Just talking story
with Vantz Singletary and Ron Lee
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Little or nothing in the daily media about UH football. That must mean it's summertime, a time for the hard working Warrior football coaching staff to catch up with some of the most precious things in life that will quickly become a blur once the 2002 football season officially begins.
Summertime, a time to catch up with family, a time to let the brain cells and body get some much needed R & R. I was sure that this was true, but, I soon found out that some things were still going on in the Warrior football coaches' offices in preparation for the upcoming football season.
Gave coach Singletary a call at the Warrior football office on Monday to see if he had anytime to just talk story…Talk story? Talk story, yeah, right….Just like every other rabid UH football fan in the summertime I was just dying to hear anything, just anything about the Warriors during this quiet time of the year. Coach has time on Tuesday morning. Alright, inside scoops!!!!
Tuesday morning, the student receptionist up front looked at me…."I have a meeting with coach Singletary"….She showed me the way to Coach Singletary's office thru the hallway that was full of framed football pictures of glory days past…walking down the hall I looked into coach Ron Lee's office and found him busy with some files….….."Howzit, long time no see."…."Howzit, how you coach?"…..Coach Lee is always cordial and always great to talk to…"Here to see Coach Singletary today."….."Haven't seen him yet"…."So how's the health, how's the receivers looking coach Lee?"……."The health is good….the receivers?……We lost more than a few good people….people talk about Ashley all the time, but, part of the reason for his success was the success of fellow seniors Channon Harris, Craig Stutzman, Tafiti Uso and junior Justin Colbert….We got new receivers like Chad Owens, Nate Ilaoa, Britton Komine…..Gerald Welch tore his ACL on the last day of spring practice so we're not sure if he'll be back in time for fall camp……Nate is really something."…."The real deal?" "Oh yeah, he is the real deal……Nate played rb in high school so he just needs to really learn the system here….We gotta get all of our receivers on the same page and make sure they run the correct pass routes….There's Vantz"…." Vantz pops his head in…Coach Lee continues, "We don't have to worry because of our defensive front four this year.", making sure coach Singletary heard that….."Coach Lee, can I call you later and talk football stuff with you another time?"…."No problem". I thought to myself, "Alright Hammah, gonna get to talk to Ron Lee. Ron Lee is gonna have lots of interesting things to tell us………….That's the thing about this staff June has put together, they are just so much like ohana.
Alright, we gonna talk football and I was so ready to hear all about the D-line very up close and personal with the man in charge of the marines of the Warrior D, but, something happened along the way……As I entered coach Singletary's office and sat down, I couldn't help but look at all the stuff that was in his office…….Seeing what was there gave me an idea of what this man was all about……Pictures with his uncle Mike Singletary, family pictures, pictures of the past college days as a player and as a young college assistant coach……I slowly realized as I glanced at what surrounded Vantz in his office and as we just talked story, that football was just one part, although a big part, of coach Singletary the man.
We talked about things such as coaching styles, past life experiences, family, values and of course some football….."Coach, you look like a happy man…….From what I've read you must be very happy with the people you have coming back this year and the new players you have coming in."……..Coach gives a big smile that expressed so much sincerity……"Coach I've seen Houston, Lui and Lance in the weight room working out and they have really developed."…..…."Oh yeah, barring injuries this is the strongest group we have ever had up here….Barring injuries the D-line has a chance of being really good and should be solid…..We've never had this many on the d-line like this before…..and these are really good kids."………"Coach, on paper with the JUCO transfers and freshmen coming in, you look maybe three deep?"…."We're two deep now and other players will contribute."….. Coach, I just gotta ask…..How is Isaac doing?"…….."Isaac is doing real good….He's already eligible to play this fall and is taking classes this summer to get ahead of the game."…….."So Isaac is ready…. Is he NFL material?"….."I believe so…. Isaac is just so athletic…I've played basketball with him and he can take off and just slam dunk the ball….He is such an athlete, great to talk to and is just a great young man who fits in so well."
As we continue to talk I glance at a picture of Vantz with Mike Ditka, a picture with Tony Dungy….."Yeah, Mike and Tony were real instrumental in getting me to Hawaii." I look around some more as we talk……More family pictures of his wife and daughters, game tapes, video tapes and more video tapes…….As we talked I realized that coach Singletary is a hard working man driven to become better in all facets of his life. The internships with various NFL teams, media on self-improvement in his office and the Subway posters to the side of his chair attest to work ethics and drive.
My eyes were then drawn to coach's desk where plays were all drawn out on cardboard….."Something I learned from my internship with the San Diego Chargers….not many do it like this, but, when I saw it in San Diego I decided to use it"….."Coach Lempa popped his head in and added, "Yeah those drawings could be framed…professional looking with so many colors…….green, red…."….. the diagrams I saw were the specific plays BYU used from actual game film that were reviewed and broken down….these were diagrams that were gonna be used during the fall 2002 campaign……"Pretty much got most of next year's opponents plays all broken down and drawn out already"……Coach Lee had mentioned that coach Singletary was way ahead in preparation for the fall 2002 campaign…."Gotta be prepared."….."So coach, these are the diagrams that we see you flipping on the sidelines during the games?"….."Yup."…."Looks real time consuming to do."…….."Yeah, takes a lot of time to prepare, but, it helps the coaches and players see in a clear way what to expect from specific formations our opponents throw at us…..Plus, it helps our scout team get us ready for games." I was quite surprised at the amount of detail that went into playing defense and the prep time involved.
We talk more about philosophy, how Vantz communicates and guides his players, how his players are his extended family and that the relationship between himself and his players is just like a marriage……how you gotta work at relationships, develop trust and sense of family and begin to work as a team….I glance at more game tapes and a picture of the Lord's supper………Yes, you get a good idea of what is in the man from the people and things he surrounds himself with…….This man is surrounded by good stuff……As we finished talking story, it became so apparent to me that the man that we saw on the AstroTurf surface at Aloha Stadium on Saturday nights was only the surface of what this man was all about……Vance is coach Singletary, but much more than that is a man of faith, a devoted husband and father, a counselor and friend willing to give his positive guidance to people in both football and non-football situations……...He conveyed to me how blessed he is and because of this wants to continually give back to the community.
As I left the coaches office and headed toward the parking structure to my car, I felt so fortunate to have spoken to Vantz….I left with a deeper appreciation for Vantz and his fellow coaches…As I walked some more towards my car, I glanced off to the grass football practice field that looked so far away…..11 o'clock in the morning in the dead of summertime in paradise and there were about 20 players on the grass field working out on their own….something has happened in paradise……the dedication and work ethics of the football coaching staff has taken deep roots in Manoa and has spread to the Warrior players…..….Mahalo coach Vantz and coach Lee for talking story….the football program is indeed headed in the right direction….the program has begun to grow strong and deep…..
Next up……Talking story with Warriors Receivers' coach Ron Lee.......