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VanGorder talks track
Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder talks during a Monday evening meeting of the Lanier Running Club at Johnny’s Pizza. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times


Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder speaks to the Lanier Running Club.

It’s not every day that a four-time state champion and a NFL coach are in the same room, let alone for the same reason.

But that’s what occurred Monday night at Johnny’s Pizza on Dawsonville Highway when North Hall’s Nick Long and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder attended the monthly meeting of the Lanier Running Club.

VanGorder, whose daughter Morgan ran track for North Hall this year, was the guest speaker at the meeting that promoted this summer’s All Comers Track Series and honored Long, who won state titles in the 800-meter run and 1600 this year to give him a total of four state championships in his career at North Hall.

"I have a great respect and great admiration for runners," Brian VanGorder said. "I’m here on behalf of my daughter and to thank the people that made it a special year for her."

Morgan VanGorder, along with Long, will be continuing her track career next year at the University of Georgia, where Brian VanGorder was a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2001-04.

"I’m really excited, it’s always been one of my goals," said Long, who signed with the Bulldogs following his last visit to the school on Memorial Day. "It’s a big-time Division I program, and I’ll be able to stay close to home so my family can still watch me run."

While the events he will be competing in at Georgia are yet to be determined, Long hopes to participate in the 800, 1500 and 3000-meter runs.

"I want to be a contender for Nationals and maybe win," Long said of his future college career. "I want to use my potential, and I want to win."

According to the Falcons defensive coordinator, that won’t be a problem for the recent North Hall graduate.

"You’ve got it," VanGorder told Long. "Whatever it is, you’ve got it.

"It’ll be a process in the next four or five years," he added. "But if you can see that big picture and don’t get overly frustrated, there’s no telling what you can do."

Along with praising Long for his accomplishments and giving a brief insight into what to expect from the Falcons this year — "the team is very positive, has more energy and the players are excited about the change,"— VanGorder told the crowd why he has such an admiration for runners, despite not knowing much about the sport.

"What I do in football, it’s an easy motivational sport," he said. "It’s not hard to get motivated to come out and play. In track and field, with small fanfare, there’s no jumping around (to get pumped).

"It’s pure self motivation," VanGorder added. "That gives the athletes a chance to learn
something about themselves, who they are and who they want to become."

And unlike football, if a track athlete performs poorly, there’s no passing the blame.

"In track and field you get to look right in the mirror and if you didn’t do it, you’re looking at the person who failed," VanGorder said.

During a brief question-and-answer period, members of the running club were able to find out how VanGorder plans his schemes ("they really don’t change much from week to week"), what the strength of the Falcons defense will be in 2008 ("a young group with more experience under their belts"), whether he prefers coaching high school, college, or professional football ("They’re all different, but there’s an emotional attachment that’s unique to high school.")

When all the questions were answered VanGorder left the crowd, and Long specifically, with one message.

"Find something you have a passion for and do it," he said.

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