George Coghill has taken a piece of every coach he’s been associated with throughout his football career.
Coghill aims to meld those segments together as he embarks on his first varsity head coaching experience.
The Fredericksburg native has been named head coach at his alma mater James Monroe. His hiring was approved by the Fredericksburg City School Board Monday night.
Coghill, a two-time Super Bowl champion safety with the Denver Broncos, had been the program’s interim head coach since the Yellow Jackets parted ways with sideline chief Rich Serbay in February after 35 years.
“It’s come full circle,” Coghill said. “I remember growing up and watching guys like [former JM stars] Larry Boxley and Charles McDaniel playing for the Yellow Jackets and dreaming as a kid of one day putting on that uniform. When I got to the age to put on the orange and black, it made me appreciate it that much more … I knew if one day I ever got into coaching it would be at JM.”
Coghill, 50, said his coaching philosophy will stem from the leaders he played for and coached under. He noted he’s been mentored by three Hall of Fame coaches.
He played under Virginia High School League Hall of Famer Serbay for three years and coached under him for 10 seasons in three separate stints. He also served as an assistant under VHSL Hall of Fame coach Lou Sorrentino from 2013-17 at Mountain View.
Coghill was the freshman team head coach and varsity assistant under national hall of fame coach George Clayton at Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla, from 2010-12.
Coghill said he plans to take on some of Serbay’s fieriness and the leeway he gave his coaching staff, Sorrentino’s meticulous planning and Clayton’s community engagement.
Coghill also played under Mike Shanahan with the Broncos and the late Bill Dooley at Wake Forest.
“I’ve had the opportunity to learn under some of the best,” Coghill said. “You get a good feel for the strengths of each one of those coaches. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to pull from that.”
Coghill has been a part of all four state championship teams at JM. He was a quarterback, defensive back, wide receiver and return man for the 1986 and ’87 state title winning teams.
He was an assistant coach in 1996 and 2008 when the Yellow Jackets knocked off Brookville to culminate each of those seasons with a state title banner.
After graduating from JM in 1988 he moved on to Wake Forest where he was a two-time all-Atlantic Coast conference performer.
He was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 1992. After suffering a torn knee ligament in an exhibition game in Tokyo, Coghill was allocated to the World Football League’s Scottish Claymores.
He became the Claymore’s all-time leading tackler (123) and interceptions leader (six) and was inducted into the franchise’s hall of fame.
Coghill was signed by the Broncos in 1997 and was on the practice squad when Denver defeated Green Bay to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl at the end of that season.
He was a reserve safety and special teams force the remainder of his career, including in 1998 when he made the first and last tackles of the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory over the Atlanta Falcons to culminate that season.
“George is not only a decorated football player, he is a sharp football mind who will lead our program and continue its winning tradition,” said JM newly hired athletic director Kenton Griffin. “I’m excited about the future of the program on and off the field.”
Coghill retired after the 2002 season and worked as a loan officer from 2003-04. He rejoined JM’s staff from 2004-09 and said he was thrilled to help out any way he could.
“High school football is the purest form of football there is in my opinion,” Coghill said.
Coghill departed the Yellow Jackets for Lake Brantley—a school of more than 2,700 students—for three seasons. He returned to Fredericksburg and joined Sorrentino’s coaching staff at Mountain View as the wide receivers and defensive backs coach.
Sorrentino said Coghill strikes the right balance between wanting to win and allowing players to enjoy high school competition.
“Obviously he’s got the resume as a player to get kids’ attention and respect,” Sorrentino said. “But beyond that I think he has a good rapport with the kids and he has great perspective. He realizes it’s high school football. I think he’s definitely out there for the best interest of the kids.”
Coghill’s been back at JM since 2018 and spent last season as the associate head coach. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 9-4 season last fall. They reached the Region 3B championship game where they fell to Goochland in Serbay’s final contest.
Serbay’s departure was met with concern from the community and coaches across Virginia, including Sorrentino, who said he remains close friends with his former roommate.
There was a petition on change.org that was signed by more than 1,500 requesting his reinstatement. Three supporters spoke out against his dismissal at the March School Board meeting.
Coghill said he doesn’t feel any added pressure because some members of the Fredericksburg community wanted Serbay to have one final campaign.
He said his focus is on building character and not just adding to the school’s trophy case.
“I think we’re going to grow as a team in ways not so much as wins and losses because that’s not what I’m about,” Coghill said. “We’re going to be about producing good kids and prepared citizens for this community.”