ATLANTA — Bill Curry said he was speechless for about 20 seconds when first asked if he wanted to be Georgia State's first football coach.
The old center couldn't respond, but his racing pulse gave him his answer. Curry, who has spent the last 11 seasons working as a college football TV analyst, wanted to be back on the field.
Georgia State had its coach.
Curry confirmed Thursday he has agreed to a five-year contract to take over Georgia State's program.
The 65-year-old coach said he was surprised by his response to the proposal from Georgia State athletic directory Mary McElroy in late May.
"I sat there in a stupor for several seconds and I said 'I'm shocked number one that you would propose this possibility and I'm shocked even more by the fact my heart is pounding out of my chest and I'm sitting here thinking about blocking sleds,"' Curry said.
Curry's last year in coaching was in 1996 with Kentucky, where he was 26-52 in seven years, but he said he has remained current while working for ESPN.
The players Curry recruits for Georgia State will know him primarily for his TV work.
"It has given me an opportunity to study for roughly 250 football games in which I was responsible for learning the offenses and defenses for both teams," Curry said, adding he has earned "a PH.D. in football strategy."
"It's been fun and I like it, but I love coaching," he said.
Georgia State plans to sign its first recruiting class in 2009, have its first spring practice later in 2009 and begin play in 2010. The Panthers will compete in the Colonial Athletic Association and will play their home games at the Georgia Dome.
Georgia State must build a practice facility, weight room and offices for Curry and his future staff.
It won't be quite the same as taking over as the coach at Alabama, where he won the Southeastern Conference championship in 1989.
"The logistical issues are staggering when you start a football program," Curry said.
Curry, who grew up in Atlanta, played at Georgia Tech from 1960 to 1964. He coached the Yellow Jackets for seven years in the 1980s before moving to Alabama in 1987 for a three-year stay. He coached at Kentucky from 1990-97.
Overall, Curry is 83-105-4 in 17 years as a coach.
Curry played 10 years in the NFL with Green Bay, Baltimore, Houston and the Los Angeles Rams, but his heart remained in the college game.
Former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who has served as a consultant for Georgia State for 14 months, was the first choice as McElroy sought a coach with strong name recognition.
Reeves said that he, like Curry, still has a desire to coach, but he said he thought Georgia State needed leadership from someone with experience as a college coach.
"It's not like I didn't think about it from the start," Reeves said. "I didn't think it would be fair to Georgia State.
"I told Mary early if you can get Bill Curry, it's a slam dunk."
Added Reeves: "My heart and soul is coaching in pro football. ... If an opportunity came in pro football I would be excited about that."
Reeves said he will continue to raise money for the new program.
McElroy said she immediately shifted her focus to Curry.
"I said what have we got to lose by going after him?" McElroy said.
"I dared hope he was still interested in coaching. And here we are. My parents taught me anything is possible, so dream big. I went for it and so it's paying off."
Curry held up a blue Georgia State T-shirt when introduced Thursday. On the back were the words "Still Undefeated."
"I cannot wait to get on the field," Curry said. "Football will be a huge success at Georgia State University. That's a promise."