Brad Waggoner walked out of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s office in something of a daze. He walked into that mid-May meeting as coach and athletic director at Lumpkin County High and walked out of it as Tech’s new assistant director of player personnel.
“I’m walking out thinking, ‘Did that just really happen?’” Waggoner said.
His disbelief can be excused. Waggoner wrote Johnson on a near-weekly basis for about five years in hopes of getting a position on his staff, often going months without response.
“Brad is the most persistent guy I’ve ever known,” Johnson said.
As long as Waggoner is on staff in Tech’s player-personnel office, it can be reasonably assumed that if he hunts for players anything like he did his job, the Yellow Jackets’ recruiting operations will at least not lack for effort.
“I want to prove to coach Johnson that he’s not going to find anybody that’s going to work any harder than myself for that job,” Waggoner said.
It was not the first time that he so doggedly chased a spot at Tech. Graduating from high school at Landmark Christian in 1993, Waggoner was offered a walk-on position if he could gain acceptance to Tech. Initially rebuffed, Waggoner took classes at what is now Gordon State College in Barnesville that fall and said he then visited the Tech admissions office repeatedly before he finally was accepted.
He ended up transferring after his freshman year to Liberty, where he played before graduating in 1997. That began a circuitous coaching career, beginning at VMI, continuing with a graduate assistant job at Alabama, then on to West Alabama. One of his colleagues at West Alabama was Jeremy Pruitt, now Georgia’s defensive coordinator.
From there, he went to the high-school level, where he coached at eight different schools in Georgia, Florida and Alabama between 2000 and this past school year. Brad and his wife, Mary Beth, have a son, Brad Jr., who will turn 3 in August. He already has lived in four different homes.
A major-college coaching job was always his goal, though, and the impetus for his frequent communications with Johnson, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson (whom Waggoner worked for at Alabama) and Alabama outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson (who was director of football operations at Tech and the one to invite Waggoner to walk on).
Writing e-mails and letters, Waggoner continually tried to sell himself to Johnson. He heard back once in 2010 and again in 2011. From then until early this year, he said, there were no replies.
“My wife, she thought I was crazy,” Waggoner said.
Mary Beth protested the depiction.
“Brad’s just very persistent,” she said. “He’s used to going after what he wants.”
In January, Johnson reached out to interview him for the player-personnel assistant job that went to Pete Hurt. After coming so close, Waggoner said he was depressed for about two weeks and wondered if he had missed his chance. He decided he would continue to pursue major-college opportunities for another year. If nothing resulted, he said, “then it’s just meant for me to stay at this level where I’m at.”
But Matt Griffin, then Tech’s player-personnel director, was fired for what was believed to be expense-account abuse. Hurt was promoted. The assistant job was open again. Johnson called Waggoner in to offer him the job. He began May 29.
In his job, Waggoner maintains the database for offensive prospects. He keeps communication with high-school coaches, requests transcripts and hosts on-campus visits from recruits. His ultimate goal is an on-field coaching job.
Landmark Christian track and cross country coach Bill Thorn, who coached Waggoner in football and whose example led him into coaching, said he was not surprised to hear of his former player’s persistence.
“Because that’s the way he’s always appeared to be,” he said. “That’s a good mark to have, and that should have shown them something there at Tech that’s kind of unusual. That’s what you call never giving up. You just don’t see that a lot today.”
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