Former Gallatin High School student athlete Donnie Maib continues to power through life the same way he did 32 years ago on the gridiron for legendary coach Calvin Short and the Green Wave football team.
Following his graduation from Gallatin in 1988, Maib earned a varsity football scholarship to the University of Georgia, where he lettered from 1990-92.
He is currently the Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance for Olympic Sports at the University of Texas.
Growing up in Gallatin & learning to love football
Donnie’s father, Gene Maib, played football for Bud Wilkinson at the University of Oklahoma.
The younger Maib recalls not wanting to play football anymore after breaking his leg his eighth-grade year, but his dad forced him to play at least one more season before hanging up the cleats.
“I was terrified,” Donnie Maib recalled. “They cart me off the field after I break my leg, and I knew I was out for the year. I vowed never to play football again.”
Maib’s father told him that if he played one more season then he could quit the team. He did not know it at the time, but what his father was trying to teach him that if you fall down you need to pick yourself back up. During what Maib described as “those days” you had to either play football or sign-up for a normal class. Maib chose the latter. It was not until August that his father found out he was not playing football.
“Physicals roll around in August to start two-a-days, so my dad says we need to get one (physical), and that is when I told him I signed up for a regular class. He looks at me, leaves for town, comes back and says, ‘Get in (the car). I switched your classes, and you are playing football.’ So I go to play football my ninth-grade year and get beat up like a drum for the first month.”
Instead of quitting, Maib reached deep down and found the ability to fight back. Unexpectedly, he was rewarded for not giving up at the team’s banquet.
“The ninth-grade banquet rolls around, and I get the Most Improved Defensive Player Award. We leave, get in the truck, and my dad looks at me and says, ‘You can quit if you want.’ I never quit, and I learned that if you fall off the horse, you get back on. That has made a massive influence on who I am.”
Life was not always easy for Maib growing up. He grew up in a split household as his parents, Gene Maib and Rachel Kisac, divorced at a young age, and he leaned on Gallatin High School and the football program for support away from home. He also has stepparents in Thelma Maib and Mike Kisac.
“It certainly was not the easiest of times for me, but it was defining moments,” he said. “There are multiple layers to support and encouragement, and Gallatin gave me that. I look back with a sense of pride and gratitude.”
Maib learns life skills and passion as Green Wave football player
Donnie Maib was a three-year varsity member of the Green Wave football team.
Maib’s senior year, Gallatin played for the state championship but ultimately lost to Jefferson County to end the season at 12-3.
It was during his time at Gallatin that Maib grew to love the weight room, which is where his passion led him 30 years later. He lived less than 10 minutes from the school, which allowed him to get on campus early and lift weights before anyone else.
“I remember there were no lights, but I could do dips and pushups. I developed my love and passion for the weight room (at Gallatin). I am thankful for the resources provided.”
In a recent phone interview with the Gallatin News, Maib spoke with a sense of pride for his hometown.
“When I look back on my time spent, I can smile,” he said. “I am proud to be part of a great community, and as far as where I am today, I attribute my values, views of the world, how I treat people and manage my family came from my core values learned in Gallatin.”
Coach Short and offensive line coach Steve Duke are two coaches that stand out to Maib, who still has a close relationship with Duke.
“They taught me how to win in life,” he said. “Winning starts with you as a person. They were tough on me, but that tough love helped me reach a higher standard. They developed my strong work ethic and my thoughts of anything you want you have to work your butt off for and sacrifice.”
Duke, who served on the Gallatin staff from 1978-1996, spoke highly of Maib and is not surprised by his success.
“A very humble, quiet kid who was the type of kid you wanted your daughter to go to prom with,” Duke said. “He is a first-class gentleman and has always been a hard worker. He was a great player for me and is probably (among) the top two or three strongest athletes that have come through Gallatin High School.”
Added Short: “He was part of a good group to work with, and you just knew he would have success in whatever he chose. He was a heckuva player for us and an extremely hard worker who loved the weights. He was a 400-pound lifter, and at the time, that was big for a high school player. He was the kind of player that would lift after practice, and we would have to run him out (of the weight room).”
Life in Athens, Georgia, for Donnie was all about picking himself up when he got beat down. He found out quickly that he was no longer the biggest or most talented fish in the pond.
”I was not mentally prepared for that,” he said.
In high school, coaches like Duke would be critical but would pick Maib up. That relationship changed when Maib got to UGA. It was no longer a personal relationship business, but more so just a business.
Maib moved from the offensive line to defensive line just a few months into his career with the Bulldogs. He admits it took some getting used to.
“The (Georgia) offensive line coach was really hard on me critically, but there was not always encouragement from him,” Maib said. “So one day, coach Steve Greer (the defensive line coach) comes up to me during spring practice and asks me if I wanted to move to the other side of the ball. I told him I was ready when he was.”
Heading into his redshirt freshman season, Georgia brought in what Maib described as a “star-studded defensive line class.” After playing well in the spring and getting valuable reps, Maib fell to the scout team.
“As a redshirt freshman I think I will never see the field with these three freshmen in front of me,” he said “That is when I leaned on my core values of if you are going to get out of a situation you have to work your way out of it. For the first two, three months, I walked around all pouty on the scout team.”
As he did midway through his freshman year at Gallatin, Maib got tired of being pushed around on the practice field. He approached each practice with the mindset of beating the guy in front of him and making “life hell” for the game day starters. His play did not go unnoticed.
“I run into Coach Greer at the waterline, and he tells me he has been hearing good things about me on the scout team, and that is when I knew they were noticing me.”
A few weeks later the regular season ended, and Georgia was preparing for the Peach Bowl against Syracuse. That is when Maib was moved back to varsity and earned his first reps in live game action.
“The stuff I learned at Gallatin about not quitting and working my butt off got me to that point.”
After falling back down the depth chart to third string going into the next season, Maib was ready to leave the team, but a little self-reflection and a conversation with his dad would change his outlook. He didn’t know it at the time, but luck turned out to be on his side.
“A few weeks later, the starting nose guard leaves the team after failing out (of school), and then the nose guard in front of me got kicked out for stealing, so here I am starting my first five games that season,” he said.
Five games into the next season Maib was beaten out again for the starting job. He vowed then and there he would be back better than ever the next season.
“Going into my junior season in (1991) I went to train with the mindset of no one is beating me,” he said. “I trained at Middle Tennessee State University with Coach EJ “Doc” Kreis. I came back, and I ran a 4.8 40-yard dash with body fat under 10 percent. I knew the defenses like the back of my hand and started 11 games that season.”
Maib tallied 30 tackles at the two-technique and what he describes as a ‘few sacks’ that season.
He was preparing for the NFL Draft.
“Going into the spring game my senior year, I knew I could play any position up front,” he said. “I was so confident and comfortable. I was the strongest on the team, and no one could touch me in the weight room. I was ready to go pro.”
Life had other plans, however. Following a great offseason of getting bigger, stronger, smarter and faster, Maib was dealt a bad hand. He blew out his knee in the spring game and ended any hopeful run at the National Football League.
“My whole world collapsed,” he said. “I applied for a medical redshirt, and at that time, it was doubtful, so they denied me. I (had) surgery late, and it did not look like I would make it back for the season.”
Fast-forward to the end of the season, and Maib realized he was not going pro, and that his knee injury could turn into a lifelong ailment. Considering quitting, Maib realizes that this is not going to be the toughest obstacle he faces in life, and if he quits now, it will be much easier to quit later in life when things are much more difficult.
Though it was hard, Maib stayed true through the adversity and finished out his career on the gridiron with the Bulldogs.
“It felt like I went from being a hero to a zero,” he said. “I made it back for three games as the backup and had good games, but my knee was never the same.”
Maib earned some reward for his perseverance. He finished his career with a Senior Day victory over rival Georgia Tech with a fumble recovery, sack, tackle for loss, and a few pass breakups.
“It truly was a gift from the Good Lord,” he said.
After hanging up his cleats and being unsure of his career plans, Maib recalled a conversation he had with Doc Kreis the summer before his junior season.
“He mentioned to me that if I ever wanted to get into coaching, he would help me,” Maib said. “My passion for the weight room instilled in me by Coach Duke at GHS and passion for getting on the field at UGA led to my career choice.”
Building a life in Texas
Maib took a paid internship to work at the University of Colorado after graduation. After six months, Maib turned his internship into a part-time gig, and then after 18 months, he became a full-time assistant until his departure in December 1997.
In January 1998, Maib accepted the role of Associate Director of Football at the University of Texas, which he held until 2010.
“We had a bad year in 2010, and a bunch of coaches got let go,” Maib recalled. “During that time, (the University of Texas) created a new position, Director of Olympic Sports. They came to me with that new position and asked me if I wanted to be the guy to lead.
“I now oversee six people and manage three weight rooms,” Maib continued. “I made the career choice for my family and me to step away from football and go into Olympic Sports.”
Maib still works with the volleyball and men’s tennis programs and has overseen three teams that won national championships.
Now that Maib has transitioned from being solely a football coach, he can adjust to the new life ahead.
“I do a ton of professional speaking and presentations and have been doing that for over 20 years, and I can see my role doing more team leadership here in Texas,” he said. “I think my career path is headed that way. I still want to coach, but I want to do it in different capacities. I love working with people, and that goes back to my Gallatin days of learning to love teamwork, community and having a purpose.”
After graduating Georgia in 1993 with a B.A in Art, Maib earned an internship at the University of Colorado. He accepted a raise to work as an assistant with all varsity sports following six months in Boulder.
At the end of his time at Colorado, Maib accepted an assistant coaching role at the University of Texas working primarily with football and various other Olympic sports - women’s track and field, women’s golf, men’s golf, men’s tennis, soccer and volleyball, which he held from 1998-2007. In 2007, he was promoted to Associate Coach for Football before taking his current role as the Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance.
Maib is certified by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. He was honored at the 8th Annual National Conference of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association in 2008 with the certification of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach (MSCC), the highest honor for a coach in the strength and conditioning field.
He and his wife Karen have four daughters, Isabel, Anna, Evelyn and Olivia.