Originally created 12/07/00

Coach's tactics help inspire Eagles' line



STATESBORO, Ga. - Some time between 1200 and 1500 hours Saturday, Georgia Southern assistant John Pate might round up his defensive linemen on the sideline for a few words of wisdom.

"Don't tell me about the pain, just deliver the baby," he says.

It's a little slogan he picked up in the Army that means, "Don't complain, just do it."

Pate has a lot of slogans he picked up from the Army, most of which can't be printed. But he has found the line where football life and military life becomes compatible.

"The bottom line is mission accomplishment," Pate said. "The first thing they tell you in the Army is that the mission has to get done. ... In football, the coaches have to find the button for these guys to get the mission done."

The mission for Georgia Southern's players, if they choose to accept it, is to beat Delaware on Saturday in Newark, Del., in the Division I-AA semifinals.

Certainly, Southern's line will be instrumental in the team's success or failure against the Blue Hens' high-powered offense. Delaware has averaged more than 50 points a game during its past three games.

But the 46-year-old Pate, ever the platoon leader, will have a plan of attack. And that plan will be relayed with emotion.

"He's usually pretty wired up, and I think sometimes the players can feed off the coaches," said Georgia Southern head coach Paul Johnson. "(Pate) has a high energy level. He's got the military background too, so you couple that together, and you get a unique type of individual."

For 6« years, Pate saw active military duty. He advanced to senior instructor at Fort Benning, then went into the Reserves.

He even volunteered to go to the Persian Gulf in 1990. But when he wasn't guaranteed action, he withdrew.

"They were going to sign me and send me to Fort Dix, but I didn't think New Jersey needed defending," Pate said of the paper-shuffling job.

Ten years later, he has another fight on his hands. It's a fight that Pate will go to the front to lead.

And the Georgia Southern troops respect that.

"He makes you give everything you got because you want to play for him," Eagles defensive tackle Robert LeBlanc said. "You don't want to let him down. He just instills those values."

In 1985, Johnson's joke on Pate began a Georgia Southern tradition. It was the first bus ride of the season and Johnson, who had moved over to offensive coordinator, sought out Pate, a rookie line coach.

"You know it's tradition that the defensive line coach here butts heads with the defense in the locker room," said Johnson, straight-faced. "It comes with the territory."

Actually that was a tactic of coach Erk Russell when he was defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia.

"I'm not sure Johnson ever did that when he coached the defense," Pate said. "I think I was duped."

That day, Pate butted heads with his helmeted players until blood streamed down his face. And the motivated Eagles defeated then-I-AA power Florida A&M, 27-21.

"Sometimes (the players) have to understand it's a physical, violent game," he said.

Pate still occasionally goes head to head with his players.

"He's one of the best coaches I've ever played for," Eagles defensive tackle Gino Tutera said. "At times, he's physically motivating. Other times, it's mental. He doesn't let the players get down, and when we do something good, he's the first one to congratulate us."