Paul George’s enthusiasm for UAB runs across his lips faster than Usain Bolt can complete a 200-meter dash.
“How many people say they get the pleasure of working at their alma mater?” asks George, director of development and external relations in the School of Engineering. “It’s great that I get to do that, especially at this point in UAB’s history. We’re starting to get the children of School of Engineering graduates coming here now, and that to me is one of the coolest things. It’s about creating these kind of legacies, and now we see ours taking shape.”
|Honorary coach Paul George is excited. He is excited to work for his alma mater. He is excited to see the children of graduates of the School of Engineering enroll at UAB. He is excited about the success of the second annual Blazer B.E.S.T. robotics competition. Most of all, he is excited that the Blazers defeated rival Memphis this season.
George is one of UAB’s biggest cheerleaders and a natural choice to be one of the football teams’ honorary coaches for 2009. George is the honorary captain for UAB’s final home game of the season Nov. 28 against Central Florida. He joins John Waterbor, M.D., associate professor of public health in epidemiology; Carolyn Conley, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of History; Daniel Anderson, creative writing program director; and David Sweatt, Ph.D., neurobiology chair and director of the McKnight Brain Institute. Each has been an honorary coach at a UAB home football game this fall.
George saw one of his on-field wishes become a reality this season when the Blazers defeated rival Memphis.
“Memphis is probably the team I really want to see UAB beat more than any other,” he says. “There have been such memorable, close confrontations with them in all of our sports here at UAB — some that turned out well and some that didn’t. And I think there is a healthy rivalry that has developed. If you’re a Blazer, you just always want to beat Memphis.”
George wears many hats in the School of Engineering; he primarily is responsible for fundraising. He recruits students from area schools, and he coordinates the Blazer B.E.S.T. robotics competition, which recently hosted its second annual event in Bartow Arena in which 25 teams representing more than 30 schools competed.
“We probably had 2,000 people come through Bartow,” he says. “I showed the 40 Years of Breakthroughs video that was produced for UAB’s 40th anniversary celebration a few times. It was a great day, and we have a tremendous amount of momentum heading into our third year.”
George recently spoke with the UAB Reporter on the privilege of being selected as an honorary coach, building the perfect robot for a football team and recruiting the smallest among us to become fans of UAB.
Q. What does it mean to you to be selected as an honorary coach for your alma mater?
A. As my grandfather would have said, ‘I couldn’t be happier if I was twins!’ I’m really thrilled to have been chosen for this honor. I see the growth of our athletics program as a key element in engaging our student body in university activities. When I see our students at athletic events painted up in Green and Gold and screaming until their voices are gone, it makes me incredibly proud.
Q. What’s your favorite UAB sports memory?
A. That’s tough. Certainly beating Kentucky in the 2004 NCAA basketball tournament is one of them. Beating LSU in football back in 2000 is another. I’ll never forget watching Rhett Gallego hit that field goal as time ran out.
Q. If you were a football coach and you could build one robot to use at any position, what position would you choose and why?
A. I would have to say quarterback. I know that all of the players have to think fast, but I am amazed to watch the split-second decisions that a quarterback has to make. They have to process information like a robot, so that would be my choice for a prototype robotic football player. And, if we can get started on this now, we can use Joe Webb as the blueprint.
Q. Who are you recruiting right now that you expect to be a future UAB star?
A. Students coming into our Engineering programs are highly motivated achievers. Some will go into industry, some will go on to graduate school, some will go to medical or dental school, and we think all of them will be future stars. Personally, my 10-year-old daughter Alana already is a raging Blazer fan — and it certainly would make her daddy happy if she one day found her college home here.