December 3, 2005 Springdale High, Arkansas head coach Gus Malzahn celebrated with his team in Little Rock's Memorial Stadium, after Springdale defeated West Memphis High 54 - 20 to win a state championship. Five years and three days later, Malzahn now the offensive coordinator at Auburn University, joined in another championship celebration. This time it was in the Georgia Dome as the Tigers defeated South Carolina 56 - 17 to win the South Eastern Conference Championship.
Gus Malzahn has covered a lot of ground in his five short years as a college assistant. In his first college job he helped the Arkansas Razorbacks win the SEC West, next he produced the top offense in the nation for the Tulsa Hurricanes, and this year he helped the Auburn Tigers win their seventh SEC Championship. Highly competitive, he has been compared to a mad scientist with his hurry up offense, array of formations, motions, trick plays, and the practice of memorizing his game plans
Like his boss Gene Chizik before him, he has won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. And like Chizik after the 2004 and 2005 seasons Gus' name keeps popping up as a possible head coach. Last year he was offered the Louisiana Tech job. This year his name was mentioned in connection with the jobs at both Vandy and Colorado.
He turned down a reported $15 million dollar offer from Vanderbilt to remain with the Tigers. Gus said that when he and his fellow coaches were hired at Auburn two years ago, Gene Chizik convinced them that "special things could happen at Auburn."
In the ensuing two years, special things have happened at Auburn. The Tigers have produced a Lombardi Award Winner, a Heisman Winner, an SEC Championship, a number one ranking, and a birth in the National Championship game.
In turning down the Vanderbilt job Gus said, "This is a special place. We've got a great head coach and I love working for him. These players are a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to be a part of this. I feel very blessed."
Auburn's offense set new school records last year; records that were shattered in 2010 as the Tigers ran up 6,470 yards of total offense and averaged close to 500 yards with a scoring average of 42.7 points per game.
There has been talk in some circles that this year's offensive success has been primarily due to Cameron Newton. However, a look at Malzahn's record reveals that that he has developed a highly successful quarterback everywhere he has been - Springdale, Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn.
Last year he took Chris Todd, a drop back passer with a bum arm (that the previous staff had given up on) and turned him in to a record setting quarterback. He builds his offense to fit his personnel, so it's not the quarterback, it's the coach. And Gus Malzahn is the absolute best at what he does. Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs knows that too. He recommended doubling his salary before he received the offer from Vanderbilt. It was a raise that made Gus the highest paid assistant in the nation at a public university.
Of course it does not compare with what he turned down at Vanderbilt. After making the decision to stay on the Plains he was asked if he would ever want to be a college head coach, he responded "Some where down the line, I'd like to. I'm in no hurry. We've got business to take care of here (at Auburn)."
The fans are certainly grateful with his decision to turn down the dough and remain at "this special place." And January 10th in Glendale, Gus will be doing his part to help the Tigers take care of business.
Go get 'em Gus and War Eagle!