ATHENS -- Jeremy Pruitt says his coaching style goes back to his days working with high school players and even younger: focusing on fundamentals and teaching the game from the basics up.
That has worked so far in his college career, as well, and he isn’t about to change now that he has taken over as Georgia’s defensive coordinator.
The 39-year-old Pruitt was introduced as Todd Grantham’s replacement Wednesday, and Pruitt explained his coaching philosophy of helping the players on and off the field.
“I think that goes back to getting into education,” Pruitt said. “I think back to 2001, 2002 and 2003, I was a (kindergarten) through third grade elementary school teacher. When you see kids and you don’t know where they laid their head at night, where they got their last meal, you realize there’s a lot more important things than football.
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“I know that sounds crazy to some people to hear that.”
Georgia head coach Mark Richt quickly jumped in on that point, saying, “Some Georgia fans hate to hear that. But most of them have got a grip on life.”
Pruitt then finished his point, saying, “Hopefully I can have a positive effect on these guys outside of the football field.”
He certainly has had a positive influence on the field.
Pruitt spent one season as Florida State’s defensive coordinator after three years as Alabama’s secondary coach. The three years before that, he worked in an off-field role for the Alabama football team.
Before that, his career, which began in 1998, was spent with high school teams -- outside of one season as West Alabama’s secondary coach.
“When you’re a high school coach, there’s a lot that you do besides coaching. You’re picking them up, you’re taking them back and forth between school, you’re a psychologist. I think it’s relationships -- that’s what it is all about,” Pruitt said. “It’s getting to know the guys and guys knowing that you truly care about them on and off the field. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Alabama won two national titles during his time as its secondary coach, and Florida State won the national championship this season. Pruitt also won two high school state titles at Hoover (Ala.).
“I don’t wear rings,” Pruitt said of his national championship success and if he uses those rings on the recruiting trails. “I put them in my safe deposit box and don’t ever touch them. To me, I’m not looking in the rearview mirror. I’m looking straight ahead, and hopefully there will be more to get.”
Pruitt mentioned some advice he and some of his teammates received from Neil Callaway, who was the offensive line coach at Alabama in 1997, as the basis for one his reasons for landing at Georgia.
“He sat there and said, ‘OK, you guys want to be ball coaches. I’m gonna give you one piece of advice, Make sure you stick with good people,’ ” Pruitt said. “That’s one thing that stuck with me.”
One of the people Pruitt will be working with at Georgia is offensive line coach Will Friend. The two were teammates and roommates at Alabama.
Pruitt transferred to Alabama from Middle Tennessee State after his sophomore year. Friend remembers seeing Pruitt, who was already living in the dorm, and Friend was one of the first to meet him. They remain close to this day.
“Both our fathers were high school coaches,” Friend said. “It just kind of went from there.”
Seth Emerson contributed to this story.
The Pruitt file
2013: Florida State, defensive coordinator
2010-12: Alabama, secondary coach
2007-09: Alabama, director of player development
2004-06: Hoover (Ala.) High School, assistant coach
2001-03: Fort Payne (Ala.) High School, assistant coach
2000: Plainview (Ala.) High School, assistant coach
1999: West Alabama, assistant coach
1998: Plainview (Ala.) High school, assistant coach
1997: Alabama, graduate assistant
1993-94: Middle Tennessee State