Bobby Pope

Whatever happened to Frank Orgel?

When Joe Sumrall was named head football coach at Warner Robins in 1966, one of his first hires was former Georgia player Frank Orgel as his defensive coordinator.

Orgel had been on Sumrall’s staff in Thomasville. Sumrall stepped down as the Demons head man to become the school’s principal following the 1969 season and Orgel took over as head coach. He remained in that position for three seasons compiling a 27-4-2 record, which included two region championship and two trips to the State AAA playoffs.

During the 1971 season, Warner Robins beat Central 23-7 for only the second win ever by Warner Robins over a Lanier/Central team. The Demons had shocked Lanier 13-7 back in 1961 when Dave Barker was their head coach.

Frank left the high school ranks for a job at North Alabama with Mickey Andrews for one season before becoming Pat Dye’s defensive coordinator at East Carolina in 1974. Orgel and Dye had been college teammates and roommates at Georgia.

When Dye left East Carolina to take the head job at Wyoming, where Orgel had played as a freshman before transferring to Georgia, Orgel took the defensive line coaching job at Clemson for Danny Ford. After one season, he was back with Dye as Auburn’s defensive coordinator when Dye took over as head coach of the Tigers’ program. He served in that capacity through the 1985 season helping Auburn win the 1983 SEC Championship.

Orgel has a special relationship with Auburn’s Heisman Trophy running back, Bo Jackson, who played for the Tigers when Orgel was coaching. Jackson calls Frank the best coach to ever come through Auburn.

Orgel moved on to South Carolina in 1986, where he spent three seasons on Joe Morrison’s staff. When Ray Goff was hired as Georgia’s new head coach in 1989, Orgel returned to his alma mater and coached inside linebackers the next seven seasons. When Goff was fired in 1995, Orgel left the college coaching ranks to become the athletics director for public schools back in his hometown of Albany. He held that post until January of 2001 when he retired.

Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation and to do what you want to do on your own schedule. It has been anything but that for the 78-year-old. After stepping down as Albany’s athletics director, he encountered health issues that were eventually diagnosed as a rare form of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has been confined to a wheelchair for almost the past decade, but the fight that he showed as a player and a coach has carried over to his battle against the dreaded disease.

Frank and his wife Sarah, who he met while he was coaching at Warner Robins where she was the school’s guidance counselor, moved back to Auburn four years ago.

Sarah is very much involved in ALS research and is on an ALS support group. Frank was honored with the Spirit of Lou Gehrig Award at the Alabama Chapter of the ALS Association’s first “Changing the Game” banquet in Birmingham in February of 2015. The old coach, who swims several times a week as part of his therapy, has never lost his zeal for football. He is a weekly Tuesday visitor to Auburn practices in the fall and he takes in all home games.

His energy is backed up by an article about Orgel by Jack Smith at “His rare form of ALS may eventually take everything but his mind. But it won’t ever take his heart.”

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