Well, I come from a family – my mom was a cheerleader and my dad was a football player. My mom dressed me up in pads when I was a young kid. I just started playing – that was a big part of our family tradition. When I played Little League football, we were so good, we won all the time. The blocking, tackling, all of that, we were so well coached. All the teamwork stuff helped me a lot. At a young age, we were fortunate enough to a) win and b) get coached so well so that really progressed me interest. I really enjoyed the game at a very young age. One of the things for me that made it easy is that I liked the blocking and tackling. Everyone likes the big plays and touchdowns. If you like the other stuff, it really keeps you into it. So I think from that standpoint, I always looked at it like a coach would. I knew I wanted to coach and Coach Schnellenberger was there (as Kehoe's coach). I went and asked him about coaching and he said he has a great opportunity for me. I worked a lot of youth camps and things like that but I never coached high school football. It really aided me a lot that I got to learn from fantastic people. Not only did I have the want to be a coach and the experience of having played, I was on a lot of winning teams and that helped. When I started as a coach, I was part of a tradition at UM that was unbelievable. I started as a student assistant for one year and then I was a graduate assistant for a couple years after that.
You spent a few years as a student/graduate assistant.
It was kinda like being an apprentice. My father and brother are contractors and that was their apprenticeship. This was mine. I started out coaching with Schnellenberger. I was so fortunate. We went from the first team to go to a bowl at Miami in 13 years during my junior year to the point where we were winning 9, 10 games a year. I learned under Tom Olivadotti on defense. I learned from Gary Stevens, Hubbard Alexander, Joe Brock, and guys like that and I was lucky. I learned how to break down film. Having played in that offense really helped me. I learned from great teachers. I learned how to recruit. I learned how to relater to athletes.
You became a full-time assistant coach in 1985. How did landing that job actually happen?
Coach Johnson gave me an unbelievable opportunity. I'll never forget it – I was in my third year finishing my masters and we were going to the Fiesta Bowl. I was real frustrated because Coach Schnellenberger took two other graduate assistants to Louisville with him (after the '83 season) and I was left behind with Coach Johnson. We were going to the Fiesta Bowl after losing our last two games – 42-40 to Maryland and then 47-45 against Boston College and Doug Flutie. I was thinking that maybe this coaching thing isn't for me. I thought I might as well finish out the spring and maybe get into something else. But one day while we were walking off the practice field before the Fiesta Bowl, Coach Johnson came up to me and put his arm around me. We had about a 300-yard walk to the dressing facility at the JC we were practicing at. As we're walking, he said, ‘listen, I want to make you the assistant offensive line coach. You do a helluva job but I can't announce it until after the New Year'. He told me that I had a (full-time) job if I wanted it. I looked at him and laughed and said I definitely want it. There were pine trees around us and I went deep into the woods and starting jumping up and down. I didn't want anyone to see me. He gave me my first full-time job.
You were an offensive line assistant. What exactly did that mean and how did that work out?
It meant I would be working with Tony Wise on the offensive line. That part of my development was the best. He was the most influential person to me as a coach. I learned a lot of great things from him. He was one of the best at what he taught. That really helped my career. It was so much different than anything I had ever learned. It was so much more effective. The biggest thing is that he got me excited about coaching the offensive line. Then those guys (Johnson, Wise, etc) left for Dallas (after the 88 season). Jimmy was going to take me if Dennis didn't hire me. I stayed and ended up also becoming the tight ends coach (from 92 through 94) and when Butch came in after Dennis left, I became the full-time offensive line coach. Then a year after Coker got the job, he gave me the assistant head coaching job. Little did I know that Petey (Garcia), Larry, and Paul (Dee) would fire me after 27 years. That was more than a career, that was my life. Those were some of the greatest memories of my life. I don't know how many people who have been at one place and enjoyed so much success. I'm glad I was part of it. I was around so many great players and coaches and I took advantage of it. I'm very blessed to have worked with UM for so many years.
You coached under 5 different head coaches at Miami. Can you compare and contrast those four coaches?
They all had different personalities. My favorite was Coach Johnson. He was so passionate and so smart. He was great with the mind games. Schnellenberger was probably the most knowledgeable of the bunch. He actually became the first special teams coach in NFL history. He was also a defensive coordinator. He coached all those quarterbacks at Alabama back in the 60s like (Ken) Stabler. He was the offensive coordinator on (Don) Shula's perfect team. When you think about Erickson, what he did was took that one-back offense and gave me something else I could learn. I was just very blessed. I was under a lot of different philosophies of offense, defense, and special teams and a lot of different coaches over the years. Although I was under one university, I was under five head coaches and probably worked with 50 others over the years. When I became full-time coach, I probably went through seven or eight graduate assistants myself.