How G.J. Kinne's football journey led him to a perfect opportunity with Gus Malzahn, UCF

ORLANDO (Fla.) -- G.J. Kinne and Gus Malzahn are just steps from one another on the UCF practice fields, right next to the quarterbacks. Before the passing drill starts, Malzahn animatedly points at the receivers. Kinne listens and then backpedals as a defensive back, his eyes on the signal-callers.
It's hard to believe Kinne is still here. Kinne might have had a different experience with two transfers, one in high school and one in college. He wouldn't likely be sitting next to Malzahn on a hot and humid Florida day.

Kinne and Malzahn met for the first time in 2008 at a Tulsa Spring Game. Kinne, a freshman quarterback, was contemplating his college options and couldn't believe what he saw. Motions and formations that made this self-described football junkie marvel at the game and say, "I have never witnessed this before." This is so cool!

Malzahn was the one who designed it all.

Kinne is 32 years old and enters his first year as the Knights' co-offensive coordinator.

Expectations are rising with Malzahn being the head coach. However, UCF welcomes back Dillon Gabriel as the nation's best quarterback. Gabriel threw for more than 3,000 yards each of his first two seasons with UCF. Gabriel and the Knights hope to open the season on a high note against Boise State when they host them at home on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App

Kinne now has more to his mind than just X and O's, even though everything is complete. Kinne has a rich pedigree. The offenses they managed led to his high school coach, four college coordinators, or position coaches, becoming collegiate head coaches.

Kinne seems to be on his path to joining them, thanks to the circumstances which brought him to this point. It may seem that Malzahn is the thread that began it all, but Kinne could not have made it to Tulsa without the worst day of his life.

Kinne stated, "That goes back at this question: Is it a God-given thing that led me to this path?" It is. It is crazy to even consider it.

G.J. Kinne was a part of practice squads in the NFL for a brief time before he switched to coaching full-time. John Geliebter/USA TODAY Sports

G.J. G.J. Gary Joe, a former assistant coach at larger schools in larger cities in Texas, arrived in Canton, Texas, a town of 3,500 people. This raised eyebrows when he revealed that G.J. As a 14-year old freshman, he would be his starting quarterback.

Gary Joe stated, "We didn’t know them and then they didn’t know us." "You can go to small towns and they are usually close-knit, and they are skeptical. G.J. G.J. All eyes were on him. He always says that he plays because his dad is the coach.

Canton High won its first playoff win since 1964. Canton High went 8-2 the following season and G.J. was a popular recruiting target. The pace of change began to pick up. Gary Joe and G.J. They believed that the program's success would have earned them more acceptance. But one man broke those illusions in April 2005.

Gary Joe was sitting in his office when Jeff Robertson entered and shot Kinne in her abdomen. He then fled the scene. Robertson was previously banned from campus sporting events after multiple incidents where he confronted coaches regarding his son's playing times.

G.J. was quickly found by school administrators. G.J. was in class and, when he got to the field house to check on his progress, he found the floor covering the offices of the coaches covered in blood. Gary Joe lay on the floor in the weight room, waiting for a helicopter that would take him to Tyler's nearest hospital. Gary Joe was not responsive, but G.J. G.J. grabbed Gary Joe's hand and squeezed. He didn't know if his father would survive or die in those moments.

G.J. said, "I got the freedom to say what I needed." "

Robertson did not testify at his February 2006 trial and the motive for his absence is still unknown. Robertson was convicted for aggravated assault and possession in a prohibited location of a deadly weapon and sentenced to 20 year imprisonment.

Gary Joe survived but needed a lengthy recovery due to the fact that he had lost 80 percent of his liver. Although he was in hospital for 100 days, he was determined to return to coaching during the football season. Gary Joe was shot in the leg four months before he returned to coach his first game. Gary Joe led Canton to the quarterfinals despite a setback that saw him return to the hospital.

Gary Joe stated, "I wasn’t going to let this beat me." "I didn’t panic when I got shot. My survival was aided by the skills I learned as an athlete: perseverance, focusing on the task at hand, and perseverance. He wasn't going win, the guy who shot me. I was going back. "I wanted my children to know that their dad was strong enough for this."

Despite his success with the football team, tension continued. There was much tension as people took sides, which led to a difficult and sometimes awkward environment for the family, particularly as the trial began. G.J. G.J.

Kinne stated that Robertson's son was still at school so she would see him in the corridors. "In school, people would point out children and say to me, 'Yeah her mom sat beside Robertson's.' He grew up in the area, so he is part of the community. His family was there and, as with all people who love someone when something happens, they loved him. It was becoming too bizarre. It was getting too weird.

Gary Joe took a job at Baylor as an assistant before the 2006 season. G.J. was one of the best quarterback prospects in Texas and decided to transfer to Gilmer. Gilmer is one of the most prestigious programs in Texas. He was familiar with Gilmer as Canton defeated Gilmer in the 2005 state playoff matchup. Coach Jeff Traylor also had a track record in developing top quarterbacks. However, the circumstances of his transfer were fraught with controversy. Kinne claimed he was seeking a new start. However, Traylor was accused by Kinne of illegally recruiting him and was forced to explain the transfer after receiving complaints from rival schools.

"I've repeated this a million times: It was the easiest thing for me not to take G.J. Kinne because I knew all of the heat we were going catching for taking him," Traylor, who is now head coach at UTSA, said. He was a lightning rod and it was not well-deserved. He is a wonderful human being. It makes me feel terrible for those who don't want to root for G.J. Kinne

Kinne was not promised the starting job by Traylor, but a quarterback injury opened the door to Kinne. Kinne had another great season in 2006, throwing for 3,216 yard and 47 touchdowns, with only one interception. Kinne also ran for 400 yards with 11 touchdowns.

He ranked No. 3 in high school history for passing yards at the end of his high school career. He ranked No. 3 in state history for passing yards. Kinne said that he felt accepted by the Gilmer community, even though he was not playing football.

G.J. said, "Going to Gilmer was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me because I learned so many football skills and the community embraced and loved me." " It was amazing to see all the happenings in Canton.

This decision changed his life. Tulsa and Malzahn were both attracted to a new school.

Kinne was committed Baylor but began to get interest from Texas while at Gilmer. Both father and son were in trouble. Mack Brown, then-Texas coach, called Gary Joe at Baylor to offer not to recruit G.J. If it made him uncomfortable, he would not do it. Gary Joe was determined to do the best for his son. G.J. G.J. believed that he would let his father down if he decided to decommit, but he also felt he had the chance to grab it, even though he knew he would be following Colt McCoy.

"Growing up Texas... it’s the University of Texas. G.J. said that they had just won the national championship with Vince Young. G.J. said. "It was hard for sure, but it was okay with my dad because it was Texas and Mack Brown."

His knowledge of the game, and his ability to connect with players were both impressive. It was only a matter time before he became an off-the-field coach. Chad Morris, G.J. Kinne

Kinne was determined to try it. After a year, Kinne realized that he wanted to be part of a program that would allow him to be a multi-year starter. Kinne visited Tulsa where Todd Graham was the coach. Graham was a high school friend of Gary Joe and offered him his first high school coaching job at Allen High in 1995.

After promoting the up-tempo spread offense in high school Arkansas, Malzahn was appointed to his second job as offensive coordinator at the college level. Kinne described an "instant" connection with Malzahn who reminded him of Traylor. Kinne stated, "I felt really comfortable with him and the plan that he had for us and the offense." "I understood his plan very well. "I wanted to be in that system."

Kinne immediately made an impression upon his arrival. Malzahn stated that it wasn't about Kinne's talent. He was a competitor. You could see his coach mentality in all of our quarterback meetings. He was always going to be a great coach. He was my first year of coaching.

Kinne was forced to miss his first year at Tulsa due to NCAA transfer rules. However, he watched Malzahn lead the No. Kinne was forced to miss his first year at Tulsa because of NCAA transfer rules. However, he watched Malzahn lead the No. 1 offense in the nation and knew it would be his turn. Kinne was disappointed when Malzahn left the team to become the Auburn offensive coordinator.

Kinne was a Tulsa offensive coordinator each year, and had a new head coach his senior season. Malzahn, Mike Norvell, and Chad Morris became head coaches. Kinne was Conference USA Player-of-the Year under Morris in 2010. Kinne's final year at Tulsa was under Bill Blankenship as his first coach. He had 3,495 yards total offense and 31 touchdowns.

A young quarterback could lose his job if he has to learn under every offensive coordinator. Kinne took what he loved and learned from every coach. He knew that he would one day be able to use all the knowledge he had gained.

After signing as a free agent with Philadelphia Eagles, it happened again in the NFL. Chip Kelly, the head coach at the time at Oregon, had great success with the no-huddle spread and Kinne immediately felt at home when he opened his playbook. Kinne, though he was only the fifth quarterback on the roster saw the opportunity to help others. He was a close friend of Mark Sanchez who he first met while they were playing for the New York Jets. Sanchez, who had never played in a pro-style offense before, was unfamiliar with the spread.

Kinne stated, "I was fighting to get my spot in 2014, but at the same, it goes back and I knew that I wanted to coach those guys." "Because these concepts were something I'd done before and none of the guys had ever run them, it was my way to help the team."

Kinne was on the practice squad but Kelly wanted him to switch to receiver in 2015. One caveat was that Kinne wanted to be in the Eagles' quarterback room with Ryan Day, position coach, to help them in their future connection as a head coach. Kinne knew that his days as a professional football player were over. Since he was doing it every day, he began to think about coaching.

G.J. was hardened by watching his father fight for his survival in high school. G.J.'s determination about his future was clear: He would continue to push forward to become a coach. He was proud of his accomplishments, but he was also determined to follow his dream and become a coach.

G.J. Many of G.J.'s coaches, including his dad, started at the high school level. G.J. G.J. After what happened to his father, he was determined not to coach high school. His conviction to coach was strong. G.J. said, "My dad always taught me that if you play as long as possible, the coaching will be there." G.J. "And the more experience you have and the more networks that you build, the better your career will be."

He was well-connected in the NFL but also at the college level. Morris hired him to be a graduate assistant at SMU. This would be his first Tulsa connection on his collegiate coaching journey.

Morris stated that Morris's "his knowledge of the game and his ability to relate with players were both impressive." Morris said, "I knew it would be a matter of time until he became an off-the-field coach. He certainly could transfer that knowledge to his athletes."

G.J. G.J. Terrance Coakley/UCF Athletics

Kinne was an offensive analyst for Morris in Arkansas, and then took the opportunity to coach quarterbacks under Graham in Hawaii. Tulsa connection No. 2. Malzahn called after just one year. Kinne's story was his to continue following, and he needed someone who knew how to handle Malzahn calling plays. Tulsa connection No. 3.

Malzahn stated, "I had my eyes on him." "Even though I was unable to coach him, we formed a bond. It's one those coach-player things, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. You get real close."

Kinne and Gabriel have been working together since his arrival. They quickly became friends. Even though Kinne was only there for a year, the experience has been invaluable. Gabriel is also from Hawaii and this connection has been a great help to them both.

Gabriel stated, "After living in Hawaii for a whole year, he understands my culture and why I act the same way that I do." "I haven't had that since high school, and now I have it, he is someone I can talk to about any topic really."

Kinne, a veteran of the system, will provide Malzahn with the input he needs. Gabriel described the dynamic between them in the film studio, where they spent hours discussing concepts and plays for the season.

Gabriel stated, "That's something that I'm really grateful for because they accept my thoughts and really like what I was thinking. And we're always on the same page, which can be hard to find."

Gabriel stated that Kinne constantly challenges him in the filmroom with questions about his progresses or the defenses he may see. He also advises him on what to do if he feels pressure. Kinne has forced him to think faster about what he needs to do and how to anticipate everything that might happen once the ball is snapped.

Kinne believes that Gabriel's accuracy is already there. He compares Gabriel to Nick Foles or Sam Bradford, two of the most accurate quarterbacks he knows. Kinne is impressed by Gabriel's film study work, as Gabriel is learning a completely new offense.

Kinne stated that some of the things we're doing are protection-wise, which they might not have done in the past. He was able pick it up and asked the NFL questions. These are questions that players who have been in the league for five to ten years ask, and not necessarily one who hasn’t done it before. It was amazing.

Kinne is also learning from Malzahn in the same way that he learned at Tulsa all those years ago. Malzahn may be able to help Kinne take the next step in his career development.