, they need to be this and this and this’ and they go through an evaluation system. I think Patrick did a good job organizing and developing that plan for us. He’ll do the same there.”

Suddes has aspirations of becoming an athletic director or possibly a GM in the NFL , but he said that “I’m looking forward to staying here (at Tech) as long as I can, as long as they’ll let me.” He called leaving Auburn for Tech “a no-brainer for me.”

He said he had wanted to work again with Collins after they met at Alabama in 2007, Saban’s first year back in college football, when Suddes was associate director of football operations (2007-13) and Collins was player personnel director (2007). Suddes had wanted to get back to Atlanta and his wife, Rachel, giving birth to their first child (Lawson, a boy) in November 2018 only strengthened his desire to be close to family.

And, while unlike Collins, Suddes had never previously worked at Tech, he grew up partial to the Jackets and played at a school that has routinely sent players on to Tech. Watching from afar over the years only confirmed his interest. As the possibility grew that Collins could return to Tech to succeed Paul Johnson, Suddes communicated through mutual friends to let Collins know that “I’ll walk up (Interstate) 85 to get there” from Auburn back to Atlanta if that’s what it took to reunite.

“I always knew, like coach (Collins) talks about (Tech being) a sleeping giant,” Suddes said. “And now it’s obviously going to be a giant.”