ATHENS, Ga. - Tony Ball joined Georgia's football coaching staff on Valentine's Day 2006, and he's been enamored with the program ever since.
Ball was hired by head coach Mark Richt at a time when changes were rare. Mike Bobo, John Eason, David Johnson, Neil Callaway, Rodney Garner, Jon Fabris and Willie Martinez were assistants who had been with Richt since his inaugural season in 2001 when Ball was added, but now only Bobo and Garner remain.
"I'm very fortunate to be on Georgia's staff and working with the type of guys I work with and to be coaching in the SEC," Ball said this past week. "I have not thought about me being the third-longest on this staff. I just enjoy this profession, and I enjoy working with the young people."
The 53-year-old Ball is several months older than Richt and the eldest assistant. He coached running backs during the 2006-08 seasons before taking over the receivers, which is the same position he coached for eight years at Virginia Tech before coming to Athens.
Ball has helped mold a first-round NFL draft pick at each spot, coaching tailback Knowshon Moreno in '06-08 and receiver A.J. Green in '09 and '10. Entering Saturday night's game against Florida Atlantic, receivers Tavarres King and Marlon Brown already had 100-yard games this season.
"I think Coach Ball is an outstanding coach and a great technician," Richt said, "and there is no stone left unturned when he does his job. Our guys have responded to him."
A graduate of Brainerd High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Ball expressed interest in the UTC vacancy following the '08 season. He was not among the three finalists, however; those were current Mocs coach Russ Huesman, current Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and current UT-Martin coach Jason Simpson.
Asked if the window had closed on him becoming a head coach, Ball said he wasn't sure.
"One of the best coaches [Jerry Moore] in the Southern Conference right now got his opportunity at App State later in his years, so who knows?" Ball said. "It's all about who you know, and then, when the time comes, are you prepared to take the reins of that program? In some cases at some programs, it may be closed, but it all depends on what you're looking for.
"I don't know if I want to be here another 10 or 15 years, because I don't know if I'll be in coaching that long. I've always tried to take it one day at a time and one year at a time."
Though he may be the oldest member of Georgia's staff, Ball will never be labeled the most laid back.
"He is the most intense guy I've ever met in my life," Brown said. "Even in the meeting rooms he's loud. He has so much energy it's crazy. If things are going right, he's still going to get on you."
Said running backs coach Bryan McClendon: "He does a great job of coaching those guys, and he knows how to get his point across."