In-depth interview with Churchill head coach

Coach Carl Gustafson of Churchill High School in San Antonio, Texas has been at the helm for the Chargers for eight years. Four of those years he has tutored quarterback Nick Fanuzzi. Fanuzzi committed last week to the tradition-rich Alabama Crimson Tide. Coach Gustafson talked with about his star athlete.

Rebecca Johnston: Nick's stats from his senior season?

Coach Carl Gustafson: Nick had 182 rushing attempts for 1,007 yards or 5.5 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He attempted 194 passes and completed 102 for 1,533 yards. He had 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

RJ: Tell us about coaching Nick Fanuzzi.

CCG: He's an outstanding young man. He has tremendous leadership skills on the field. He is a very hard worker. He is a student of the game, one of those guys that you have to chase out at the end of the day because is a very driven, determined young man. He will be successful, I think, because of those reasons. He is an outstanding athlete. He has good size (6-3 205), speed and strength. The intangibles of his work ethic and his leadership coupled with his athleticism that he has developed because of his work ethic just make him into what I think is going to be a tremendous player at the next level.

RJ: Do you believe his biggest strength is his overall talent?

CCG: I think his athleticism. You know, as a football coach, we put him in a system offensively where he could help us in every phase of the game. He was back in the shotgun and as you can tell by his stats. He had a lot of rushing yards as well as throwing the football. He can hurt people and beat people with his arm because he has a very strong and accurate throwing arm, but he is also an excellent runner as well. He adds so many dimensions to your offensive team just because of his varied abilities. Some guys are great throwers and some guys are great runners, but he is both of those.

RJ: Do you know one thing that he might need to work on or a perceived weakness?

CCG: Oh gosh. I just wish he could work on it here another year. There really are no weaknesses in his game. There really is not. He was such a joy to coach because obviously we loved his athleticism. You take those intangibles of his commitment level, his determination and his leadership skills, and I just don't see any weaknesses. I think that's one of the reasons I'm so sold on him, and that he is going to be a great success. He is just the total package to me.

RJ: How long was he your quarterback at Churchill?

CCG: He got hurt his sophomore year in the first half of the first game of the season. He was playing quarterback. He was competing with a senior at the time for the starting job. We were going to let them both play an equal amount in non-district games, and then make a decision on who the starter was going to be when we started district (games). Well, he got hurt the first game with a season-ending injury. The next two years he was our quarterback.

RJ: His sophomore season was a knee injury, and I know he hurt his shoulder. When did that injury occur?

CCG: He hurt that (shoulder) mid-season his junior year. I don't know if you know this about him, but as a freshman he played running back for us. In the 40 years of our school, and we have a great tradition in athletics, he is, as far as I know, the first freshman to play on the varsity football team. He played running back the last six games of that year and averaged 100 yards rushing per game.

RJ: How fast is he?

CCG: He is going to run a 4.6 flat in the 40 (yard dash) and may now be in the 4.5s.

RJ: If you had to compare him to a known-quantity quarterback?

CCG: I think I would have to stay at the collegiate level just because they allow those guys to run. I'll just say this. We adapted our offense to fit Nick and where we went to get our offense was the University of Texas with Vince Young. Vince obviously is a one of a kind, but Nick has a lot of those same qualities because he is a great runner. He is big and strong, but he is still very fast. He has a very strong arm, and he's very accurate throwing. So, I would say Vince Young.

RJ: Do you think the fit at University of Miami wasn't as good as it is for him at the University of Alabama?

CCG: Obviously, I think that is probably a question for him. I know he loved the (Alabama) campus. He loves the coaches. I believe the uncertainty at Miami because of the coaching change (and delay in the offensive coordinator hire) hurt. When he went and had his official visit at Alabama and got to know their coaching staff that was it. Nick grew up here in San Antonio. Their quarterback coach that came in with coach Saban is Major Applewhite. Major was the quarterback at the University of Texas and is held in very high esteem in this area, just having an opportunity to be coached by Major Applewhite. He is also very impressed with coach Saban. Obviously it is a tradition-rich school. (It is) kind of a one of a kind when you talk about stuff like that. I just think he sees that he's going to have an opportunity to compete. They are going to have other great quarterbacks, and he's going to have to compete. With the comments that Nick has made to me he believes strongly that he can win the job eventually. He has decided that once he wins the job he wants to be where he really wants to be the quarterback. It just felt right to him when he went on the visit.

RJ: Talk about what affect you think a young coach like a Major Applewhite, who has been very active in youth football camps in Texas, might have for Alabama in recruiting at least for the immediate future.

CCG: Well, I don't know the answer to that. I do know that the perception out here right now, especially with people that I have talked to is that obviously coach Saban brings in a lot of credibility, a lot of confidence, and experience at having a lot of success. He has put together an outstanding coaching staff. I think all of those things factor in. People feel really good about the direction of that program right now. I think there is something exciting about getting in on the front end of that and being a part of bringing Alabama back to where they need to be. I think all that is intriguing and exciting.

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