Former N.C. State running back and NFL veteran Gary Downs was announced the Buccaneers’ running backs coach on March, 4, 2015. Downs enters his fourth season with the Blue and Gold, while head coach Randy Sanders named him ETSU’s Recruiting Coordinator on May 3.
In his first three seasons, Downs' group was led by Jajuan Stinson and Falon Lee. The Buccaneer have both played in 29 of the possible 33 games in the first three seasons, with Stinson totaling a team-high 1,451 rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. Stinson ranked ninth in the SoCon in rushing in 2016, while he has registered five 100-yard rushing games between 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, Lee posted 851 rushing yards with two touchdowns in his three seasons with the Blue and Gold. ETSU's rushing attack accounted for three games with over 200 yards on the ground in 2016 - 323 yards against West Virginia Wesleyan, 238 versus Cumberland and 205 against Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In 2015, the Bucs also posted three games with over 200 yards rushing - 314 against Kentucky Wesleyan, 291 over Warner and 267 against Maryville.
In his first three seasons, Downs has seen five different running backs record a touchdowns – Jajuan Stinson, Falon Lee, Dontavius Monroe, Matt Thompson and Blake Rodgers. In 2017, Downs saw Lee post career highs in rushing yards (93) and rushing attempts (29) in ETSU’s win over VMI on Nov. 4. Lee and Stinson both posted touchdown runs in the win over the Keydets. The Blue and Gold also recorded two touchdown runs in the overtime win versus Mercer on Sept. 23, as Blake Rodgers first collegiate touchdown run pulled ETSU even at 20 with 4:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. Stinson would later win the game on a 25-yard reception in overtime to cap off the 26-23 victory. Stinson ended the season with five receptions for 71 yards and the one touchdown, while Lee added six receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, ETSU is 5-1 over the last three seasons when rushing for over 200 yards.
Downs – who has spent three seasons as head coach at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga. before coming to Johnson City – played for former ETSU offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain at N.C. State during the early 1990s, earning Academic All-ACC honors and was an All-ACC selection, finishing third all-time in rushing touchdowns and 10th in rushing yardage for the Wolfpack.
Following his college career, Downs was drafted in the third round of the 1994 NFL draft by the New York Giants. Downs was a special teams leader for the Atlanta Falcons during its 1998 NFC Championship season, and he played seven seasons with three different NFL teams before retiring in 2001.
Downs began his high school coaching career with Riverside in 2003, serving as running backs coach. Downs went on to serve as offensive coordinator for Riverside from 2004-06 -- a period during which the Eagles won the 2005 Georgia Independent Schools Association state championship and played in the GISA semifinals in '04 and '06. From 2007 to 2011, he served in the role of offensive coordinator and head coach of track and field at Mount Pisgah Christian School.
Along with his prep coaching experience, Downs also had a brief stint as an Atlanta Falcons’ coaching intern and one season as running back coach with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.
Coach Downs and his wife Tanya have a daughter Kameron, and sons Joshua and Caleb.