DD - Alfred, tell me a little about your high school years.
AO – Well, we were 2A, I played fullback, tight-end, linebacker, you name it, just about every position as a lot of players do in that classification. We had about 50 kids in my whole class. Weimar is really a small town and we enjoyed our Friday night football. We had our rivalries like most, our number one rival was Schulenburg.
DD – Tell us about your college recruitment.
AO – I chose between UH and UT. Coach Yeoman came and spoke at my sports banquet, Tommy Kaiser was my position coach and Donald Ivory was involved as well. Fred Akers was at UT then and I almost committed in his office, but my family wanted me to wait until I visited UH. When I got to UH I knew it was the place for me.
DD – In hindsight was it a good decision?
AO – Oh, I made the right decision alright, Houston is my home. My best friend was valedictorian at Weimar and headed to UT so I was going with him, but when I got here and felt the welcome of guys like T.J. Turner and Eddie Gilmore and the fact that these guys were just coming off a Cotton Bowl, well, it made my decision very easy.
DD – You played under Coaches Yeoman and Pardee, right?
AO – Yes, I red-shirted one year and played two under Yeoman, Coach Pardee was here for my junior and senior seasons.
DD – The Run & Shoot years were known for the incredible offense, but our defenses were quite good as well.
AO – When we had those big years under Coach Pardee it was with players recruited by Coach Yeoman. What Pardee brought was a unique offense, the defense was pretty similar to the one we played under Yeoman. Our teams were great because we had an unstoppable offense and a defense ranked in the top five in the country. Some games the defense would walk off the field after being in on 90+ plays in the game, most defenses would play 50-60. Our defense had to play a lot more because we scored so quickly. We had to be in top condition in order to play that many downs.
DD – Tell us about Tom Wilson.
AO – I love Tom Wilson, he instilled the toughness in us. Tom would get it out of you, we worked so hard that even the toughest of us were hanging on near the end of every practice or workout.
DD – And about Jim Eddy?
AO – Coach Eddy was mean, tough and nasty. We wore his mentality, we always felt that we were the best defense on the field in every game, we believed that. Coach Yeoman instilled a sense of pride and Coach Eddy reinforced it. It meant something to put on that UH helmet, it really meant something. Tom Wilson and Coach Yeoman instilled and demanded that when you put on the Red & White, you were somebody. Tom used to call us soldiers, I use that today in my businesses. I need my staff to go to war with me and that comes from Yeoman, Wilson and Eddy. Tom used to come in and say "put all the women, children and old folks in the house, we are taking out everybody today." We called our defense the "Mad Dogs" and we believed that we were crazed dogs out there. It starts with the top guy and his personality becomes the team's personality, this is why we have an outstanding chance of getting back to the top at UH now. Coach Yeoman was disciplined, there was a job to do and we were going out there to do it. We didn't need any fancy facilities, when we got off the bus we were ready to meet the other team in the parking lot and kick their butts. Coach Hurt used to tell us, "they didn't want you at Texas, they didn't want you at A&M, we want you here at Houston. You weren't good enough for them, you couldn't play football for them." All of this just built you up to make you go out on the field and play with something to prove. Something that sticks with me even today is Coach Yeoman telling us "when you play this game of football, you have to play with a high level of intensity and a sense of urgency to get it done." He would say, "pretend that your mother is locked up in that room and it is on fire." This all built up and you would get such a sense of strength that nothing could stop you from knocking that door down. "Now get out on that field and go get your mother." He told us this before the games.
I'll never forget a game with Wyoming, they came to town riding high for a big ESPN game in the Dome and we just ransacked them. They were a great team and we were on TV because of them not us, but nothing could stop us in that game, we have something to prove. We wanted to show everybody that we were the best defense in the country. We figured that we could only beat ourselves, we knew that we were prepared, it started in the spring, through the summer and into the season, it was our whole approach, our system. In the spring we were already preparing for each opponent. Camp Fun was all about playing these guys, the ones that didn't "want" us, the small town kids that nobody wanted. All of this made the difference, we started to believe in ourselves and that we could beat anybody.
DD – Is this why we started out so well when we entered the SWC in '76?
AO – I'm sure it was although that was prior to my being at UH. Yeoman went after the kids he could coach and turn into great players, not always the stars, just good lunch pail kind of guys. Put your hardhat on and grab your lunch pail, we have work to do. We were tough, we didn't have all the advantages, but we had been prepared mentally and physically to be champions, it made all of the difference.
DD – What happened after the Pardee years?
AO – You had an NFL guy going into a college job where the kids needed motivation, in the NFL the motivation is a paycheck and keeping your job. In college what motivates one to be the best is what is needed and necessary to win. A college kid needs to be motivated, he loves the game, but he needs to be pushed to get to the next level. The kids are playing for pride and enjoyment, college football is raw. The great teams don't have to have the greatest talent, but they have to have a great coach who can motivate them. Coach Briles knows how to do this, to get the team ready and prepare them to win.
Take Bill Parcells, everywhere he goes he is successful whether he has tons of talent or not. Parcells knows, like Briles, how to get inside each player and pull out the best in him. This is the sign of a great coach.
DD – Earlier you mentioned the paycheck and keeping your job as the motivation in the NFL.
AO – Yes, but you still have to get these guys to rise above themselves. Parcells knows how to do this, how to get the best out of his players. Another coach who had this talent was Bill Walsh at San Francisco. Many of his assistants have gone on to become head coaches because they adapted his system and put it in place wherever they went. These guys being able to move on and be successful is another sign that Walsh was a great teacher and motivator.
DD – Can you see this in the high school ranks as well?
AO – Look at Katy HS, year after year they are in the playoffs. They do not always place a bunch of guys in Division 1, but their coach is able to lead, motivate and develop them into champions.
DD – Tell us about your NFL experience.
AO – Well, Miami drafted me 66th in Round 3 to play a position that I did not play in college. I played the Three Technique at UH, I enjoyed it, but I was not a nose guard. I wasn't as big or as strong as the other guys playing this position in the NFL. I'll never forget though the way I was prepared for this change. Right after I was taken in the draft, Coach Shula called me and asked me how I felt about being drafted and the change of position, he was already working on getting me prepared. As I mentioned, I had never played nose guard, but every time we spoke he would tell me that I could be a starter in the NFL. Well, the preseason came around and I was the starter in the from the first game. They had been preparing me since before I even left for training camp to be their starting nose guard that season.
DD – The 2003 Aloha Bowl is upon us, what do you recall about the '88 Aloha Bowl?
AO – From the defense's perspective, we were facing a very talented team who we knew something, but not a lot about. Washington State put several players in the NFL from that team. Their team was better than the SWC teams we had faced that season. We did not come out with our usual "take no Prisoners" attitude so after the first half we had some adjusting to do. Unfortunately, it was not one of our better games on either side of the ball that season, but it is a great Bowl and reward for the players.
DD – Now, let's talk about our University of Houston for a minute.
AO – Well, the best way we can all help is to help mentor those who are currently attending the university. We need to help in any way that we can ensure that the students today are successful, hopefully, they, in turn, will do the same in some fashion. Before you know it you will have a large network of Cougars helping Cougars and those who will truly care for our great university. We all need to do a little here and a little there and it will add up. I do not do interviews, however, after hearing your story about CoogFans.com and what you are doing to endow athletic scholarships at UH I decided to make an exception. We can all help in one way or another.
Alfred, it has really been great to spend this afternoon with you. I wish you success in your business endeavors, but somehow I sense that you are going to do quite well. Thanks for giving our readers a glimpse into your world and thanks for being a great Cougar.
Eat ‘em Up!