Valdosta Daily Times

February 24, 2007

Loran Smith: New UGA line coach a throwback to old days

Loran Smith

Philosophically, Stacy Searles is a throwback to the passionate football fundamentalists— advocates of the “whip ’em in the trenches” mentality— like Wallace Butts and Bear Bryant.

His acquired football genes are a link to the past. He played for Pat Dye and line coach Neil Callaway at Auburn. Dye was a disciple of Butts and Bryant, and Callaway experienced the tutelage of Bryant.

The way he sees it, that’s good. But before signing on to play for two college coaches he holds in the highest regard, there was a fellow named Wayne Searles who gave him his most important lessons with respect to learning to play the game. If it is of any interest to Bulldog linemen, Stacy Searles will be teaching them this spring and onwards the way he was taught by his daddy.

In high school at Trion, the mill town that sits hard by the Chattooga River in northwest Georgia, Searles’ daddy never fussed about Stacy missing a block or making a mistake, but if he ever caught his strapping son loafing, there was hell to pay.

Stacy’s late father was downright demanding that his son constantly hustle and react to the ball and forever extend supreme effort.

“He felt that if you played hard and put forth effort, that you could overcome any physical deficiencies you might have,” Searles said. “My daddy never came to practice, he never put pressure on the coach, but when the game was over, he would give me hell if I didn’t play hard and hustle every snap. I knew never to be caught standing around. In football, there’s action somewhere every play, and he expected me to be in on it.”

His daddy believed the work ethic could make a difference in a football player’s performance, and when it came to work, Wayne Searles was proud to belong to the blue collar fraternity. He delivered milk for 23 years and then drove a truck for 20 years after that. Work, for him, was as natural as eating and sleeping, all of which became a positive influence on his son’s life.

There was a bit of history made when Stacy followed in the footsteps of his father, making all-state at Trion High in 1982. Wayne was an all-state selection in 1952. With the changes in football since Searles was a college player at Auburn, the one thing that has remained constant in his mind is the fundamentals.

A big man himself (he stood 6-foot-5 and played at 280 pounds), he is often astounded at the size of college football linemen today. All of those big men on the Bulldog roster need to be advised, however, that big men must rely on more than size. Big men can give effort, too. Big men can hustle — and if they don’t, Stacy Searles will be in their face. Further, you gotta have heart with this man, whether you are capable of All-America honors or experiencing the role of backing up a regular for a few plays each game.

What he looks for in a winning linemen is a player with excellent footwork.

“Feet are the most important thing for a lineman,” he says. “Attitude is also very important. We want linemen who believe they are the best on the field.”

Searles believes he is having the ultimate experience, coaching at Georgia (“Sanford Stadium, what an atmosphere!”) and in the SEC: “Talent-wise, we are the closest league to the NFL.”

The man he replaced, Neil Callaway, always appreciated Searles’ passion for the game.

“Stacy is not only an outstanding coach, he is a great person,” Callaway says.

Early on, he could tell how much he enjoyed the game. That, as well as working hard, had a lot to do with his making All-America. He will be demanding on his players in order to help them realize their potential, but he will care for them and influence them toward becoming successful student-athletes.