With the cadence of a pastor, the verbiage of a football coach, the passion of an Italian mother, and an unfamiliar and strange accent not from Texas, Matt Rhule introduced himself to Baylor University as its new Head Football Coach Wednesday afternoon. In front of over 2,000 members of Baylor nation, along with new colleagues Scott Drew and Kim Mulkey, Rhule gave a passionate speech about why he chose Baylor and what he is planning to bring to the banks of the Brazos.
The energy and passion for working with kids and developing them into men was apparent right from the start. That passion and endless drive are what attracted Baylor to Rhule. Both of those attributes will be needed to rebuild the Baylor program.
"I am truly honored and humbled to join the Baylor Family," said Rhule, "and I can't thank President Garland and Mack Rhoades enough for this incredible opportunity. Baylor is a tremendous institution with a history of football success and I know the passion that so many have for the Bears will help bring the community together to reach even greater heights. I am excited to get started."
The event was part pep-rally, part press conference and all party. It was a happy event, one of few over the 6-months for Baylor football. The 2016 season has been a grind for many reasons, with most Baylor fans feeling apprehension to the feeling of joy. "Are we allowed to enjoy this football season?" The answer for many was no. It showed in the stands and on the field. It showed on message boards and fan gatherings.
Consider the first press conference of Matt Rhule's tenure in Waco the permission Baylor fans needed to once again feel joy and excitement. A new page has been turned in Baylor football history. Thanking Coach Grobe for his stewardship of the past few months and former Coach Art Briles for bringing these players to Baylor, Coach Rhule made it clear he was a man that only looked forward.
The path forward will start with building a coaching staff, already starting to take place on the defensive side of the ball with his defensive line, linebackers, and secondary coaches reportedly coming to Waco. His defensive coordinator, Phil Snow, is also reportedly joining Rhule at Baylor as well. The primary questions will be on the offensive side of the ball, and how his more pro-style attack at Temple could translate (or change) at Baylor.
That question is top of mind for most Baylor fans, and probably a few high school recruits too, looking at Baylor as an option with signing day less than 2-months away. Rhule has already started recruiting and getting his message out to prospects and high school coaches across the state, starting at the beginning of his press conference.
"If you're a college coach, you want to be around the best. And I wanted to come to a state, the great state of Texas, where high school football is better than anywhere else in the country. I wanted to come be around the best high school coaches in the country."
With a pitch of development of players and getting kids to the NFL, Rhule has started his sale pitch to the future of Baylor football. It will be a future defined by success on and off the field, where Baylor fans will be "proud of the way that our team plays the game", win or lose.
"We want to build great men. We want to build a great team. And then finally, we want to build a great program. See, teams come and go, but great programs are marked by the longevity. They're marked by how many great teams they put back to back."
Why would a coach like Rhule, won who has a conference title and won 20-games over the 2-seasons come to Waco, especially over a rumored offer by Oregon? "We said, where do we go, what do we do, where are we being called. Where does God want us to be? And we looked at each other over a plate of ponzu shrimp, and figured out right then in our hearts we were called to come to Baylor."