Former Auburn standout player and coach Rodney Garner, who helped the Tigers to a 2013 SEC Championship and a BCS Championship berth this year, returned to his alma mater this season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.
Auburn is tied for the biggest turnaround in college football history in NCAA records at +8.5 games. Garner coached senior defensive end Dee Ford, who was both a Coaches All-SEC first-team and Associated Press All-SEC first-team selection, and junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright, an AP All-SEC honorable mention pick.
An All-SEC player at Auburn in 1988 who previously coached on The Plains from 1990-95, Garner coaches the defensive line daily in practice. Garner spent the previous 15 years at Georgia in a similar capacity.
"Rodney is one of the top defensive line coaches in college football who has had great success in the Southeastern Conference," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. "We're excited an Auburn man came back home."
A native of Leeds, Ala., Garner was named All-SEC offensive line and honorable mention All-America as a senior at Auburn in 1988, captaining the team that captured the 1988 SEC Championship. As a coach for the Tigers, Garner served in several capacities on the Auburn staff from 1990-95 including recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach, and assistant strength and conditioning coach.
During his 15 years at Georgia, he was part of a staff that led UGA to 117 victories, two SEC Championships, five SEC Eastern Division titles, seven bowl victories and six top 10 finishes in the final national polls, including No. 2 in 2007 and No. 3 in 2002. He added the title of assistant head coach at Georgia in 2005 after serving as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia since January 1998.
In 2012, Garner helped the Bulldogs to an 11-2 record, the SEC Eastern Division title and a berth in the Capital One Bowl. The Georgia defense ranked 17th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 18.7 points per game. He was part of the 2005 Georgia team that finished eighth nationally in scoring defense (16.4 ppg).
The 2003 Georgia defense finished second nationally in scoring defense (14.5 ppg), fourth in total defense (276.86 ypg), sixth in passing defense (174.50 ypg, 1st in the SEC), while helping the Bulldogs to a divisional title. Garner helped coach the 2002 Bulldog defense that finished first in the SEC and fourth nationally in scoring defense (15.1 ppg), first in the SEC in red zone defense (58.8%) and second in the SEC in rushing defense (114.0 ypg). The 2002 Bulldogs finished 13-1, won the SEC and Nokia Sugar Bowl Championships and ranked third in the final national polls.
Garner participated in the inaugural Minority Coaches Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2006. He was also selected as one of 10 coaches to participate in the 2004 NCAA Expert Coaching Academy in Indianapolis and one of only 20 chosen for the NCAA's 2004 Advanced Coaching Academy in Orlando.
At Georgia he coached five NFL first round draft choices -- Richard Seymour (Patriots) and Marcus Stroud (Jaguars), both Pro Bowl starters; David Pollack (Bengals); Charles Grant (Saints); and Johnathan Sullivan (Saints). He also coached draft picks DeAngelo Tyson (7th, Ravens, `12), Geno Atkins (4th, Bengals, '10), Corvey Irvin (3rd, Panthers, `09), Jaruis Wynn (6th, Packers, '09), Kedric Golston (6th, Redskins, `06), Robert Geathers (4th, Bengals, '04), Emarlos Leroy (6th, Jaguars, `99), and free agents Ken Veal (Chargers, `04), Paul Snellings (Colts, 2000), Brandon Miller (Colts, 2000), Charles Johnson (Panthers, '07), Tyrone Robertson (Bills, 2000) and Demetric Evans (Cowboys, `01).
After his playing career at Auburn, Garner had a free agent tryout with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played with the Pittsburgh Gladiators arena football team in 1989. He began his coaching career at Auburn in 1990. Garner coached tight ends and offensive tackles at Tennessee in 1997 after coaching tight ends for the Volunteers in 1996.
Garner was an outstanding high school player at Leeds High School receiving many national, state and local honors. He is married to Kimberly Lawson Garner, a 1988 Auburn graduate in public relations. They have six children: Bridgett, Brielle, Jaiden, Kai, Sydney and Milan.