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Top dog: Former YSU QB VanGorder helps UGA win national title as offensive assistant coach

AP. Montgomery VanGorder runs the football against West Virginia during his lone season at Youngstown State in 2018. VanGorder helped Gerogia win a national title this season as an offensive assistant coach.

After his final game as quarterback of Youngstown State back in 2018, Montgomery VanGorder packed his bags and headed back to his home state of Georgia.

Though his playing career had just come to a close, the graduate transfer from Notre Dame was still hoping to stay involved with the game as a coach.

And as it turns out, a brief encounter with Georgia coach Kirby Smart while VanGorder was a reserve quarterback for the Irish opened that door for him. The Bulldogs paid South Bend, Indiana, a visit in 2017 and left with a 20-19 victory.

After the game, VanGorder and Smart exchanged pleasantries.

“He asked me if I wanted to get into coaching, and I told him yeah,” VanGorder explained. “He said, ‘Give me a call whenever you’re done playing,’ so that’s what I did.”

It wasn’t instantaneous though. Originally, VanGorder didn’t have many options until he received a call from a defensive coach at Georgia regarding what VanGorder described as “almost like a volunteer position” with the defensive line.

He took that gig in the spring of 2019, and then after spring football moved over to the quarterbacks, where he still works as an offensive quality control assistant.

A couple weeks ago, VanGorder and the Bulldogs toppled Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff Championship Game to end a 41-year title drought in Athens.

VanGorder said he was most happy for the players, but that bringing the championship back to Georgia for its communities also was special.

“You walk down the street, and it seems like everybody’s got a bit more of a glow to them,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. It was a surreal moment, and to be able to experience that with my coworkers and the players who put so much work into it, it’s awesome. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve been able to experience in my life.”

VanGorder’s duties varied depending on the day.

He and other coaches would come in between 7 and 7:30 a.m., and could do anything from watching film of the previous day’s practice or having a meeting to getting a game plan together for the next game.

Among his main duties, though, were helping to put team meetings together for Smart, putting position meetings together for offensive coordinator Todd Monken and setting the daily practice schedule. He also is in charge of drawing the team’s playbook.

Now in the offseason, VanGorder says the team is self-scouting — looking at what did and didn’t work during this past season and ways to improve — as well as recruiting. He also will get assigned projects to go look into different football scenarios — teams that succeeded most on third down, NFL teams that had success with a certain style, etc.

It’s a busy life, but one that VanGorder is all too familiar with. VanGorder’s father, Brian, has spent decades in the coaching business, including stops at Georgia, Auburn and Notre Dame as well as in the NFL with the Falcons, Jets and Jaguars.

When he does have downtime, VanGorder noted he enjoys reconnecting with some of his Penguin teammates and former YSU head coach Bo Pelini.

“It’s hard as you get further removed. … But during the offseason I try to reconnect with all those guys at some point, call them up,” said VanGorder, who threw for 1,929 yards and 14 touchdowns in his lone season at YSU. “It’s always good to talk with those guys. I really enjoyed my time at Youngstown.”

Montgomery isn’t quite sure what’s next after he’s finished in Athens, but is instead focused on taking advantage of his time with UGA.

“It’s learning as I go. The coaching profession is a crazy profession; I’ve kind of seen my dad go through that. He’s had a bunch of different stops,” VanGorder said. “But right now, Coach Smart has treated me great, and I’ve known him for a while and we’ve had a great relationship. So I’m just kind of trying to learn and become the best I can here. I can’t really predict what will happen in the future, but whatever it is, I’m excited.”

jwhetzel@tribtoday.com

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