Will Friend: Bama boy, Georgia coach

semerson@macon.comNovember 28, 2012 

ATHENS - Let the record show that Will Friend did not walk into this interview session wanting to talk about where he played college football: Alabama.

Yes, the man entrusted with coaching Georgia's offensive line, whose performance may very well decide the SEC championship, is an alum of the other school.

"I can't believe you all are asking about a bad player 20 years ago," Friend said, laughing. "You've got all these good players playing in a game in four days and you're asking about a bad one 20 years ago."

So anyway, as a bad offensive lineman, Friend was on an Alabama team that went to three SEC championship games. But he only played in the first two. He had to sit out the third one because of a knee injury.

Friend grew up in Mississippi, but right across the Alabama border and about an hour-and-a-half drive from Tuscaloosa.

One of his former Alabama teammates, Michael Ray, texted Friend this week, saying he was torn between rooting for Friend or their alma mater.

"I told him: Hey man it's hard to believe you'd go for Alabama over me, as much as we've gone through together," Friend said. "It was great times there, but we're about winning for Georgia Saturday."

After some prodding, Friend did talk a bit more about his college days. He opened up when asked if he was a big fan of "Dreamland," the famous barbecue joint in Tuscaloosa.

"Can't you tell?" he asked, pointing at his body and laughing.

Gene Stallings was his head coach at Alabama. Neil Callaway came in later to be the offensive line coach during his career, and Callaway (after a long stint as Georgia's O-line coach) eventually hired Friend to be an assistant coach at UAB. Future Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney also spent some time at Alabama as a graduate assistant while Friend was there.

"Those guys all had a big influence and did a great job," Friend said. "I was fortunate to be around those guys. When you want to go into coaching - my dad was a high school coach - so when you want to go into coaching it's a plus to have some guys that you could look up to, that kind of kept you in the profession."

But much like Mike Bobo talking about his relationship with Kirby Smart, the point Friend wanted to make most was that where he went to school won't figure in on Saturday.

"The University of Alabama was good to me," he said. "In coaching, I've been fortunate to be two places, as a player (at Alabama) and then as a grad assistant (at Georgia). ... I've been lucky. But that doesn't have anything to do with this game."

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