HAMMOCK: Give and take works as Matthews climbs coaching ladder

A healthy marriage requires some give and take, a process that Robert and Laura Matthews seemingly have mastered.

Robert gave up his initial career goal back in 2005, when he resigned as Shiloh's head football coach to support his wife Laura, then an assistant women's golf coach at Georgia. Laura had the opportunity for a dream job as Oklahoma State's head women's coach, so the couple packed up and moved to Stillwater.

The former high school coach at Oconee County (1999), Camden County (2000), North Gwinnett (2001-02) and Shiloh (2003-05) didn't have a job, but he moved anyway for his wife's opportunity.

"When I first started, my goal was that I wanted to be a (former Valdosta High head coach) Nick Hyder, a longtime high school head coach in the state of Georgia," said Robert, a Duluth grad who was hired in late December as South Alabama's offensive coordinator. "But God opens doors for you and you trust that you're making the right decision. Had we not made that decision (to follow Laura's dream job), all these other doors wouldn't have opened."

Robert slowly found his way back into coaching while Laura was at Oklahoma State, catching on as the Cowboys' coordinator of football operations in 2006. He was promoted to director of recruiting in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, then finally got an on-field job in 2009 as Oklahoma State's quarterbacks coach.

Laura had built a strong women's golf program at Oklahoma State during that span and had a big recruiting class coming in, but she resigned so Robert could pursue a path in college coaching. The couple then moved to Hattiesburg, Miss., where Robert spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons on Larry Fedora's staff at Southern Mississippi, serving as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator this past season.

Just as Robert had done several years earlier, Laura made a sacrifice for her spouse and left college coaching.

"We made a decision three or four years ago that we wanted to have a family and we knew once that occurred that (Laura) continuing to be a college coach would be difficult," Robert said. "We knew chasing two careers in college coaching would be difficult, so we made the decision for our family. ... It was tough. Laura was great at her job, now. She could be a top golf coach tomorrow anywhere in the country."

That's not her focus at the moment, though.

Laura is expecting the Matthews' first child, a daughter named Lilly, in April. Meanwhile, her husband's college football coaching career is on the fast track, too.

Robert had an opportunity to join his good friend Fedora at North Carolina following Southern Miss' 2011 season, when it was 12-2 and won Conference USA. Instead, he opted for his first college coordinator job at South Alabama, a rising program that is transitioning to FBS play and into the Sun Belt Conference.

He plans to use a good portion of the offenses he was a part of at Oklahoma State and Southern Miss, employing a one-back spread attack that puts an emphasis on running the ball. He's thrilled with his new job, which allows him to take over Georgia as his recruiting area and "get heavy" in recruiting his home county of Gwinnett.

The coordinator position also keeps him on track for his future goal of being a college head coach.

"Yeah, it is a goal (to be a head coach)," Matthews said. "I don't want to look too far down the road, though. My goal is to help South Alabama and make an impact on the lives of the players and coaches here. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be a head coach."

That dream is beginning to look like a reality, thanks to the professional sacrifices he and his wife made along the way.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.