Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Dell McGee
Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Few people have figured as prominently in Georgia’s ascent to the
summit of college football as Dell McGee, the Bulldogs’ run game
coordinator and running backs coach.
A man who takes compelling pride in his work, Dell has tutored a
slew of outstanding running backs in his time in Athens, and he’s built a
reputation as a stellar recruiter. But he’s done so in a low-key style that
neither seeks nor attracts attention.
Dell is a very private man who belongs to the fraternity of men whose
action speaks louder than words. Yet no one relates to high school football
prospects more effectively than this man. He communicates with them as if
he were their favorite uncle. He builds instant rapport and a bond that feels
as secure as Fort Knox.
Once Dell connects with a prospect, you can pretty much apply the
modus operandi of the Royal Mounted Police. “He always gets his man.”
Among those he has recruited and/or coached are Sony Michel, Nick
Chubb, and D'Andre Swift, as well as NFL draftees from the championship
team, James Cook and Zamir White.
Born in Columbus, GA., Dell moved with his family to Alameda, Calif.,
when he was three years old. They returned to Columbus when he was in
He was soon excelling at all athletic activities. He was good enough
at Kendrick High School to get the attention of Coach Pat Dye’s staff at
Auburn, and he signed with the Tigers. When Dye retired after the 1992
season, Dell finished out his playing career with the Tigers, enjoying first-
team status as a nickel back.
A memorable moment for Dell came in the Iron Bowl against
Alabama in 1993. His fourth-quarter interception of quarterback Jay Barker
helped preserve a 22-14 Auburn victory. Beating Alabama is always cause
for celebration on the Plains, but this win capped an undefeated, 11-0
season and extended what became a 20-game win streak for the Tigers of
coach Terry Bowden.
Dell enjoyed a brief professional career that included stints with the
Arizona Cardinals, the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, the Detroit Lions and the
XFL. He began a coaching career in the high school ranks, highlighted by
seven successful years at Carver in his hometown. All seven of his Tiger
teams won 10 or more games, including a 15-0 campaign for the state AAA
championship in 2007.
Today, he looks back on his time with Dye, a former Georgia All-
American, as an invaluable learning experience. “Coach Dye taught me to
be a man,” Dell says. “He made you aware that little things can be very
important, that you should never complain about hard work and that
everything should be black and white—no gray area.
“He was a down-to-earth guy whose competitive nature was obvious,
and I learned a lot from him. When it came to recruiting, he had the view
that it was important to be yourself and know everything there is to know
about the kid you are recruiting.”
Time spent with Dye and Terry Bowden was important in developing
his own recruiting philosophy. It begins with his widespread contacts. Dell
knows high school coaches all over the country and they respect him, his
work ethic and his integrity. They know kids will be in good hands if they
Finding out as much as possible with a high school prospect is given
the highest priority with Dell, who makes it his business to find out who
influences the prospect, who he listens to most often and who he seeks for
Further, it is important to learn about the prospect’s work ethic, his
character and his attitude about his academic status. Dell maintains
rapport with kids when he signs them, even when he is not their position
To learn about a kid as an athlete, he places high emphasis on
videotape study. He reviews tape at his home office, even on the phone
when he is on an airplane.
With an ability to relate to any kid, regardless of his background, Dell
recruits the parents, too. He wants them to know their son’s best interest is
of paramount concern for him as their coach.
“It is pretty simple,” he says. “When a parent gives me their son, I
want to return him as a man.”