The second-winningest coach in the history of the University of Georgia had some words of wisdom Wednesday for teachers and staff of Carrollton city schools.
Mark Richt, former Georgia Bulldog head football coach and current analyst for the ACC Network, was the keynote speaker at a convocation held at the Mabry Center on the CHS campus to kick off the new school year.
Second only in UGA gridiron history to the legendary coach Vince Dooley, Richt focused most of his remarks on his Christian beliefs, the importance of being a father, and the impact that teachers have on their students.
“Probably two-thirds of the players who I have coached came from fatherless homes,” Richt said, “so I think it is important for coaches to be godly men, to be their coach first and foremost, but also in some cases to be a father-figure of sorts.”
He credits the iconic Bobby Bowden, under whom he coached at Florida State University, for having a tremendous influence on his life.
“Coach Bowden taught me a lot, both on and off the field,” he noted.
Richt also discussed some personal challenges he has recently faced, including his Oct. 21, 2019, heart attack.
“I was working out in a fitness center, doing some military presses, and all of a sudden I had this terrible pain in my arms, then my legs, and I was having a hard time breathing and was extremely hot,” Richt said.
“But suddenly, I felt at peace in my spiritual soul. I felt a call. Just didn’t know if it was from Jesus or Satan,” he added with a smile.
He was transported to a hospital and recovered from the near-fatal medical emergency. But the veteran college coach has since announced he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
However, Richt said this unexpected development has not slowed him down. Before coming to Carrollton on Wednesday, he had spent several grueling days last week in Charlotte, North Carolina, in front of the cameras with his ACC Network colleagues, televising reports from the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Media Week.
Richt said that his many years of coaching, including 15 at UGA --where he posted a 145-51 record and won two SEC titles from 2001 to 2015 — and the three seasons that followed at his alma mater, University of Miami, took their toll.
“I know now that the signs of [Parkinson’s Disease]: extreme fatigue, gradual decline in motor skills, and occasional speech issues began to show up during the final years of my coaching career,” he said.
But yet, the 61-year old native of Omaha, Nebraska, showed no obvious signs of his illness from the stage of the Mabry Center on Wednesday. A quarterback who in college backed up such greats as Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, and John Elway, Richt showed no signs that he was backing up in life.
“You gotta keep a positive attitude. You have to keep moving ahead,” Richt said.
He has written a new book, “Make the Call: Game-Day Wisdom for Life’s Defining Moments,” that is scheduled to come out next month.
Closing out his remarks, Richt answered a few questions submitted by attendees.
When asked about coaches against whom he once matched wits on Saturday afternoons, Richt mentioned his nemesis with the Florida Gators, Steve Spurrier, and former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson.
“We had some battles for sure, and yeah, I stole a few of his ideas,” Richt laughed when he mentioned Spurrier.
As for the Yellow Jackets’ Johnson, Richt said, “Guess you could say it was ‘clean old-fashioned hate’ to some degree,” he noted, referring to the 1977 book of that title by Bill Cromartie about the fierce in-state rivalry.
“We practiced against the five plays he ran out of that triple-option before the season, during the season even in weeks when we were playing someone else, and after the season,” he said.
Concluding his remarks, Rich told the assembly of teachers, staff, and administrators to ask themselves this question each day:
“How did you bless them, the ones that you teach and are in charge of?” he asked.