HAMMOCK: Sturdivant excited about IMG Academy job

Special Photo Parkview grad Joe Sturdivant coaching the Marsburg (Germany) Mercenaries last season.

Special Photo Parkview grad Joe Sturdivant coaching the Marsburg (Germany) Mercenaries last season.

A big Florida State fan as a kid, Joe Sturdivant never would have imagined being in this situation.

His boss is former Seminole and 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. One of his co-workers is former FSU wide receiver E.G. Green.

"I had posters of (Green) on my wall," the Parkview grad said. "He was one of my favorite players growing up."

The former FSU stars and NFL players are now in leadership roles at a well-known private school in Bradenton, Fla., Weinke as head coach of the IMG Academy football program and Green as offensive coordinator. Sturdivant was hired in February as the team's defensive coordinator.

The IMG Academy is well known for training high level athletes in numerous sports --tennis, golf, basketball and others --and has stepped up its involvement in football in recent years. The latest addition is a high school football program headed up by guys like Sturdivant, Weinke and Green.

They coached 27 IMG students through spring practice. The hopes are for a roster of 40 or more high-schoolers for this fall's debut season. The IMG team, headed up by quarterback and Penn State commitment Michael O'Connor, isn't eligible for Florida state titles but has scheduled matchups with big Florida powers for this season.

"Our goals, even as a start-up program, are big," Sturdivant said. "We have four ex-NFL players on staff and our coach is a Heisman Trophy winner, so we want to be competing for a national championship right off the bat. With the players we believe we will have and the players that are here right now, we can do that."

The prestigious academy allows athletes to get the highest level of training in all areas, from sports to leadership to eye conditioning. What's eye conditioning, you ask? Sessions designed to strengthen the eye muscles.

The high school students also work on their high school education alongside students from 80 countries at a steep price --tuition for a day student is $52,700 per year and it's $66,400 for a boarding student.

"If you go to IMG, you're focused on school and football," Sturdivant said. "It eliminates all the other stuff."

An interesting journey through the coaching world landed Sturdivant at IMG.

After a standout career at SMU, his late father's alma mater, he played professional football overseas in Germany, Austria and Italy. He also coached in Europe, most recently as head coach and defensive coordinator of the Marburg (Germany) Mercenaries.

During the offseasons, he coached for First Baptist Academy in Dallas in 2009 and 2010 and for Parkview in 2011.

His unique resume found its way to IMG, which resulted in a phone call from Weinke.

"We talked for a long time and he called back and offered the job," Sturdivant said. "It all happened fast."

The 28-year-old is excited about the opportunities at IMG, where college and professional coaches and athletes are frequent visitors. When he isn't coaching, he works camps and helps with training of athletes, like this year's pre-combine workouts with NFL Draft prospects.

"When you walk into the weight room here, there's always some kind of NBA or major league baseball player around," Sturdivant said.

While he's helping others improve, Sturdivant has his own personal goals, too.

He wants to become a better football coach, his chosen field after being inspired by his mentors in the past, dating back to his time at Parkview, when his football team won state titles his final three seasons and won 45 straight games during that span.

"My goal's always been to be a head coach one day, a college head coach," Sturdivant said. "IMG is a great place for me to get better and learn from our coaching staff."

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.