By Kyle Lovern
ATHENS - Gilbert native Garin Justice has literally turned the football program around at Concord College.
Justice enters his fourth year as Concord University’s head football coach in 2014. He was named the 18th Mountain Lion head coach back in January of 2011.
Since being hired by Concord, Justice has led the rejuvenation of a football program that had went 0-11 as recently as 2008. Over his three year reign as head coach, Justice has compiled a record of 22-11 (.667), already the third highest winning percentage and eighth most wins by a head coach in CU history.
“We’re excited about the program and pleased with all the hard work everyone has put in to get to this point,” Justice said. “When I came to this program they were 1-21 before we showed up.”
Since then, Justice has helped lead the Mountain Lions to one conference championship and a subsequent NCAA Division II playoff appearance.
Justice was a 3-sport star at the old Gilbert High School. He played football, basketball and baseball. He became an All-State lineman in football, which led him to getting a scholarship offer to West Virginia University by former coach Don Nehlen.
Nehlen retired, which paved the way for Rich Rodriguez to take over the Mountaineer program.
Justice stayed the course where he became a solid contributor to some of WVU’s best teams in the early 2000’s.
Being a West Virginia native, Justice likes to give in-state players a chance if he thinks they can contribute.
“Our philosophy is that if a kid from West Virginia is good enough to play and contribute to our program – we’re going to look at him,” Justice stressed. “Alex Lee of Mingo Central is a good example.”
Lee signed with Concord last spring and is expected to do well at the next level.
“I was a local kid and hopefully I can give other kids an opportunity if they are good enough and work hard,” Justice added.
Justice became known in his home state as a 3-year starting offensive tackle for the Mountaineers. A hard-working lineman, he was captain of the 2005 Mountaineer squad that went 11-1, defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and ended the season as the fifth best team in the country according to the final AP Poll.
That season, Justice earned All-Big East honors and was a Sporting News second team All-American. He was also the Big East Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Justice graduated from West Virginia University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s Degree.
“Garin’s pedigree in college football is fantastic,” Concord Director of Athletics Kevin Garrett said. “He played at West Virginia for Rich Rodriguez and Rick Trickett. He worked for Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher and Trickett at Florida State. He had a chance to learn from some outstanding coaches and he’s done great work here.
“Garin is a man who grew up in southern West Virginia and is now coaching in southern West Virginia. That means a lot to everyone here,” said Garrett. “Garin Justice and Concord football have a bright future.”
At Concord, Justice’s teams have been known for their nationally-ranked defense as well as an offensive strategy that has provided the Mountain Lions the opportunity to win through an aerial attack or via a ground-based offense, depending upon personnel.
On Justice’s watch, 50 players have been All-West Virginia Athletic Conference or All-Mountain East Conference selections while two athletes earned WVIAC Defensive Players of the Year accolades in addition to 18 all-region selections and eight All-Americans honorees.
2013 was one of his finest seasons to date: Concord went 8-3 and narrowly lost out on winning the inaugural MEC title and earning a playoff bid. Concord tallied three-year highs under Justice on offense in points per game (26.6) and rushing yards per game (167.9). Just as impressive was Justice’s defense which posted three-year lows in points allowed per game (14.2), rushing yards allowed per game (108.4) and passing yards allowed per game (159.7).
Defensively, the Mountain Lions ended the season ranked third in the nation in points allowed, third in total defense, third in third down conversion defense, third in first downs allowed, fourth in passing yards allowed and 27th in turnovers forced.
Concord’s special teams unit also excelled in 2013 under Justice by ranking sixth in the country in blocked kicks, seventh in punt return defense and ninth in net punting.
Offensively, the Mountain Lions recorded the 24th best time of possession total in all of NCAA Division II.
Justice originally went to Concord in January of 2009 as the offensive line coach and strength & conditioning coordinator on former coach Mike Keller’s staff. Justice played a prominent role in Concord’s remarkable turnaround after its 0-11 season in 2008.
In 2009, Justice’s first year on the CU staff, the Mountain Lions went 6-5. In 2010, Concord was 8-3, winning eight games in a season for the first time in 19 years.
Prior to his arrival in Athens, Justice spent two seasons at Florida State University as an offensive graduate assistant, offensive videographer, and weight room graduate assistant. Justice helped develop four freshmen All-Americans and two All-Atlantic Coastal Conference performers. He completed his master’s degree from Florida State in sports administration in 2008.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University in 2006 where he worked with the offensive line and helped Dan Mozes win the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center.
Justice married the former Casie Coughlin at Concord University on July 7, 2012. The couple’s first child, Juliet Blake, was born on May 20, 2014.
His new baby girl has kept him busy this summer. He has been getting up at night and helping with feeding and changing diapers. But Justice knows all about responsibility and working hard, so it’s been a thrill having his new baby girl in his life.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be head coach at Concord,” Justice said “I have a great sense of pride to be able to coach at the university my family holds in such high regard. I’m thrilled and excited for the opportunity.”
(Info from the Concord College web-site was used in this article.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)