Nicholas Garrett, born and raised near the California coastline, required only one visit to Gainesville to fall in love with Riverside Military.
Much to his delight, the feeling was mutual.
Riverside Military on Tuesday announced Garrett’s hiring as its new football coach, bringing the former college coordinator across the country to revive a program that has won three games over the past two seasons.
Despite the Eagles’ recent struggles, Garrett gushed about the school’s structure and believes it has all the tools to create a winning culture. His original suspicions were confirmed when he met with administration and students during his interview for the position a few weeks ago.
“There was just a contagious positive attitude of excellence buzzing around whole campus,” Garrett said. “I’ve ever seen anything like that, even in college. Everyone was so welcoming and had a desire to be great at everything they can. I said to myself, ‘I cannot pass on this.’
“On top of that, Georgia has been at the pinnacle of football for a long time. The amount of talent and competition there is amazing.”
Garrett took the job after coaching one season at Santa Clara High in Oxnard, California, where he’s still working to ease the transition to the next coaching staff. He spent the previous 11 years bouncing around schools at the Division II, NAIA and junior college levels.
The California native served as offensive coordinator at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas; quarterbacks coach and game coordinator at Western New Mexico University; quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Kansas Wesleyan University and offensive coordinator at East Los Angeles Junior College.
That final stop was perhaps Garrett’s most successful. While overseeing a top-five offense at East Los Angeles, Garrett helped the team win a conference title and its first bowl game in 54 years.
A self-proclaimed “offensive guy,” Garrett hopes to employ his no-huddle, up-tempo style at Riverside Military. But he maintained he will always mold his offensive scheme around the players he has, which in this case is a variable he won’t truly know until shortly before the season.
He is certain, however, that his vision and priorities match perfectly with the Eagles’.
“The school is designed on discipline and structure, so you can forge and merge your athletics with that military style,” Garrett said. “It’s built to be successful in sports, they just need the spark to get it going.”
In exchange for its highly disciplined structure, Riverside Military gets an energetic coach who has molded nine first team All-Americans and 10 Academic All-Americans at previous stops.
Garrett will officially begin work at the school July 1, though he may not meet all his players until the academic year begins. Out-of-state attendees of the boarding school often return home when classes are out of session, but the newly appointed coach won’t let that slow down his rebuilding project one bit.
“I like to say that you can only control your controllables,” Garrett said. “If they’re there, then they’ll be a part of what we’ve got going a little bit faster. If not, then I’ll mail them a program to keep them up to speed. We’ll have them all together at some point.
“Until then, we’ll maximize what we do have. I won’t talk about what we don’t have. I’m not going to sit there and make excuses about it.”
Garrett, who’s taking over for Kelly Davis, first heard about the job through childhood friend and current Riverside Military staffer Jason Pleasant. They’ll soon be reunited in northeast Georgia, more than 2,000 miles from their old stomping grounds.