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UGA linebackers coach Belin a teacher of football, life

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Warren Belin's life on a farm -- and parents whose unwavering principles were without comprise -- have given him a grounding in fundamentals that will provide a beacon to the players he will be teaching at Georgia as its newly hired linebackers coach.

Teaching must be highlighted with this man. Capitalize it. Underscore it. He considers himself first and foremost a teacher. He will work overtime to articulate to his players the view that while football is a wonderful game and provides unique opportunity, they should look beyond the gridiron, which is a short term endeavor for most players.

A man of strong opinions without being opinionated, Belin loves to tell his story, the stimulation for disclosure resulting from his appreciation for the fundamentals on which this country was built. His story is the embodiment of the traditional American dream. You put God first in your life. Family values are as critical as eating and sleeping. The work ethic will carry you further than unmotivated talent. Scholarship and citizenship will trump material assets.

He grew up with a father who provided for his family. John Belin worked full time at an industrial plant, but grew an expansive vegetable garden which helped feed the family. For recreation, Warren's father would often take vegetables down to the Rocky River near the family home in Marshville, N. C. and put them in the river to keep them cool. Then he would take Warren and his brothers, Donald, Greg and Levern, fishing. After they caught fish, his father would retrieve the vegetables from the river and prepare a home cooked meal. Kinda hard for a fellow growing up in that environment to get in trouble.

Today, when there is down time for Warren, he relishes any fishing opportunity. When he first got to Athens, he was invited to play golf, but smiled and said, "That's not my game." Then, he noted, "If you got something with a cork and a hook on it, you have my attention."

His parents expected him to give priority to school work, but Warren was naturally self-motivated. It was as important to him to bring home an A on his report card as it was to thread his way through the offensive line and sack the quarterback. He finished fifth in a class of 200 and was recruited to Wake Forest by Bill Dooley, former Georgia assistant and brother of Bulldogs legend Vince Dooley.

His mother, Janie, had visions of him becoming a doctor -- he certainly had the grades and intellectual capacity -- but he always thought that coaching would better fit his goals in life. One day while watching the Alabama-Auburn game on TV -- in the last year of Bear Bryant's coaching career -- the announcers kept talking about the impact Bryant had on so many football players.

"That," began Warren, "is when I knew that I was going to become a coach. I knew that the profession would give me an opportunity to influence the lives of young men. I have never regretted my decision."

He has had varied experience -- Cornell, Tennessee Tech and SMU( with Georgia's Mike Cavan) William and Mary and Vanderbilt. As he moved along in the profession, he developed a philosophy based on three fundamentals: First, is the bedrock of honesty between player and coach.

"You've got to trust and respect each other," Warren says.

Secondly, fairness has to be a hallmark.

"You don't treat all players the same," he says. "Everybody is different. My job is to treat them like men. Some, for example don't work as hard as others."

Thirdly, there has to be total effort -- a player must give 100%.

"That," he smiles, "includes the practice field."

If players are required to give a good account of themselves, then he, as their coach and teacher, must demand the same of himself.

"Coaches spend more time with today's youth than their parents," he says.

There is but one regret as he advances in coaching today: He wishes for all kids that more parents had gardens and more fathers would take kids fishing and cook out afterwards, immersed in nature's blissful surroundings.

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Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.