Dressed in a dark suit and a gold tie – a far different look than the gray hoodie with scissor-trimmed sleeves that has been the attire he prefers for the practice field and game days – Key was flanked by the two men most responsible for installing him in the seat he coveted, Tech President Ángel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt.
Batt said that he was impressed by Key’s organized and effective leadership, put on display in his eight-game term as interim coach following the dismissal of coach Geoff Collins, and the clear vision he communicated to him to take Tech to the next level.
“At the beginning and at the end of the search, it was clear that Brent Key was the right person to lead our football program,” Batt said.
To get to that next level – Key committed to building “a championship football team” – he vowed that he will lead a team that will be not only disciplined, but “the most disciplined team on the field every week we play a football game.” His teams will be marked by their effort and relentlessness.
“We want to be the football team, and we will be the football team, that other teams hate to play by the way that we play the game, by the physicalness that we play with, on how we play for 60 minutes,” Key said. “We want other teams to hate to play us. I want them to see a GT on their schedule and they do not want that week to come.”
The next steps include the hiring of an offensive coordinator (to replace Chip Long, let go by Key after his hire became official) and the start of the offseason strength and conditioning program in January.
“It’s going to be intense,” offensive lineman Joe Fusile said of the offseason workout program. “That’s the kind of guy that Key is.”
Regarding the direction of the offense, Key said he was in the process of interviewing candidates for the coordinator position and had “an exact vision” for the offense will look like but declined to share specifics.
“It’s not always about going out and getting the shiniest new toy, it’s about understanding what your current roster is and understanding what your personnel is and what’s the best way to have the personnel you currently have be successful,” he said.
Developing the roster will start with the offseason strength program (Key also needs to hire a head strength and conditioning coach, having dismissed Lewis Caralla). While recruiting high school prospects and bringing players in from the transfer portal, the first step in improving the roster will be improving players on the roster and raising competition at each position. Making the scout team cornerback better, for example, will serve to improve the wide receivers he practices against, Key said.
“Competition is not always with the best player that’s out there or the best player that you feel like you can acquire,” he said. “Improving your overall roster really starts at the bottom. You start at the bottom and work your way up top.”
Key chose to not disclose any improvements, if any, that he is seeking in facilities to help improve recruiting. The school is set to begin renovation of the Edge Center, part of a $125 million capital campaign led by former athletic director Todd Stansbury.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here together if there wasn’t a very detailed vision of where we’re going as a football program, as an athletics program, by the president and athletic director,” Key said. “And I think all three of us share the exact same vision of that.”
Along the same line, Cabrera was asked to square his stated commitment to the athletic department and the football team – he has said that he was committed to “doing anything” to return the team to national prominence – and an ESPN report that “Tech struggled to lure a big outside name because of the school’s reluctance to guarantee large portions of the contract.”
Cabrera responded that “I’m not going to even acknowledge the premise of the question. We’re just not going to share the details of the search.” He went on to say that he appreciated that Batt doesn’t come “knocking on my door and saying, ‘Boss, I need this, I need that.’” Rather, he added, “we sit down and we think together on how to secure whatever resources will be necessary to be successful.”
The resource who was secured between he and Batt on Monday morning has the support and confidence of the team.
“As a team, as a collective, we all wanted Key,” said safety LaMiles Brooks, who endorsed Key’s candidacy on social media. “That’s what we were trying to push. We didn’t really follow anything outside of that.”
Fusile said he was “jumping up and down” when he heard the news that Key had been hired.
“I think he’s the right person for the job,” Fusile said. “I’m very happy that he’s going to be the right one leading our team.”
Key’s commitment to the success of the team is even financial. In his remarks, Cabrera said that a $2.5 million scholarship campaign started in late October – which the Georgia Tech Foundation committed to match dollar for dollar up to that total – had been reached, and that Key and wife Danielle had made the final gift to meet the goal.
“I promise every fiber of my body will go towards making us a champion,” he said.
Key hit another note that surely pleased Tech fans, saying that “we have an opponent in this state that we will work 365 days a year to defeat. We will work 365 days a year to dominate.”
It was a statement that surely caught the notice of Georgia coach Kirby Smart, a friend of Key’s who supported his candidacy.
A new chapter in the team’s history begins. As it starts, Key invited and solicited the support of of the entirety of Tech backers – alumni, fans and former players.
“I appreciate you all, and it’s going to be a heck of a ride,” Key said. “It really is.”