Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Former Tide Walk-On Returns to Tuscaloosa as Buccaneers' Offensive Coordinator

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Former Tide Walk-On Returns to Tuscaloosa as Buccaneers' Offensive Coordinator

Article excerpt

The University of Alabama didn't recruit Gabe Giardina. It was the other way around.

Giardina grew up in State College, Pa., where his father worked in the Penn State athletic department as director of marketing and promotions for 17 years, but he knew he wanted to try to play somewhere else in college.

He picked Alabama, and reached out to the coaching staff of then- head coach Mike DuBose.

"I just wanted to make my own path a little bit," he said. "I felt like God wanted me to go somewhere that wasn't home.

"I was recruiting the school more than they were recruiting me."

He had a good senior year in high school and got an invitation to walk on as a non-scholarship player.

By the time he graduated in 2004, Giardina had played in nine games and seen DuBose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Price come and go as head coaches, and Mike Shula begin his tenure. Still, he wanted more.

"I had to fight, bite and scratch just to stay on the team as a player," he said. "I volunteered (to coach) for Mike Shula for a year, working for free."

Shula elevated him to a graduate assistant position a year later, and Nick Saban kept him on in that capacity when he was hired in 2007.

"It was a great experience," he said. "Met my wife there, got two degrees from there and absolutely love Tuscaloosa."

Giardina gets to experience Tuscaloosa again on Saturday when he returns as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Charleston Southern. His players at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school are excited about playing against a major- college national title contender. The coach is excited about coming back to where he got his start.

"You try not to hyperventilate too much," he said. "It's fun to be nostalgic about it, but then you're trying to get your guys prepared.

"It's been on the schedule a while. There's those natural emotions of it's cool to go back there and play, but then you get back into your season and the things this team has been able to do and how hard this bunch of guys play for each other, we've got guys that really love each other and a staff that loves the kids."

Jamey Chadwell, head coach of the Buccaneers, sees the passion Giardina brings to the program.

"A tireless worker and does a great job with the kids, loves his kids and he's fun to play hard for," Chadwell said. "Gabe does a great job with our offensive line and also as our offensive coordinator. He brings a great edge every day. He's a typical offensive line guy, always looking for some way to motivate, and does a phenomenal job."

Giardina was a backup kicker at Alabama.

"He also helps our kickers," Chadwell said. "He's always there as a reminder for them, so he's a big reason why we're having success."

Charleston Southern brings a 9-1 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium and has already secured the Big South league championship and a berth in the FCS playoffs. …

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