Bohannon, and those closest to him, feel KSU coach had ‘desire to be a winner’
by John Bednarowski
jbednarowski@cherokeetribune.com
March 27, 2013 12:45 AM | 1535 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw State president Dan Papp, left, talks about Brian Bohannon during the new football coach’s introductory news conference Tuesday. After 16 seasons as an assistant to Paul Johnson, Bohannon gained the reins of his own team for the first time, with about 2½ years to build the Owls’ program.
<Br>Staff photo by Laura Moon
Kennesaw State president Dan Papp, left, talks about Brian Bohannon during the new football coach’s introductory news conference Tuesday. After 16 seasons as an assistant to Paul Johnson, Bohannon gained the reins of his own team for the first time, with about 2½ years to build the Owls’ program.
Staff photo by Laura Moon
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KENNESAW — Brian Bohannon grew up around football, and from his middle-school days on, he had a short list of things he wanted to accomplish.

Those who know him best say he accomplished them all through hard work.

Bohannon was so sure of his projected path in life, he wrote a report about his life’s ambition in the seventh grade that his mother kept.

“It is my desire to be a winner,” he wrote. “I want to play football, and be a football coach.”

At age 42, the Griffin native and Woodstock resident has already gone beyond his simple list. As of Sunday, he was no longer just a football coach — he was the first head coach in Kennesaw State history.

“I grew up on a football field,” Bohannon said during his introductory news conference Tuesday inside the football locker room at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. “I had a lot of conversations (with my dad). He’s been a rock.”

His father, Lloyd, was the longtime coach at Griffin High School, compiling a career record of 156-58-1 from 1978-95. As a youngster, Brian would go with his father to practice after school, eventually playing for him from 1986-89.

“I was just around it every day,” Brian Bohannon said. “When I was young, that was my time with him. You can’t help but absorb things. You learn how to handle people and what it took to be successful.”

His father wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know if I taught him anything (about being a coach),” said Lloyd Bohannon, who still lives in Griffin, “but he had a lot of characteristics to be a good coach. He was a very hard worker and he always had the respect of his teammates.”

That respect grew as Brian Bohannon’s work load did. And it was the hard work he put in as a wide receiver at Griffin that caught the eye of Georgia coach Ray Goff.

Brian Bohannon’s senior year at Griffin was Goff’s first as the Bulldogs’ head coach, and it caught the family off-guard when Goff wanted to bring Bohannon to Athens.

“(Brian) was a good player,” Lloyd Bohannon said, “but he wasn’t a big-time recruit. It was a surprise when Goff took interest.”

Bohannon arrived on the Georgia campus in 1990 and was among the first receivers who benefitted from the more open passing offense Goff employed when Marietta native Eric Zeier arrived on campus the following year.

Early on, however, Bohannon’s roommate, Chad Wilson, almost didn’t allow it to happen.

Wilson, who eventually played wide receiver and defensive back for the Bulldogs, was recruited to Athens as a quarterback. Bohannon found out the hard way that his roommate was out of position.

“I threw him a pass during practice,” said Wilson, now a senior vice president with First National Bankers Bank, “and with his good hands, you knew he was going to catch it. But I led him a little too far, and the defensive back just laid him out.

“Instead of getting upset, he just got up, came back to the huddle, and said, ‘Make sure you make a little better pass next time.’”

As a competitor, it could have been a time for Bohannon to confront his roommate for leading him astray. Instead, Bohannon said it was times like those that were teaching moments for both a coach and a player.

“You have to know the personality of your team,” he said. “They are going to feed off me. There are going to be times that players get upset and lose their temper, but that’s OK.”

Wilson said that particular play showed the kind of true competitor Bohannon really was.

“What is he — 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and ran a 4.8 40? What is he doing as a wide receiver?” Wilson said. “The dude is competitive. He’d catch anything.”

It was all about the work ethic Bohannon learned growing up in Griffin.

“I had to work hard,” he said. “I wasn’t talented enough not to. If I didn’t do the work, I wasn’t going to get a chance to play.”

The competitive nature didn’t end on the football field. It carried over to the softball diamond.

“Intramural softball,” Wilson said. “He’d still be going all out. Even there, he was as competitive as I’ve ever seen.

“I think he’s going to be a perfect fit for (the KSU) job.”

Bohannon went on to letter all four years at Georgia. He started his junior and senior seasons and was part of the 1992 team that won 10 games, tie for the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division championship and win the Citrus Bowl.

It was during that 1992 season that Bohannon’s list of goals from his seventh grade report came back to the forefront.

At the suggestion of his mother, Carol, he was on a path toward earning a business degree, but the closer he got to graduation, the idea of the business world became less appealing.

“My junior year, I thought about things I could do with that degree,” Bohannon said. “I think, at that time, I already knew I was going to be a football coach.”

Bohannon did complete the business degree and went on to West Georgia to earn a master’s degree in business education. But while he was doing that, he was working as a graduate assistant coach.

“I would go over to West Georgia to watch practice,” Lloyd Bohannon said. “I would sit in the bleachers and talk about the merits of coaching college football with (former Georgia defensive coordinator) Richard Bell.

“I would talk about (Brian) coaching in college and Richard would say, ‘He should go coach in high school.’”

At the time, the conversation seemed to make sense. Lloyd Bohannon was about to retire from Griffin, and Brian may have had an opportunity to coach at his alma mater, but Lloyd said it was never discussed.

Brian Bohannon left West Georgia when he got his first full-time coaching job as the wide receivers coach at Gardner-Webb, but his stay there was a short one. The following year, he was hired by Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern.

“We went 62-10 at Georgia Southern (from 1997-2001),” Bohannon said. “We won two national championships and played for a third.

“One day, he comes in and says, ‘I have this opportunity to go somewhere,’ and he asked, ‘Do you want to go with me?’ And I said yes.”

In 2002, Johnson and Bohannon landed at the Naval Academy, a place that puts order above everything else. It was the perfect spot for a trait Wilson said he and his college roommate both had.

“We were both neat freaks in McWhorter Hall,” Wilson said of the old athletic dorm at Georgia. “Brian and I were always very organized. I may have been a little more OCD than he was, but it is something that has served him well.”

Six years later, Johnson — and Bohannon — had another opportunity. This one was to come back to Georgia — not to coach the Bulldogs, but to go to their archrival, Georgia Tech.

“I asked him, how he could do that to his kids,” Wilson said jokingly. “He said, ‘That’s OK, we’re Jackets now!’”

Now, Bohannon’s family — wife Melanie and children Blake, Braden and Brooke Anna — are Owls.

Bohannon said he has spent 17 great years with Johnson, and there were many other people who helped him to get where he is. His longtime mentor was happy that Bohannon was able to become Kennesaw State’s first coach and offered him some advice as he embarks on his new challenge.

“He said, ‘Be who you are,’” Bohannon said. “He’s been unbelievably good to me. I owe a lot to coach Johnson.”
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