Shipp developing more than All-Americans at OU

Oklahoma defensive tackle coach Jackie Shipp talks about the development of Tommie Harris and his coaching philosophies.

NORMAN, Okla. — It is about time to add Jackie Shipp to the list of outstanding assistant coaches on the OU staff. The former Sooner linebacker great has become one of he top assistants in the country since joining Bob Stoops staff five years ago.

Shipp teaches great technique to his defensive tackles, and under his guidance the Sooners' defensive tackle group is rated as one of the very best in the country. Shipp is also regarded as one of the top recruiters in the country.

However, Shipp teaches his players more than football. He teaches them about life and how each player can be the best representative he can be.

Shipp has seen all football has to give during his collegiate and pro football career. He recently coached Tommie Harris to the Lombardi Award, and then watched as Harris announced he was leaving school a year early to go pro. Coach Shipp found time recently out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk to for another segment of our Two Minute Drill.

JH: Jackie, you have to be very happy for Tommie Harris?

JS: "Yeah, that is a dream for Tommie that has come true. Let's be very honest — a lot of young men, no the majority of young men, want to go on to the NFL when they are done playing college football. Tommie has a chance to be a first round draft pick and go on and realize his dreams to play at the next level. He realized all his dreams at the college level and I am happy for him. He will realize a dream that he has always wanted to do, and now he gets an opportunity to do it at the next level."

JH: Tommie told me that you told him during his recruitment that he could reach all of his dreams and goals at the University of Oklahoma. However, he said that you said he wouldn't be given anything, but that OU would provide the vehicle for him to reach those dreams through hard work. Could you explain what you were talking about?

JS: "When we were recruiting Tommie we talked about the vehicle of the University of Oklahoma helping him reach his goals in life, as his college experience was going to help him in years after college. We talked about academics and what getting a degree and what kind of position that would put him in when he got into the real world. We talked about athletically with the style we play, that we could showcase his talents to let people see what kind of football player he is on the college level, just not the high school level. Those opportunities were there at OU both academically and athletically.

"The people he would meet, the alumni that he could come in contact through the years that are working in the work force, which would allow him to see opportunities to succeed not only on the football field, but in the real world as well. From a football standpoint, the style that he played fit Tommie so well that he could showcase his talents. Let's be very honest — anybody in any situation with talent, let it be in acting, let it be in business, let it be in athletics or what-have-you, needs a situation that best fits their style so they can be the best they can be. Oklahoma, I say, would allow Tommie with his ability, mental focus, physical ability and the characteristics that he had to reach the goals that he wanted to achieve. I told him that if he came to Oklahoma that we would work hard together to achieve all of his goals. The kid is on track to graduate, he is going to be a first round draft choice, he is a two-time All-American, three-time all-conference, and he won the Lombardi Award. So, anybody tell me now that Tommie didn't realize all of his dreams. Oklahoma was an opportunity and a vehicle to reach those dreams."

JH: You taught him how to practice and how to do things off the field, which he felt were just as important as what you taught him on the field?

JS: " I am a firm believer in this and you can ask coaches. I listen to things that Barry Switzer says, Bob Stoops, Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, and many others who say that a guy can have great talent and be an All-American and then a guy can have very average talent and be an All-American, but what kind of drive those two have to achieve that goal is what those two have in common. One might be more talented than the other, but there is something that they have in common to become an All-American. I believe it is drive and work ethic and Tommie had drive when he came here, but did he learn how to practice on a college level? The answer is yes. He learned, matured and got better at it. Did he grow into a person, grow into a man, grow as an individual and grow as a student? The answer is yes.

"We can always look at a Tommie Harris and talk about his physical attributes, but before anybody can be successful physically, you have to grow and be successful mentally. Those are things that me and Tommie worked on and we kept pushing at it ,and I say that we kept pushing at it. It wasn't just me or just wasn't him, it was both of us. We kept working at the mental standpoint, and those mental attributes helped developed the physical attributes. He just continued to blossom, blossom and blossom."

JH: Harris said that at Oklahoma players get 100 percent better, and I know that is something that a lot of recruits have talked about during his recruiting period. Do you feel that players do improve a great deal at Oklahoma?

JS: "One of the main ingredients for that, and I think it starts with the head coach, administration and on down, is that we care about the players as people. Tommie wore jersey number 97 on game day, but I never approached Tommie as number 97. That was Tommie Harris, while Lynn McGruder is Lynn McGruder, and Dusty Dvoracek is Dusty Dvoracek. Jason White is not number 18, he is Jason White. Jammal Brown is not number 55, but he is Jammal Brown. Wes Sims is not just number 60, but he is Wes Sims.

"We look at our young men as people first and we care about them as people first. Our main concern is how we treat them as people. We are coaching young men, we are coaching people and we don't look at them as football players. I think that is why we have been successful in our development of players — is that we care about these young men as people, and not just football players. If you even break that down more we care how they do academically. We care about how they grow into men.

"They come here at 17 or 18 years old, and you and I thought the same thing at 17 or 18. We thought we were grown men. We were no where close to being a grown man at 17 or 18. We thought we knew what a man was at 17 or 18, but through time we learned even more of what it takes to be a man. We care about them as people growing into men, growing into responsible men in handling their academics and leaving the University of Oklahoma not only as a great football player, but as productive citizen and a productive person of our society.

"I have always been a firm believer in this and I go back to my playing days and the guys I played with. When that coach cared about you as a person it was so much easier to walk on that field at 1:30 p.m. and give your best. I think that is one thing that Bob does greatly and what our whole staff does greatly, our administration and you can talk from our AD on down — is that we care about our young men as people. Lets succeed first as a person and the football is going to come."

JH: Tommie says that he would recommend to any recruit that if he is going to take full advantage of his opportunity at Oklahoma, he has to totally buy into the philosophy of the coaching staff and believe in that coaching staff. Do you agree with that?

JS: "Yes, we all have to have a belief. I believe in these three things personally. I believe in God. I have faith in family and then you start talking about football. When you have those beliefs it makes football so much easier. If you look at our staff you always hear Bob talk about family. You always hear our assistants talk about family, well those football players become family. If you listen to Tommie talk or you listen to the players talk, they always talk as teammates and talk about the team. In every interview that I have ever heard of Jason White, Tommie, Teddy Lehman, Derrick Strait, and all these guys who won big honors in college football last year, they talk about their teammates. And if it wasn't for their teammates this honor wouldn't have happened for me. If it wasn't for their teammates their honor wouldn't have happened for them and we wouldn't have won so many games. That is what you call a family atmosphere, and what you come to find out is that they care about one another.

"They respect one another and would do anything for one another and have one another's back on the field or off the field. When they have that kind of confidence in one another, then, let's be honest, that is love and they care about each other. Family is love and when you have that type of atmosphere believe me that makes you happy. And you tend to perform better on the field and off the field, because you have good feeling every day. Every morning when you wake up you look forward to the next day and you challenge of what you are doing academically at the University of Oklahoma. What I am going to do with every day of my life at Oklahoma, and what I am doing in football at Oklahoma?

"They have that belief — that they can accept that challenge and they are looking forward to meeting out here with these people and make themselves better. When they are feeling good they are playing good, their academics are good and when they know they have a support system with not only their teammates, but their coaches and the administration then they are happy and they will give their best effort. They know somebody cares and that is the big difference about the University of Oklahoma. We care about those young men and people associated with OU care about them as well."

JH: You have already been to the pros, so what is pro life going to be like for Tommie, and what are you going to tell him?

JS: "Tommie is going to keep the same things we have taught him at Oklahoma. He is going to work hard and keep a great work ethic. He is going to go out and give the best that he can give every day, and one thing that I have already preached to Tommie or any player that I have had, and our whole coaching staff preaches, is that from a pro football standpoint you need to be the best you can be. Find out what is the best you can be and reach that goal. I had a D-line coach at the Miami Dolphins and he was in World War II. He survived as a prisoner of war brutal march by the Japanese, while a number of American soldiers died. He always talked about how a man can do anything if mentally he believes that he can do it. He felt if I was mentally strong and if I worked my hardest to achieve a goal or even to just survive I would be successful if I give my best.

"That is all I will tell Tommie. I will tell him to give his best that he can do in practice, games and off the field. He should always give his best. Tommie should come back and finish school. One thing that I appreciate about Tommie is that he is going to take classes on line this semester because he is working out down in Houston, but he is continuing his education. Give your best educationally, give your best athletically, and give your best in making yourself the best man you can be, and if you will do those three things then you will have success."

JH: Will you be able to use the success of Tommie Harris in your recruitment of future defensive tackles?

JS: "Yes, because you talk about the style of play that we play. We play an attack style of play and we allow our defensive tackles to go make plays. Be the run or be the pass, if they are not making a play then they need to be disrupting the blocking scheme. They need to be aggressive and have fun playing. These guys we played with last year are prime examples of that.

"But you go back to Ryan Fisher, Barry Holleyman and Kory Klein. Guys that you shouldn't forget as well such as Ramone Richardson, who did the same thing and had success in this defense and helped us win football games.

"I ask the young men in recruiting what is the style of defense that you would like to play? Does this style of play show your talent to the country, so that you can be one of the best players in college football? Our style of play allows that and that is what sells a young man from a football standpoint. We allow defensive tackles to go make plays. We say a tackle is great and an assistant tackle is great, but we try to make our defensive linemen make tackles for loss and sacks.

"What makes the crowd roar? A great running back makes a touchdown, a quarterback throws a great touchdown pass to a receiver and a defensive back makes an interception. What makes the crowd roar for a defensive linemen? That would be sacks and tackles-for-loss. The players themselves enjoy that and that shows off their talents. Those types of big plays help your team win big football games.

"Our system puts those players in that position to make the tackle-for-loss and to make the sack. One thing about us here at Oklahoma is that we are not going to teach keeping offensive linemen off linebackers. If I was playing linebacker still that would be great, but I don't play linebacker any more and we are not going to teach that. We allow all 11 guys to go make plays, and defensive tackles can go make the play and show the world how good of a football player he is and can be. The better football player you become the more you help our team win football games."

JH: The defensive tackle position still seems like it will be in good shape even with Harris gone. But I am sure you will need to sign a couple big cats as well won't you?

JS: "We will miss a Tommie Harris, let's be honest about it. I think if you ask a Barry Switzer back in 1975 if he wished that he still had Lee Roy Selmon in 1976, 1977 or 1978, and he would tell you he would love to have Lee Roy Selmon on those teams. Players of that kind of ability, and that of Tommie Harris, are players you always want on your team.

"Would I love to have Tommie Harris for another year or another ten years? Most definitely!. However, that is not the way it works. Will we miss Tommie? Most definitely. Our job as college coaches are not only to win football games, and really that is only a small part of it. Our job is to help young men realize their dreams, both off the field and on the field. Tommie Harris is getting an opportunity to realize one of his dreams and that is to play in the NFL. A couple of other dreams for Tommie were to be a first round draft choice and he is going to realize that dream and get that opportunity. Tommie Harris will get his degree and he is going to get that opportunity. That is our job as college coaches, and if we do our job in what I call the three basics, then we will be successful. If we help them get their degree, to become the best football player they can be and they leave here a man then winning football games and winning championships will happen. They will take place.

"A college football coach is not just a college football coach. He is a teacher, a big brother to that player, a father, mother, doctor or what-have- you. It is whatever that player needs us to be to realize their dreams on the field and off the field. If we do our jobs with those three basics then team goals are reached and the player's individual goals are reached.

"Tommie Harris has helped us win team goals and Tommie is getting ready to reach some individual goals. Are we happy for him? Yes. That is what college football is all about. That is what I enjoy about college football, but don't get me wrong because I love winning championships and all of those things. However, the biggest joy I get out of it is watching young men succeed with their life and realizing their goals in college and life after college. Life after college is more important than life while they are in college."

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