Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
“I said I was going to take my time and hire the right guy for each position that has the right character, a great coach, a great recruiter. We hired one of the best in the business right here in Rodney Garner. He’s an Auburn man. You can see his teammates are here, a very special moment right now. He’s going to be our defensive line coach. He’s going to be our assistant head coach and our recruiting coordinator. I’m very excited about Rodney, so I’m going to welcome him right now. Rodney Garner.”
Rodney Garner, defensive line and assistant head coach
“Thank you. War Eagle. I can tell you this is a very surreal moment for me just to have this opportunity to be back here at a place that has meant so much to my life both personally and professionally. As I look back on my career, I know I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in today if it wasn’t for Auburn University.
This place is very special and very dear to me. Just out here and seeing my teammates that are here, I don’t know, it’s a humbling experience. I was telling my wife when we were flying out this morning, I was just thinking about my dad. I lost my dad on May 17, 2009, and my teammates, they know what a big Auburn fan he was. Mr. Earl, he loved Auburn. He’d come down here and tailgate all the time. I know he’s riding around Heaven today in his blue truck with his Auburn flags flowing, tooting his horn yelling ‘War Eagle,’ and messing with all the Alabama fans up there and making them mad. I know it would be a very proud moment for him to see me get here.
Coming from Leeds, Ala., I never thought I would be in this position. I just feel blessed. I’ve been gone from here 17 years. I was telling Jay (Jacobs) that today. This is the first time I’ve been in this building in 17 years, 17 long years. Me and my wife, we tried to make it a conscientious effort to come to Auburn at least twice a year and bring our girls here just to show them where I lived in Sewell Hall, which they tore down the old Sewell Hall, and I used to tell all the old war stories, and they’re building this Taj Mahal.
We’d take them up to the Hill dorms, Dorm J, and show them where their mom lived. We always talked about our goal in life, if we were blessed, was to have our kids go to Auburn. No matter where I was coaching, I really wanted my children to go to Auburn. I wanted that legacy to continue. We’ve been on this campus, and it’s ironic, my girls actually got the opportunity to go to their first Auburn game this year in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kim brought the girls over this year, and they went to the first game. It’s been good.
I was at the University of Georgia for 15 years and at Tennessee prior to that for two years. I had the opportunity to work for some great coaches. Coach (Pat) Dye, who I look to as a second father. I know it takes my wife to tell this story just to tell you how important Coach Dye was. In my house, and in my grandparents’ house and in Leeds, Alabama, when you go to an African American home, you look on the mantel, you can tell. You usually have a picture of Jesus. You have a picture of Martin Luther King. Then in the middle, you have Pat Dye. Sitting in my grandmother’s house, he was up there with Jesus and Martin Luther King, there was Pat Dye. He was in some heavy company. He has definitely meant a lot to me. I definitely love Coach Dye. I think every one of these young men would tell you that. I think he helped make us the men that we are today, and we are very appreciative of that for what he did and all the coaches and all the people that mold us.
When I had the opportunity to come back here, it was just an opportunity for me to give back to something that I feel has given me so much. I have another friend of mine, we were talking about this the other day, because I’ve been in some serious counseling in trying to come to this decision and wrestling with it and what to do. I was talking to a good friend of mine, and I said, ‘You know what? I pull for Auburn 364 days a year. It’s just that one day when we play them that’s the only time I don’t pull for Auburn.’ He said, ‘To be honest Coach G, you pull for Auburn 364 days and 20 hours. It’s just the four hours that y’all are playing that you aren’t.’ I was like, ‘You know, you’re right. That’s true.’ That’s one thing I always said.
I’m an Auburn man. I think everybody in this room would sit there and tell you they’re Auburn men. When I left here before, I said I may not coach at Auburn, but I’ll always be an Auburn man. I paid the price to do that, and my blood, sweat and tears are out there in Jordan-Hare Stadium. We’re the reason why now the NCAA has the 20-hour work week and all that because of what Coach Dye put us through. We paid a significant price. I’m so excited about having the opportunity to come back to Auburn and try to teach these young men about what it is to be an Auburn man because an Auburn man is a special man. It is an unreal fraternity. It’s a very real fraternity. All my brothers, whether I saw them last week or 10 years ago, we have the same love for one another as we had when we played here back in the 80s. It’s just an honor, and I’m just so humbled by this opportunity.
I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up and go to work. When I talked to Coach Malzahn, I just told him, I said, ‘Hey Coach, if you feel that I can be an asset to you, and I can help you in your mission statement and your vision of where you want to take this great institution, then I would love the opportunity to be a part of it.’ That’s what I want. I want a part. I just want to be on the team. I’m going to be the most loyal team member that he has. I’m going to work every day. I bleed orange and blue. When I tell a kid what it means to be an Auburn man, it’s coming from the heart. It means so much to me and my family.
My girls, they’re a little different. They know what Auburn is. They knew that their dad and their mom wanted them to go to Auburn. They’ve been in Georgia so long, we have to transition them a little bit. I have a 10th grader that she’s going to be a junior. To be honest with you, for some reason, God blessed me with all girls. I don’t know, I thought I was a pretty good guy when I was in college. I guess that might be up for some debate right now, but I’ve got six daughters. They can be quite difficult. I can handle my players really easy. I don’t take anything. I just say, ‘This is what it is. We’re going to do it. Suck it up and let’s go.’ My 10-year-old this morning, she’s crying, and I’m sitting there trying to counsel her and talk her. I said, ‘Hey baby, it’s going to be all right. You can go recruiting with Daddy. Remember when you went with me to recruit Big John Jenkins? You’re the reason that I got Big John because I went on that trip. Don’t you want to go with me and get another Big John?’ ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ ‘You don’t want Daddy to have another Big John?’ ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ ‘Aw, come on, Kai.’ Now I’m trying to recruit my kids along with trying to recruit for Auburn.
Courtesy: AU Media Relations