What's the word on (David) Grimes? Is he going to play?"Doubtful, his status hasn't changed."
Do you have a new kicker?"Yes, we do."
Did you open the competition up?"Well, piggybacking off of one of the articles today, let me give you a little background. It's probably best to do it that way so we don't have to get into a long list of things. Walk-ons here usually go through a process in the spring and then at the end of spring get invited to come to camp. Every once in a while, we'll have a freshman come in that, once they get invited to the school, contacts us about the possibility of coming out for football. We then do some due diligence on them and tell them we have a spot in the 105 that you can bring to camp, that we would consider it. David Ruffer contacted us toward the end of August about the possibility of walking on for football. He was at William and Mary last year and we basically told him that we'd be very interested in him coming out for the football team in the spring when the normal walk-ons matriculate. Well, as we had our kicking woes that we were going through and doing our due diligence having already exhausted many alternatives including the soccer team and a few other places, we started scouring campus and we revisited David and started working with compliance. The first thing we had was a release from William and Mary for him to talk to us about the possibility of playing. Then we had to go through an extensive process to see if he would be eligible to kick this year because, normally when you transfer from one school to another school unless it is a junior college up or a division one down, you're ineligible. Through a set of circumstances; because he wasn't recruited, he walked on, he didn't play, and he was released, we were informed through compliance of the NCAA that if we got a written release from William and Mary, he would be eligible to play immediately. At that point Brian (Polian) watched him kick. Brian came back to me and said, ‘You may want to take a peek at this kid.' And, yes, he has kicked before; he's kicked for Siegfried (dorm). Everyone should know that (laughing). After Brian said, ‘You have to take a look at this kid,' I took a look at him. So we're waiting for the paperwork to come back from compliance because if the kid couldn't kick for us this year, what was the sense in bringing him in now midway through the season? Well, last week we got the word from compliance that you're okay, he's eligible to go. So I watched him kick and I said, ‘Come on let's go.' So then you have to go through the acclimation days just like everybody else when you're going through training camp. So he actually joined the roster last Tuesday when we got clearance. We put him on the roster last Tuesday and went through all of our days. He kicked Tuesday and Wednesday of this week surprisingly well; enough where the team is calling him Luke Schmidt and I'm calling him Rudy (laughing). He has several nicknames. After his first kick, everyone watching actually thought it was Luke out there kicking because he was wearing 32. But then as the next one went through and the next one went through, it wasn't a joke anymore. What started as a one-man gong show was no longer a laughing matter and he will be traveling with the team to the game."
Will he kick in this game?"Are you asking me if there is a possibility he will kick in the game? There is a possibility he will kick in the game. Brandon (Walker) will definitely start off kicking extra points and field goals and that's all this kid will do. He would not kick off; he would be extra points and field goals. If the situation presents itself, yes, he would kick in the game."
How probable is it that a kid would walk on and become a kicker like this?"The longest of long shots because the way compliance rules are these days, what are the odds that you are going to get somebody in this circumstance cleared to go ahead and play. I still wouldn't believe it until I saw it myself. I had to actually see the paperwork before I believed it. The last thing I want to do is go out and play a game and put a kid out there and have him kick an extra point and then forfeit a game for playing an ineligible player. That's the last thing I want to do. I've seen the paperwork and it has taken us some time to go ahead and get that done, but now that we have it done, we'll see how it goes. The way I look at it, the kid kicked in front of the team two days in a row and basically didn't miss a kick in those two days. Now, Brandon kicked very well as well. But the thing that got me was when we went full speed and there were live bullets out there, this looked like one of those guys that had been on your team for quite some time and was competing to participate, so we'll be bringing him along."
Other than the team, what is the largest number of people he has kicked in front of?"That might have been it (laughing). That's a hundred and change, right? That's probably it. He's got a two handicap though. If you're looking for somebody in scrambles, you may want to get him on your squad."
What would be the opportunities for him to kick?"There are one of two circumstances; the one guy having a bad day; or enough kicking opportunities in the game. So, there are the two logical answers. I mean if there's only a couple kicking opportunities in the game and everything is going well with Brandon, then he'll kick ‘em. If the right opportunity presents itself, those would be the two opportunities I'm talking about."
Is he the number two kicker?"Yes."
How did the guys respond to him?"It was quite entertaining. Let's say you were out there watching this happen, so some kid you'd never seen before in your life - maybe a couple kids know him from on campus - all of a sudden, it's a 25 yarder, then a 35 yarder, then a 45 yarder, and you're looking and saying, ‘Where has this kid been?' Obviously, it will be a little different with 50, 60, 70,000 people there. I can see what will happen if he makes a couple kicks and comes home next week. You want to talk about cult-hero status. But let's start with baby steps right now. Just the fact that through this process, he's got himself to the point of getting on the bus in such a short timeframe; he's made up a lot a ground in a short amount of time."
What's the furthest you had him kick from?"Forty-five yards right down the middle with plenty to spare. But of course, that's in practice, but still it was right down the middle with plenty to spare and it was two days in a row. I was pleasantly surprised but I'm like everybody else, we'll see what happens when we're out there. We had done due diligence and gone everywhere we could and, based off what you saw, you would be doing the same thing I'm doing."
Who will be the holder?"Eric (Maust). Last year, we used Eric and Evan (Sharpley) based off a righty and a lefty. But the problem is Evan is practicing with the offense the whole practice where Eric is on the special team field the whole practice. Just like Kevin Brooks used to practice tight-end, he doesn't do that anymore. All he does is stay on the special team field and snap the whole time. So this way they have plenty of time to develop chemistry between the snap, the hold, and the kick."
What is the personality of this kid like?"I couldn't tell you. I have talked to the kid three times. The day after I watched him kick to invite him out. It's four times. I talked to him after both kicking sessions he had this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, then I had a little chat with him today about proper procedures dealing with the media (laughing). We had that little conversation as well. So I have talked with him four times. He was more nervous about the fourth one than he was the first one."
When was the first time you saw him kick?"The first time I saw him was when he was out there kicking on the field. I saw him on these fields out here; out here on our practice fields."
Did you talk to his coaches?"He didn't play football (laughing). Who am I going to talk to? I knew this would be the topic today as everyone is winding down the week, but it is a real interesting story and we will just have to see how it goes. But I can tell you this is not some courtesy guy that we have let on the team. We basically did due diligence and followed up with a whole bunch of conversations with the kid through my personnel staff and through Coach Polian and the kid. We did a lot of work with compliance and with all of that being said and done, you still have to go with what you see because if the kid can't kick what difference does it make. But based off what we have seen so far there is no reason for us to believe that we couldn't go kick him in the game and expect him to put the ball through the uprights."
It would be a lot like Rudy if he did that, wouldn't it?"It would be kind of cool, wouldn't it? I'd love to put him out there, but it has to be the right situation."
When you arrived, did you keep anything from what Coach Willingham did or did you not pay attention to any of that and just put in your own program?"I think the biggest issue I had to deal with coming in is the fact that our personalities are quite different. Therefore, it is not really a fair question because I think you have to coach within your own personality. So when I came in, you had this mild-mannered, professional, nice guy and then you have this guy - although I have changed a lot since I have been here - this wise guy from New Jersey that has been coaching in the pros for his whole career. I have evolved over the years because you learn and you change some yourself, but our personalities were so different, the first thing the team had to learn was that I was the head coach and it was time to move on. The only way we were going to do it was the only way I knew. Obviously, you learned as a head coach how to change and adapt to get it right. Other than being good family men and being football guys for our whole career, our personalities were so much different that it was really apples and oranges that we were talking about."
Did you follow his practice schedule or anything?"No, I didn't look at any of that. I didn't look at any of those things because I was coming in with a preset, preconceived way. When there's a whole set of issues that you have to address, you had better come in with a plan walking in the door; this is how I'm going to do it walking in the door and then adapting as you go. Not everything has run smooth for me but you have to learn how to adapt and that's part of what I've had to do. But it isn't following his lead, no."
This is a two-part question. Did you think coming in that you would have to adapt as much as you have? Have things turned out better this year than you imagined?"Let's start with the second question. I spent all this time in the off-season, I wouldn't say soul-searching but really going the extra mile to try and get things right. Really going outside my normal persona and to see some of the fruits of that labor start to show up is rewarding. I'm far from satisfied because, as I said to whoever asked me am I happy being 4-2, the answer is definitely no. There were two games that were winnable, not that we deserved to win either game, but we lost two games that were winnable. So it would be a fallacy to sit there and say I'm happy about how things have gone in that vein. But to see a lot of the things that we have put in place; the emotion, the drive, the development, the kids understanding you better; to see all those things with the arrow pointing up, I'm content with. I forgot the first part of the question; can you come back to it?"
Did you have to adapt more than you originally thought?"Not when I first came in. I've always been taught, when you take over it's easier to loosen up later than when you are coming in setting the tone. Because if you're going to make a whole bunch of changes, there are going to be a lot of people going to be unhappy anyway; then you'd better make a whole bunch of changes walking in the door and you can't worry about many people's feelings when you are doing that. Because think of anybody that you've had to deal with and you start off with a nice guy, then you turn into the tough guy, it very seldom works. Not that I'm ever going to turn into a nice guy, but it has kind of worked the other way. You come in as bad as they could ever possibly imagined it and it was awful for them, I promise you. That first spring, it was awful. But the residual effects were obvious as you went into that year. Now I think we have evolved and heading in the right direction."
It's been three years since pass right. What sticks out in your mind about that?"Probably the look on (Brady) Quinn's face when he thought I had lost my mind. (Chinedum) Ndukwe had just recovered – I'm getting chills as I say this I promise you, may God strike me dead – Ndukwe had just recovered the fumble and it's six inches and he looks at me like, ‘Coach, we can't be calling this play.' Now he didn't say that because he would never have the nerve to say that (laughing) but he looks and says, ‘What are we going to do?' and when I said to him, ‘We've got no choice; we're throwing it to the right.' He looks at me and then he goes into the huddle and (Anthony) Fasano, who knew he was getting the ball, the first question he said when Quinn gets in the huddle is, ‘What are we going to do?' (laughing) so he asked him the same question. So probably of all those things, other than being able to go over to that house the next day – I think it was the next day – and give them that ball from the team; other than that, probably the look on Quinn's face. We had already known that Montana had died but we wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing. Trust me, if we would have come out there and gotten a safety on the first play, and no one would have known about it, I would gladly have taken the hits. If everyone would have said, ‘What a dumb call by Weis,' and no one would ever have known the story, I would gladly have accepted that as well because I believe I had an obligation and that's what we were going to do. But Quinn definitely thought I had lost my mind."
Are you ready to win on the road?"I'm ready to win this Saturday wherever that game is. The game on Saturday and a whole bunch of Saturdays, but let's start with this one, wherever we are playing, I expect us to show up and be ready to win."