By Florida A&M Sports Information
TALLAHASSEE, FL (Aug.10) – Coach Joe Taylor never claims his successes have been the work of one person. Rather, he always emphasizes the work of the conglomerate that feeds success. For years, Taylor’s right-hand-man has been George Small, who carries among other titles, associate head coach.
Small is no ordinary associate head coach, because he has had two stints at head coach. In two separate instances, legendary head coaches have inspired him to pursue head coaching offers. “When I was working for coach (Eddie) Robinson at Grambling, he pushed me to the head coaching job at Kentucky State with his graces. He said I was ready to be a head coach. He said he didn’t want to lose me, but he had a strong feeling that I was ready to take charge,” Small said. The second opportunity came as Small was assistant coach with Joe Taylor at Hampton University. “Joe encouraged me to take the job at North Carolina A&T when that head coaching position became available,” he added.
Small is in his second stint at FAMU. Under Ken Riley, Small was the defensive coordinator in 1993. After time at NC A&T, where he won the MEAC championship in 2003, Small was contacted by Taylor as he was selected the 15th head coach of Florida A&M. He currently serves as associate head coach and defensive line coach. With several successful athletes such as Jerry Willis, Kendrick Washington and Marquiste Ramos to his credit, Small is known for getting the maximum out of his players.
“It has been a tremendous blessing to have worked with two of the best black college coaches of all-time. When coach Taylor called me in Texas and said he wanted me to come with him to help build this program back up, I told him FAMU isn’t a bad place to be. Being here at FAMU before, under coach Riley, I remember us having some fine players. Earl Holmes was one of our players at that time and to see his maturity to this point is a lesson I use to motivate my players. It’s very heartwarming when I see him passing on lessons he learned from us,” Small said.
Taylor gives Small credit for his gift of cohesiveness. “As a head coach, you always need someone on your staff that you can turn to at every junction. George has taken on things within the staff that never need to make it to me. He handles the logistics of our travel and hotels and things that require some leadership. He solves the problem or makes the issue better just as I would…or better,” Taylor said with a smile.
Small is in his fifth season in his return to FAMU and he couldn’t be happier. “To come back and be around these guys is like coming home. This literally gives me chills. FAMU has always treated me well and the people have always treated me well, so it’s been a great relationship since day one when I came here in the 90s,” Small said.
Small’s Christian faith is the force that drives him. A native of Radford, NC, a small town in the southeast portion of the state, Small excelled as an athlete at Hoke County High School. He was recruited by NC A&T and was successful playing both offensive and defensive line. He earned All-MEAC honors, while serving as captain of the Aggies his senior season. He was a Pittsburgh Courier All-American, and went on to a five-year career in the NFL with the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
With those experiences, Small is the perfect fit for the Rattlers. He is part of a coaching staff that has had tremendous success in graduating athletes, while maintaining their integrity off the field of play. “A lot of the focus of our athletes starts with coach Taylor. I feed off of his lead and we’ve worked well over the years, keeping everything in the right mold for our players to be successful on and off the field,” Small said.
Taylor describes Small as the glue that holds the whole team together. On Small’s part, he graciously accepts that role and is very excited about this upcoming season. “When you look at the guys on the staff, all of these guys have been successful. It makes it easier for our kids to buy in when they are being coached by former NFL players and successful college players. They (coaches) are good guys that I love to be around and have no doubt in my mind that eventually, they’ll have their own programs to run,” he added.
Small credits focus during the Summer as the factors that improve the team. “It’s the Fall now, and I put outside things out of my mind…I don’t have time for anything else but football. My focus is here. I stay focused on our goals and objectives for the season and reiterate to our players that we can’t focus on anything that isn’t in line with our goal. Things beyond our control, we’ll have to let God handle those, but we have to do what we are supposed to do,” he concluded.