New OU defensive end coach Jon Fabris also talked to a small group of selected media Tuesday, and he will be on Sports Morning with me and Bob Barry Jr. tomorrow morning at 9:40 a.m. One thing that is clear, and that is Fabris really wanted this job at OU. He leaves his parents, who lived six miles from Athens, and the University of Georgia where he coached. And he leaves a defense that was ranked in the top 10 in the country every year that he was there. The following is commentary from his talk with the media earlier Tuesday evening.
JH: How tough was it to leave Georgia and come to the University of Oklahoma?
JF: "Certainly, a lot of thought and prayer went into my decision. I don't have to tell you what Oklahoma represents. That tradition is an appealing thing, which dates way back before Bud Wilkinson and all way through Chuck Fairbanks, Coach (Barry) Switzer, and right now with Coach (Bob) Stoops. Certainly, that is an appealing thing. Then, the fact that I hold Coach Stoops in high regard in many different ways. I think a lot of Brent Venables, who is the present defensive coordinator. All of those things were factors.
"The fact that I am at a school in the University of Georgia, which certainly has its own history and tradition — we have won 34 games over the last three years and three consecutive finishes of the top six or better. Plus, we had three straight New Year's Day bowl wins, so it is not like I am at a place that didn't have its own success. I think that should tell you everything and certainly send a message how highly regarded I hold Oklahoma, Coach Stoops and Brent Venables when I am at a place like Georgia, but choose to come to Oklahoma. I am very much looking forward to it and my wife (Marcy) and I both are as well as our little boy (Jackson). (After 13 years of marriage, the Fabris' had their first child Jackson, who is now 10 months old.)
MEDIA: Don't your parents live very close to Athens? Wasn't that where you grew up, which would make your decision even tougher to leave for Oklahoma?
JF: "That was certainly was a factor when we decided to come to Georgia over four years ago. My parents are both native Georgian's, but I really did not grow up in the state, although most of my relatives, most of which have passed on are from this state. That was a factor is coming to Georgia and certainly was a factor in staying for as long as we did at Georgia. Again, that should send a message about the respect that I hold not only for Coach Stoops and Coach Venables, but also for the Oklahoma tradition too.
"Much thought and prayer went into making this very tough decision. My father Frank played on the 1952 Tulsa Gator Bowl team. My father played end, but of course back in those days you weren't so specialized and you had to play both ways. In fact, my mom and dad got a call this morning because I guess this morning my story must have been in the Tulsa papers. They got a call from his best friend during his college days. My dad actually worked for this man, as my dad was a coach at one time. His first coaching job was at Brigham Young University and the head coach was Tommy Hudspeth. He was a teammate of my dad's at Tulsa and he later became the head coach of the Detroit Lions. So, my parents were excited about seeing them again."
MEDIA: Can you talk about your relationship with Brent Venables?
JF: "I have always thought a lot of Brent, but of course Brent is not exactly Methuselah and even now he is not Methuselah. Certainly, his football knowledge and maturity to see the big picture, even when I was with him at Kansas State, which was back in 1997 to 1998, when I was first around him exceeds his years. Brent has a good way about him. He certainly is a high-energy, competitive person, who also is a good person in terms of more than just a football coach. I think that is always a rare trait and I think that is also a trait that I know about Coach Stoops.
"Those are good traits to have when somebody has the energy and competitiveness to want to win and win at the highest level, but to also have a great deal of respect for family and those kind of things. They know how to laugh with friends and that sort of thing, so I am looking forward to working with Brent again. We are looking forward to another competitive adventure.
MEDIA: You describe Brent as a high-energy guy, but that is how I hear you described as well. Would you agree with that?
JF: "I think at some time when we were all being put together up in Heaven and we were to go through the assembly line, maybe when Brent and I were coming down that assembly line the good Lord got distracted, and when we were at the adrenaline area or energy level Brent and I got a little bit more. I don't know, but that is certainly something that I have always believed in, and if you don't, you won't. What I mean by that is if you don't have energy then your players won't. If you don't have intensity then your players won't. If you don't have an eagerness about you then your players won't. That is just something that I believe in and it is not something that I have to dig deep to find.
"I am not saying that is something that I come up with easy, but it is something within my being. I have been described as having a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and personally I don't think anything great was every achieved without enthusiasm. I am not taking about raw-raw enthusiasm, but inner-passion enthusiasm."
MEDIA: Georgia jumped the gun on releasing that you were leaving. Is there any kind of friction on the departure end?
JF: "None that I am aware of. Everything between me and Coach (Mark) Richt was fine in terms of that. I know that I have spoke with him and we both exchanged good thoughts about one another because I have been working for him now every since he got here on the staff. Coach Richt knows what I have given here and he has even said good things about my work ethic and contributions that I made at Georgia. I am not aware of any friction.
"In fact, I have been trying to get myself ready to leave for OU. As we speak, I am at the office right now trying to pack my extensive collection of video tapes and film that I have been dragging around for years.Of course, I have gathered four more years of it here. I was in the office at two in the morning trying to get packed so that I can get there (Norman). Trying to get that physical work done is very difficult when so many people are coming by wanting to talk to me before I leave. I definitely want to do that, but it is not easy to talk to everybody that I need to.
"There is not friction here that I know of. And in fact, there is nothing but great thoughts and memories here at Georgia."