NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Rhett Lashlee tried to get away from coaching's endless grind of film study, practice and recruiting trips. He really did.
No. 2 Auburn's whiz kid of an offensive coordinator got out of the business after the 2006 season at Arkansas, getting married and running a high school sports magazine for a year and a half or so.
Lashlee turned down a chance to follow Gus Malzahn, now the Tigers' head coach, to Tulsa in a decision that flummoxed his mentor and others.
"He wasn't really happy with me," the 30-year-old coordinator said Thursday. "He thought I was crazy like everybody else, and rightfully so."
When Malzahn called again with an offer, Lashlee jumped back into coaching as an Auburn graduate assistant from 2009-10.
It doesn't look like he'll be leaving the business again anytime soon.
Malzahn and Lashlee have forged the nation's top rushing offense and ridden it into Monday night's BCS championship game against No. 1 Florida State.
Though they have different personalities, they've been around each other since Lashlee was a quarterback running Malzahn's no-huddle offense as an eighth-grader in Springdale, Ark., before setting national records under him at Shiloh Christian High School.
Lashlee is affable and laid back and often sneaks out of the office either for a jog or to pick up a takeout lunch to break up the monotony of the marathon days. He even danced with the players in the locker room after the Alabama game.
Malzahn is studious, reserved and all football, for most of his 20 waking hours a day.
The combination seems to work awfully well despite the occasional marital discord during the heat of the moment.
"If you are on the field with us, looking over at the sidelines they are like a married couple fighting sometimes," Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah said. "I'm telling you, they are back and forth, 'We need to do this, we need to do this.' And coach Malzahn will say some stuff and it's constant back and forth, and that meshes together perfectly.