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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lunch with Dr. TO

So I was fortunate enough to hear TO speak at a luncheon this past Monday, he was tremendous. He spoke for 5 minutes before I realized: "Damn, this is really good stuff, I better take notes so I can remember this." Here's a synopsis of my notes.

Culture Building
- Building a culture has a lot to do with consistency, which was something that got away from us. Mike Babcock from Huskers Illustrated, wrote a book "Heart of a Husker," which is made up of interviews from past players and coaches. The common theme was consistency and how the players always felt cared for equally. Whether it was a 1st teamer or a 4th teamer, during the week, they all received equal attention in their education, attention from coaches, etc…Now he did say that on Saturday's, obviously your 1st teamers are more important, but from Sunday - Friday, everyone was equal.

- Positive Environment Lou Holtz, when he was coaching for Arkansas, called Tom up one fall and wanted to visit NU during his bye weekend and spend time with the coaches, to see how we do things. Lou was shocked about how positive the coaches always were, and how well the players responded. We would always try to correct mistakes, but we would never attack a person's character.

Tom never used profanity. He joked about how he wasn't as effective in expressing himself because he never used that type of language.

- Listen and understand - especially if a player is having problems. Tom said a players/humans strongest need is to feel understood. Once you can communicate that to your players, and develop that rapport, they'll run through brick walls for you. The "Pressure valve is released" when you're on the same page as the player.

- Empower the players Players felt they had a stake, the coaches allowed them to set their own goals, which were usually very lofty. The coaches would help them refine their goals.

Unity Council was developed to take the pulse of the team. It was comprised of 2 players from every position - QB, OL, TE/WR, RB/FB, DL, LB, CB/S, & ST. Would always have 16 people. The idea was for players to come to the council with issues that they didn’t feel necessary to go straight to the coaches with, or maybe weren't comfortable approaching a coach about. These issues would be relayed to the staff through the council. All sorts of issues from a wide scale of importance. Little things like they didn't like a pre-game meal, or movie, or didn't like the way the equipment guy was throwing their eqpt at them, all the way to serious issues.

The Unity council set the rules for disciplinary measures. They used a point scale, and he didn’t' explain the entire scale, but summarized: Missing class or a workout was 1 point, getting a misdemeanor was 4 points, felony was 5 points. Once you accumulate 5 points, you're suspended for a game. Lawrence Philips, under the disciplinary standards of the unity council, should have missed 2 games. He got 2 misdemeanors. Given the severity of the actions, they decided to suspend him 6 games.

- Recruiting - the 2nd season of football! Recruiting services (Don't buy into the Hype) - Told a story about Bo, while at LSU, looking at film of a recruit from Georgia. The player was highly touted, but they weren't interested in him after watching the film, however, there was another player that jumped out at him on the film: "Who's this guy?" He asked. So he had his staff research this player, they found him, talked to him, and offered him a scholarship. The next day after the offer, this player went from a ZERO star recruit, to a 4-Star!

When Trev Alberts was a HS senior, he wasn't getting any recognition from the 2 major recruiting services back in that day, so his dad called one of them up and said: "Hey, my son is a great player, and you don't even have him listed in your publication, what's going on." The service said, "Well, he might get noticed, and it would help if you'd send $100." So Mr. Alberts sent $100, and the next edition he was listed as a top recruit.

TO said they used to watch all the parade all-Americans on film during recruiting, and there were plenty of them that they thought "couldn't play a lick."

- This Year's class was a good recruiting class, considering what they went through. With our population base, it will always be difficult to recruit with Texas and USC.

- Walk-On Program - 29 walk-on's turned down scholarships this year to other schools. 2-3 of these guys turned down D-1 offers, the rest from lower divisions. These are guys that really WANT to play for NU, and he thinks "that is our edge" and "we can compete with everybody." His hunch, in 2-3 years, we'll (collectively) be able to accomplish some great things.

Told a story about former LB, Doug Colman. Doug was in his office last week reflecting with Tom about his experience as a Husker. Doug was a highly touted recruit out of New Jersey, he selected NU b/c we were a high profile program that he thought could help him get to the NFL. But what he found out when he got here was that this was a special place. You had guys from no where Nebraska busting their tail, making sacrifices for the team, so they could see the field on a few kick-offs. This work ethic, these sacrifices are what rub off on everyone, especially the out of state recruits. These Nebraska players are what it takes for the team to "Buy In" to the culture that is NU football.

- Culture is Fragile, can be lost easily…

- Character In recruiting, character is vital. TO personally met with all the scholarship recruits and walk-on, he thinks this class has very good character.

3 things to character:

1. Honesty - You can count on guys that tell you the truth.
- You can't promise play time, or say they'll start as a freshmen. This year there were no promises. When that happens, it leaves huge potential for a dicey situation. Next year, when that player isn't seeing the field, he feels betrayed.

2. Contribution - You have to find players interested in contributing towards the big picture.

3. Adversity - How well does a player respond to it?
- Adversity led to a tangent - TO said his first 5 years as a coach, they couldn't beat OU. We had good players, coached up real well, but OU had talent. Our QB's were traditional, drop back passers, good players, but not very mobile. OU had athletes that could scramble, make something happen, escape from the pocket, and run or throw for huge gains in vital situations. This would always be our Achilles heel. So that's when TO realized we needed mobile QB's to beat OU, to make it to the next level.

- Balance - Very important. Always tried to instill balance into his staff and players.
3 aspects to Balance:

1. Physical
2. Intellectual
3. Spiritual - Doesn't always have to be faith based. Could include community work, team building, anything to keep spirits high.

- TO has never given up on anybody. During his years as a coach, there were 5-6 players that were accused or convicted of something legally, and today, he said: "I'm proud of each and every one of them…except for one." Which he didn't say, but was easy to read between the lines, that person was/is LP.

After that, there was only time for 2 questions:

1. Where's LP today? TO - "He's in prison…well, not prison, but a correctional facility in CA. He was doing very well, actually, and I talked to him before his most recent infraction. He was coaching HS or youth football. His problem, was, is and something he'll always have to deal with is anger management. He was playing flag football with some youth and he thought they had stolen some of his property, wallet, or radio, or something, and he doesn't know how to manage his anger, so he responded by driving his car after the kids and may or may not have hit someone."

2. Can you talk about Team mates? Don't remember the answer.


Great stuff, Sambuca. I really couldn't be happier about this offseason. It's nice to have people who "get it" back in charge...
Phenomenal. Thanks a ton for taking notes and posting them.

Great, great stuff.
I was at the same luncheon, and you are spot on as to what was said by Dr. Tom. Well done!

Thanks for a great post. As a huge Husker fan living FAR away... I really appreciate it when people share stuff like this.
I am bookmarking your post. Keep posting good stuff dude!
I just came across your blog and reading your beautiful words. I thought I would leave my first comment but I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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