AUBURN – Al Pogue was a rising star, a big winner as head coach at Carver High School in Montgomery. One day earlier this year, he walked into his house and told his wife that, not only did he want to change jobs, he would take a significant pay cut.
Offensive quality control assistant Al Pogue/Bryan Matthews photo
As she had in his previous 13 years a coach, Nikita quickly offered her support. So did their two children. And Pogue accepted an offer from Auburn head coach Gene Chizik to be an offensive quality control assistant for the defending national champions.
“It was a hard decision, but it was an opportunity I felt like I just couldn’t pass up,” Pogue said earlier this week. “After taking some time and praying about it and discussing it with my wife, it just felt good.
“Coach Chizik and the staff have a great reputation for doing things the right way, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Pogue arrived at a historic time, shortly after Auburn won the BCS national championship. He said he found a staff focused as much on the young men who play the game as on the game itself.
“They care,” Pogue said. “They make sure guys get to class and they are there when guys have problems. The coaches always have an open-door policy. I thought when I came here it would be strictly football, but that’s not the case. You can take time to care for the kids.”
Pogue, a standout defensive back at Alabama State, quickly climbed the coaching ladder. He was an assistant at Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee, defensive coordinator at Sidney Lanier and head coach at St. Jude. He was head coach at Carver for three seasons, going 31-7 and advancing to the state semifinals in 2008.
And now he’s embarked on a new adventure.
“Mainly, it is just to get an opportunity to come in and learn and see how things are done on a major level of football,” Pogue said. “For me to learn how to do things from a head coaching standpoint from Gene Chizik was a great opportunity for me. I’m a self-proclaimed offensive guy now. To come in an have an opportunity to work with Coach (Gus) Malzahn and the offensive staff, for me I just felt like it was a win-win situation.
“Who knows what may come of it? It may be a situation where I say the college game isn’t for me, but right now I’m loving it. I just want to better my options.”
It will be a worthwhile experience, Pogue said, even if he eventually returns to high school coaching.
“I could definitely take away something I learned from those guys,” he said. “Either way, I think I’m going to be well-prepared for what God has in store for me.”
As a quality control assistant, Pogue doesn’t coach on the field. He does administrative work and breaks down film. But for him, the best times are the offensive staff meetings.
“I get to sit in on meetings and listen to a lot of key coaching points Coach Malzahn directs to the quarterbacks and group as a whole,” Pogue said. “I’m very fortunate. He’s a very meticulous planner. He has goals he wants to get accomplished every day. One thing I’ve learned is that planning is very key. I’m learning a lot from a technique standpoint and how to coach the intricate details from all the positions. It’s not just Coach Malzahn, it’s all those guys that are associated with the offensive staff.”
Pogue said he doesn’t know how long he’ll be at Auburn or where the path he has chosen will take him. Those answers will come.
“When I was at Carver, it was a team effort,” Pogue said. “I didn’t win those games by myself. It’s the same way here. I’m just part of the team. Whatever those guys need me to do, I’m going to dive into it and do the best I can.”