ATHENS — Brian Schottenheimer knew early on he wanted to be a coach, no surprise considering his lineage. It was just how committed to it he was that surprised people.
Al Saunders, a longtime NFL assistant coach who has known the Schottenheimer family for years, still marvels at what Brian did after his freshman year in college. He transferred from Kansas all the way to Florida, despite little chance of playing time, because Brian wanted to learn from Steve Spurrier.
“And he lived under the roof of one of the great coaches of all time,” Saunders said, alluding to Marty Schottenheimer, who won more than 200 games as an NFL head coach. “That would show you that he’s extremely focused and extremely directed at what he wants to do and where he wants to go. I believe he’ll bring that to the University of Georgia in the role that he’s in.”
Brian Schottenheimer, who was hired as Georgia’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Wednesday, brings with him more than a decade of experience at the highest level of football. It was easy at one time to assume he was trading on his famous father’s name, and in fact, he did serve on his father’s staffs at different times. But Brian was always preparing to be a coach, learning not just from his father, but from Spurrier, Saunders, Dick Vermeil and many others.
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Spurrier, speaking Wednesday night, sounded surprised that his former Florida quarterback was coming back to the SEC.
“He’s been an NFL coach. I don’t know why he went to college,” Spurrier said. “Maybe he wanted to go back to college, or maybe it was just a good opportunity for him. That’s an excellent opportunity for any coach. Georgia always has a whole bunch of good players. They probably have been the most consistent team in the East. Well, maybe they haven’t, heck we’ve beat them four out of five years, but overall they have probably been one of the best teams on the Eastern side.”
Spurrier was asked if he and Schottenheimer were similar coaches.
“Nah, that’s a different game,” Spurrier said. “Pro football is a different game from what we used to do. He was with the (St. Louis) Rams this year, and they had a great defense. Sometimes when you coach with a tremendous defense, your offense is just, ‘Don’t mess up.’ He’s a good, solid proven coach.”
Schottenheimer’s playbook and playcalling are likely to assimilate well with Georgia, as both are similar pro-style systems. And when it comes to the meshing of personalities, and the transition from pro to college, Saunders thinks he’ll do just fine.
“He’s a people person. He gets along with everybody really, really well. He’ll bring a professional attitude there. He’s an excellent leader,” Saunders said. “He has all of the qualities that you look for in a successful coach.
“He’ll mingle well with the alumni. He’s an attractive guy, he’s got a great family, he’s a great family man. He’s very honest and straightforward. He brings presence to a room. He’s very articulate and very well-grounded. From my experience coaching at Tennessee with Johnny Majors and that staff, he’ll fit well in the South.”
Saunders, now an offensive assistant with the Oakland Raiders, was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee under Majors. The offensive line coach was Philip Fulmer, and David Cutcliffe was a graduate assistant. So he knows part of the landscape that Brian Schottenheimer is entering.
Saunders eventually landed back in the NFL, working for Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City from 1989-98. So in a way he watched Brian grow up as a coach, including a one-year stint working for the Chiefs, a year after graduating from Florida.
It’s impossible to separate father from son, and that’s not a bad thing, according to Saunders. He said he once asked Marty Schottenheimer what qualities he was looking for in an assistant. The answer — being a great teacher and being very demanding.
“Those would be the two qualities I would think Brian would bring to the University of Georgia, other than the expertise and the knowledge of offense,” Saunders said. “I know he’s a very outstanding teacher, and he’s very demanding. When you add both of those attributes, and he’s got a great personality, he’ll do a great job. He’ll recruit well. He’ll attract players.”
He’ll probably also attract his father, who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, just a three-hour drive from Athens. “Marty will be down there watching every game, I bet,” Saunders said.
Josh Kendall of The State contributed to this report.