What has the ride been like for your this year watching Bryan?
I've really been proud of him. I've been proud of the team watching them and knowing that they lost the four (defensive line) starters from last year and they came in there with a whole new group going in there. It was really rewarding to watch them. And then to have him go through that with his foot and to have him come back off that foot in time for the season to start, I know he was really anxious about that. I've just been really proud of him.
Being a defensive line coach, is it hard to put away the coach hat when you're talking to your son every weekend?
No. We have a great relationship. We always have. He's always wanted to be as good as he could possibly be. He's probably his worst critic. A lot of times we'll just talk about what the kids here are doing and what problems they're having and he relates to it. He has a great coach there. He's got a great coaching staff there. I never would have given my blessing for him to go to Iowa if I didn't think that was a great, great program. I felt the day that he went there that he was in great hands and they were going to make him the best he could possibly be and he would do everything he had to do to do that. That's always the way he's been. I never have tried to step in. It's hard sometimes because kids always want to ask you, you know, "What am I doing?" But that's not for me to say. A lot of it is maturity and him just growing and that's what's been kind of neat.
How close did Bryan come to playing for Florida?
Never. He came very, very close to playing for Notre Dame. We had offered him. We wanted him. But I just did not feel that it was in his best interest to play for his dad. His mother always says that he would have gone there but she didn't like the position coach. The Florida deal, he is so committed to Iowa, you couldn't get him out of there if tried. And I would never think of it. But that wasn't even a thought.
When the pairing for the bowl was announced, was it something you were excited about or was it this is going to be some kind of mixed emotions?
Bryan and I were very, very excited. We had talked about this happening. It was ironically last year when we got done with our bowl game and I had taken the job here at Florida. We left from Arizona, and Ann and I went and watched the Iowa-LSU game. We were sitting there when you scored that final touchdown and everybody was excited and kind of looked at my wife and said, "You realize that sometime in your son's career we could be playing against them." She said, "No way." I said, "Yeah, it's in the bowl alliance." I said, "What are you going to do then." She gave me of those mother looks like I just got my hand caught in the cookie jar. I didn't ask again. I knew exactly where she was with that answer.
Have you talked to Bryan since the bowl announcement and what have your conversations been like if you have?
We talk every day. We have talked every day, I believe, since the day he went to Iowa. That's what's really unique about our relationship. There's not a day that goes by that we don't talk to each other. And really (the conversation) goes from school to the guys on the team to how he's playing to practice and everything like that. It never gets into Xs and Os, obviously. And we would never do that. It's been great. He's going about business. He knows that he has a job to do and I have a job to do. And it's really been great. We talked about the fact that when you're a major college football coach and your son is a major college football player, the chances of ever being together for the holidays when you're at two great programs like Florida and Iowa are really slim and none. This is just a great situation that we can see each other. Our families can all be together in the same city. What's better. What's better than to have two great football programs play each other and to be proud of the fact that your son is one of the players on a great program like Iowa.
I joked with Bryan earlier this season about this game possibly happening. He said that if it did, his mom was going to sit on the Iowa side because she loves him more.
(Laughs) I was going to say that there's probably a good chance of that. It depends where her tickets are. The thing that I keep reminding her is that the house she lives in and the car she drives is being paid for by Florida. That's something that she better always keep in mind. But you know how moms are. And Ann and Bryan and Lisa, our daughter, to this day have such a tremendous relationship with each other and she has been so proud of him. This is a huge deal to be able to see him and to be able to be right there. I know one thing, it's probably going to be a lot harder on her then it is on Bryan and I. For us, it's a business, it's a job. For her, it's…she probably does love him more.
How has your adjustment been to Florida this year?
Tremendous. Every day I wake up and I…like I said, I talk to Bryan all the time and he tells me about the snow and he tells me about the wind and the cold and I say I'm going out in shorts to get the newspaper right now. His first comment to me was, "Dad, you're going to get soft now. I can just tell, you're going to get soft." But to have a chance to get back with Coach Myer and to coach in this program has really been exciting for me. After being at some of the program I've been at, I'm excited again to coach a great program and to see how far we can take these guys.
You've had a chance to see Iowa a couple of times this season. You're probably looking at them with a little different eye right now. How does that change?
I just spent the last three days just watching every tape of Iowa. And I've been lucky. I got to see two games last year, and he wasn't playing very much then. I got to see two games this year, and when I'm at those games, I don't watch anything but him. I couldn't even tell you what defense they play or what offense they run. I don't watch those games as a coach. I don't watch them strategically. All I do is watch him each and every play like I'm watching one of my players on film. I'm just kind of reliving every step with him in those games. It's so much pride. I'm so proud of him and I'm so proud of that program. You wake up sometimes and say, man, is it neat to have your son play for a great program and a great head coach like Coach Ferentz?
At what point in the last week or so did you come to the realization that this really could happen? I know during the process you were saying that it could happen, but at what point did you go, "Holy cow, this really could happen?"
I think probably after the Florida State game when we were talking about where we would go. Then, a lot of people were saying it's either going to probably be Michigan or Iowa. And if we were going to even have the opportunity to even play in the Outback, it would be one of those two. I, down deep, kind of felt that Iowa would have a great shot because they travel so well and they came on so well at the end of the year. They're just a great draw. I thought then that it would be a likelihood or a great chance.
I know when your team is on offense you're over there talking to your guys. Does that change at all this game because your son will be out there playing?
(Laughs) I'm going to try not to. I'll tell you that. That's why they have films. But, you know, you're only human. No, but after the adjustments are made and everything like that…but what I usually try to do is watch our offense just to make sure if there's a sudden change or something happens that we can get our guys ready. A lot of times you're just kind of waiting for your chance to get back out there. So, I've got a feeling I will sneak a peak or two at 99 and see how he's doing. The thing that I'm worried about is if the play comes over to our side that he might try to take me out or something like that. I know he's got that in him.
When you were going through the recruiting process with Bryan, did it change the way you recruit other people's kids now?
Yes it did. I really think one of the real great things of having a son that is talented enough to be able to play major college football is it gave me a whole other sidelight on recruiting. I really started seeing more and more the eyes of the parents. I always one to make sure the parents knew what their son was getting into at a school, wherever I was at. That's why I've always said that it's great to be at schools that you know when you talk to that parent that they are in great hands. They're going to be coached by great people. They're going to get a great education. The environment that they go to is tremendous. Having the coaches come in our house, it was kind of unique because you hear some coaches that make you think to yourself…No, I vowed that when the coaches came into our house to recruit Bryan that I was not going to be one of those guys that tried to put anybody on the spot. All I did is listen. I bet it was kind of uncomfortable for coaches in some way because they knew I coached. I tried to really make it very, very easy on the coaches. Bryan and I would just talk afterwards.
Were there any coaches that you knew very well or that you typically recruited against who came to recruit him?
Yeah. There were a lot of coaches that I knew very, very well that I would have given my blessing to. The thing we did when this recruiting all started is that he knew that he was going to lean on me to make sure of the things that I just mentioned. One, it was a great environment. Two, that he would be with great coaches. That to me is the most important thing. When your son is away and you're turning him over to somebody then you better feel really, really good that they're going to continue what you started and what you had done with your son. Norm Parker, their defensive coordinator, and coached together. We were very, very close friends. I talk to him a lot about technique, about everything. When Norm recruited him, I just said that it can't get any better than this. If I was going to turn somebody over to Norm and Kirk, that's how it would be. It was an easy, easy decision when we decided he wasn't going to go to Notre Dame.
They issued you a tape of the Iowa game each week so you could see Bryan play, is that correct?
They said they did. I talked to Coach Ferentz about that. I've never really gotten them. I got about three of them. In fact, one that I got I had seen anyhow. My wife tapes most of the games and she's gone to most of the games. I've found some time late at night when I come home from meetings. She says, will you please watch him. What am I going to do? I can't really do much about it. But I was curious just to watch him and see how he was doing. That's really the only way I've ever watched the games.
Coach Ferentz joked that he might have to turn you in for illegal scouting. What games did you get to see in person and have there been any office jokes down there?
I saw Michigan and I saw Minnesota. And Coach Ferentz is giving way, way too much credit. For me to sit in the stands and be able to pick something up, he's got a little higher opinion than I think. All I was doing was seeing what (Bryan) can do. And I know he was just kidding. Those were great games. One, they should have won and they didn't. And then the second one, the Minnesota game, they played great. They played well on the Michigan game also. So, I got a chance to see two real good games.