Why did you choose the college you chose?
“My father always told me to be sure where I went because it was going to be the best four years of my life. He told me to pick a school I liked and respected. I went to Colgate. I loved the guys who went there and the head coach, Fred Dunlap. Still to this day, I speak to him a couple of times a year. Those gentlemen, that organization and the feel I had there was outstanding. If somebody said to me right now, ‘You could have gone to Penn State or Ohio State,’ I would not have traded that for what I got from Colgate. The memories, good football and tradition we had there was the best.”
What was your best collegiate experience?
“I never really had that one special moment, it was just a great time all the way through. My dad was right about those four years being a big part of your life. I guess the lowest and highest moment would be when I didn’t get drafted by an NFL team, so the best and worst are wrapped together. I was touted to get drafted when they had 12 rounds, and I didn’t. I was frustrated and upset. During that time, playing in the NFL was the only goal in my life. I was fortunate to get a free agent tryout with Washington. It was the best experience I ever had because I had a place to pick, rather than being selected somewhere where maybe I didn’t fit into their scheme. I ended up making the team, so what started out as a negative (not getting drafted) really impacted my career in the best way.”
When did you first think about a career in football after your playing days?
“Probably my junior year. I was playing well, and that’s (a pro career) what I was looking for. That year, I had a couple of good games and I started to think maybe I had a chance to take it past college.”
What is your favorite quote on football, leadership, etc. that has shaped your career the most? Explain how/why/when you found it and how you have applied it.
“I like, ‘Make bad into good.’ You always have to do that. Whatever the bad is, there is always a good part of it. I don’t believe in chance. There is no such thing as chance. You make your chance. That’s the type of person I am. I just remember coaches back in the day saying, ‘Make bad into good.’ I remember that in college, maybe some of the players saying it. I’ve seen it work. It is basic, but it works. Shake and bake, baby. I’m a big movie guy. I love movies and quotes and lines in movies. My brothers and I have been quoting lines from movies for years. ‘Shake and bake, baby,’ that was from Talladega Nights. (I use) just anything to get guys pumped up and motivated to play for you. I got motivated for my coaches. That’s one thing about Tony Dungy, you wanted to play for him and you wanted him to succeed. One year I was placed on injured reserve with a lacerated kidney. That was when you could come back and Tony told me, ‘You’ll be back.’ We lost a game I wasn’t playing in and I felt bad in my heart for Tony that we had lost a game. That is the type of feeling you try to draw from your players.”
How much of coaching is coaching the sport and how much of it is teaching young men?
“Being a coach, number one, you have to be a teacher. You have to teach them on their frame, and everybody’s different. The second thing is, you have to be a psychologist, ‘How do you get to that player, and what does he have success and failure at?’ The longer I am in it, I see you have to read your players and know what works best for them. Is it walk-throughs? Is it pulling them off to the side? Is it spending extra time with them in the mornings? You find what works and do it again in the meetings. Some players are like that. You have to be a psychologist to figure out how they learn and how to motivate them. Sometimes you joke with them, sometimes it’s other ways. The season is long, it’s strenuous, it has highs and lows. You have to get each player through that every week. It’s a challenge. There are different ways to challenges players, and even the coaching staff itself. You find a way to skin the cat.”
What is the geographic area where you have lived or worked that you like the most?
“We’ve been in the San Diego for the last 10 years. My wife, Laurie, likes the sun. When I was playing, we had a place in the Boca Raton area. We like the beach. Anywhere there is a beach is good.”
What is your greatest football moment prior to the NFL and in the NFL?
“In college, I really didn’t have one. In college, it was just the whole experience. It was fun playing football and playing for the guys on the team. In the NFL, it was fun when I made the All-Madden Team. Being named to that showed a little respect for what I was doing as a special teamer. I never made a Pro Bowl. I was a second alternate one year for the Pro Bowl, so making the All-Madden Team was a good moment.”
What is it about football that drives you the most?
“Winning and competition is the thing. I don’t want to lose. I don’t want a guy to get ‘one up’ on me. That’s my mentality. I was that way when I played, and going against another coordinator it’s the same thing. I get upset when I knew a team was going to do something and I didn’t call something the way I should have called it. I’ll never take back a call, but I like the chess match of going back and forth and strategy against other coaches. I like the match-up mentally. It’s a stimulating part of the sport, and I like to compete.”
Do you find it that relationships along the way mean more than accomplishments, or do the two go hand-in-hand?
“It’s the relationships. I’ve never been to a Super Bowl. I can’t wait to get there and get a chance to coach in one. I always wanted to play in one, but I’m too old now. The tightness of a group is what you like, and that tightness comes over time. It’s a trust. I tell guys in meetings, ‘Just because I’m wearing a team’s logo on my chest and hat, it doesn’t mean you should respect or trust me right now.’ It comes with a lot of time and energy and experiences together. You go through so many challenges, emotions, highs and lows, you do form relationships, and that is what you remember. Like I said, I still keep in touch with my college coach. Relationships can last for a long time.”
Do you have any rituals or superstitions?
“As a player, I had a lot. Just the way you taped your fingers, the way you put your shoes on, how you tied your shoes, which bathroom you went to, there were so many. As I player, I did them all the time. You don’t know why. It was just me, not a group of guys. As a coach, I don’t have any. You know how you have to prepare yourself and others. Preparation is the key, and it trumps any ritual or superstition. Leave nothing to chance.”
If you weren’t coaching, what would you do?
“I probably would be teaching high school. That was my plan when I retired from football and before I started coaching. I thought I would retire to Titusville, Pennsylvania and teach. I was going to teach math. I was pretty good in math, until I got to analytical geometry. The very first class blew my mind and I had to get out. When I went to the first class and the teacher said, ‘You should know this form and you should know this form,’ I didn’t know them. There was a girl in my dorm that asked me, ‘You don’t know that?’ I said, ‘I’m out of here.’ I knew I had to get out. That analytical geometry class blew me away. I had seen others reach their limit in mathematics, and I met mine. Before then, I was fine in mathematics. It did help me, though. My kids, Colton, Jake, Logan and Chandler, ask me, ‘What do I need this for? What do I need to have math for?’ I tell them I use it a lot, and I do in how I look at films and break down percentages. I tell my kids to keep an open mind and learn.”
Who is the most memorable player you have coached or been around?
“There were so many – Joe Montana, Jimmy McMahon, Roger Craig, Doug Williams. A player I really respected was when I was in Washington was Monte Coleman. He played linebacker there for 13 years. I really respected the man and the aura he had around him. He was a great man. Monte had his life right, great kids, great family, great career. I respected him for that.”
It had to be a fun time playing there, wasn’t it?
“It was a lot of fun. The fans were very passionate. We played in RFK Stadium, a tough place for the visitors. The place rocked all the time. The stands would go up and down. I played with some great players – Ricky Sanders, Art Monk, the Hogs up front, Mark Rypien. They were a talented bunch of guys.”
Your career likely has kept you from traditional holiday celebrations. Do you have one that stands out in particular?
“Mostly it’s Christmas, of course. There have been a couple of times when we had to play road games. There were some long trips, especially being on the West Coast with San Diego. Sometimes we had to fly east, and we left a day early. You missed a few traditional Christmas celebrations, and I loved those. We always tried to put it a day ahead or behind so we didn’t miss it as a family.”