What is the geographic area where you have lived or worked that you like the most?
"There have been so many places I have lived in and they've all been great but if I had to pick a favorite, it probably was when I was in San Francisco. The weather was always nice. There was no humidity. With no humidity, you could sit outside in the evening and there would be no bugs. The only thing tough about being out there was the ground shook (earthquakes) a couple of times. That's not a fun experience at all. Really, though, all the places I've lived, I don't really look at it as areas, I look at it as people. I've been very fortunate to be around some great people, some great (coaching) staffs, some great universities and some great programs. I have been in places where you can grow as a person, places that stimulated your thinking. I go more by people I've been around. I've been in some great situations in that regard."
Who is the person most responsible for you to make it to professional football and/or the NFL?
"It's probably a combination of people – my family, my wife, my immediate family and my friends. I have a great support system, people who really support me. It's not any one person. It's a group of people. Obviously, I've been around some of the best coaches in the game. I have been lucky there, both on the college and pro level. It hasn't been just the head coaches I have been around. I have worked with some very good coordinators and position coaches, too. I also have been around some great players, and I can't overlook that. They all have played a role in my career."
What is your greatest football moment prior to the NFL and in the NFL?
"There have been a number of great times with the different places I've been. One of my favorite moments was when I was at Purdue in 2000 and we beat Indiana to clinch the Rose Bowl berth. It was the first Rose Bowl that Purdue made since around 1967. You could see how much it meant to the people there and to the alumni who were everywhere. There have been a number of great moments. When I first started coaching at Plymouth State, we had an undefeated team (in 1982). Those are great memories. At Syracuse in 1991 and 1992, we were 10-2 both years and went to a New Year's Day bowl game where there weren't many of those. As far as NFL moments, I wasn't in the league that long but we had some adversity in San Francisco when Thomas Herrion died in the locker room in Denver after a preseason game (in 2005). We won the first game of that season because the guys hung together. Guys banded together and really supported his family during a tragic time. It was a terrible time and a tragic loss for his family. We were proud of how our guys responded in a very difficult situation."
What is it about football that drives you the most?
"The thing I love about it is the aspect of teaching, then watching the guys get better. You see them progress, get better and improve at what they do at their position. You like seeing how a player's improvement impacts his position group and how it impacts the team. Obviously, the competition is something that drives you tremendously. This is a league of competitive people, and you have to perform to your talent level on a regular basis. The best teams play to their talent levels on a regular basis. Seeing how players improve, how you can help them do it and to see the results on the field help make this what it is for me."
Do relationships drive you as much in football as do accomplishments?
"Relationships drive you more than accomplishments. Without great relationships, you don't have accomplishments, in my opinion. If the guys really know that you care about them and you have their best interests at heart, they will lay it on the line for you. That is true at any level of the game. When you build relationships, it is done so on trust. They have to trust you, and you have to trust them. You have to believe in each other, support each other and know you have each other's back. That is a big thing in this sport. Those teams that do it have accomplishments. Success is not always dictated on wins and losses. That can be an unfair barometer. You're judged on wins and losses, but success is not dictated on it."
Do you have any rituals or superstitions?
"Not really. I'm not one of those superstitious guys who have to wear the same pair of socks or shirt. I never have had one. I never had one as a kid."
If you weren't coaching, what would you do?
"If I weren't coaching, I would be working with young people in some capacity, whether it's teaching or counseling of some sort. I really enjoy working with young people."
Do you have a memorable player or players in your past that come to mind?
"There have been a number through the years because I have been fortunate to have great guys around me. One of my favorite all-time players is one who passed away – Kevin Mitchell, who I had at Syracuse. He was a second-round pick for the (San Francisco) 49ers. He also played for New Orleans and Washington, and he passed away about six or seven years ago. He was a young man about 30 years old who had sleep apnea. He had just finished his career. Kevin was a fun player, a fun guy. He was a character. Kevin played nose guard for me in the Big East when the conference was really good with Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. He played nose guard at 6-2 and 237 pounds, and he dominated the field of play. Kevin's enthusiasm, attitude and spirit were infectious. Kevin always made you laugh. He was fun to be around. Nothing got him down, and he was tough as nails. There are others, too. I had a great group of linemen at Purdue. They were all good players and fun to coach, guys like Akin Ayodele, Shaun Phillips and Ryan Kerrigan. At Washington State, we had a bunch of characters on that defense. Kevin would be one of my all-time favorites, rest his soul."
Your career likely has kept you from traditional holiday celebrations. Do you have one that stands out in particular?
"Not really. The majority of the time at Christmas, you were involved in the post-season. The thing I remember the most in college was that your family would travel with you to the bowl games. You would try to make Christmas with kids on the bowl trips. Watching them enjoy Santa Claus and those times in general was fun. I don't think there was anything I missed because it always was my job during that time of year."