By Alex Norman
The East Tennessee Mt. Rushmore of Coaches (if there was such a thing) would find room for George Quarles.
For 18 seasons, he was the biggest reason why the football program at Maryville High School turned into the most respected in the state, and one of the best in the nation.
Last week it was announced that Quarles would leave Maryville for an assistant coaching job at FCS level Furman University, his alma mater in Greenville, South Carolina. The news was first broke by John Brice of 247sports.com.
Quarles will join the staff of new head coach Clay Hendrix, a former Air Force assistant coach.
The success that Quarles had with the Rebels is impressive. In his 18 seasons as head coach, Maryville advanced to at least the championship game 15 times, including 12 in a row from 2004-2015. Since 2000, the Rebels have not failed to at least make it to the semifinals.
They won 11 state titles under his direction, and compiled an overall record of 250-16 since 1999.
At the high school level there is nothing left for George Quarles to prove, and there hasn’t been for quite some time.
His name did pop up on a fairly consistent basis for jobs at the college level. Most recently, Quarles was reportedly offered the head coaching job at a Division II level school over the past few weeks, but turned it down.
Quarles almost got a job coaching in the SEC, and it nearly happened very close to home.
Back in 2008, Tennessee was shaking up their coaching staff after David Cutcliffe quit as offensive coordinator for the second time, in that instance to take the head coaching job at Duke. Phillip Fulmer hired Richmond head coach Dave Clawson to fill that spot.
At the same time the Vols needed to hire a new wide receivers coach to replace Trooper Taylor, who left to take the co-offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma State.
Quarles interviewed for the newly open wide receiver coaching position, but Fulmer chose to go with a member of Clawson’s staff at Richmond instead, Latrell Scott.
It likely was a blessing in disguise for Quarles, as the Vols struggled in 2008, finishing 5-7. Fulmer and the entire coaching staff would be dismissed after the season.
Instead, Quarles stayed at Maryville, and continued coaching a team that ended up winning an incredible 74 straight games from 2003-2008.
Quarles very easily could have stayed at Maryville for the rest of his coaching career, continued to pile up wins and state championships, and set coaching marks that would never be broken. But he decided that this was the time to make the jump.
For that reason, he should be applauded. He is taking on a new challenge and with the support of his family, will move back to the place he went to college, but has not lived for decades. Quarles is an East Tennessee guy, playing at Jefferson County High School. Blount County is home, and there will be an adjustment in leaving the state.
But it won’t be a surprise to see Quarles help the Paladins return to success. Furman was 3-8 last season, and Quarles will hit the ground running in recruiting in talent rich South Carolina.
George Quarles was also one of the good guys, polite to fans and media alike, and his presence on the sidelines on Friday nights will be missed.
East Tennessee’s loss is Furman’s gain.