As a rising sophomore quarterback at Alabama, Brodie Croyle had never really heard of Dave Rader, who was recently named the co-coordinator of the Ole Miss offense.
But when Rader came on board with the Crimson Tide in 2003, Croyle knew his career was about to change, for the better.
"I was a young quarterback who was used to getting six yards deep and letting it rock," said Croyle. "I didn't know anything about quarterback fundamentals, audibles, defense recognition, footwork or anything like that.
"I had never called an audible in my whole career until I joined up with Coach Rader."
Croyle, now a quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, quickly grew to trust, admire and appreciate Rader.
"First of all, he is one of the best men I have ever known. I am still close to him," Brodie, who lives in Madison, MS, in the offseason, said. "I couldn't ask for anything more as a mentor, in life and in coaching.
"Coach Rader is the same guy every day - a rock. He's the same guy on game day - calm, collected and his mind constantly working. I have never been around a coach who can adjust things mid-stream as quickly as he can.
"If the gameplan we went into the game with wasn't working, he could switch it instantly and do it in terms we could all understand. He's got a brilliant offensive mind. I can tell you this without exaggeration - 99% of the time, the adjustments he would make on the fly and the audibles we had in the gameplan worked."
Croyle believes Ole Miss is in for a treat.
"Here's the bottom line - Ole Miss got a great quarterback coach and coordinator," he closed. "Coach Rader is very demanding on his quarterbacks. He expects you to know every minute detail of the offense and your job.
"But if you give him that and do what he asks, it instills confidence and confidence breeds good performance. I have been reading some stuff where some Ole Miss fans might be concerned that he's been out of football for two or three years. He was out of coaching for three years before he came to Alabama - and we were on the cutting edge of everything with him."
Gus Frerotte, now retired after 15 years in the NFL and who played for Rader at Tulsa during his collegiate career, had similar comments about his college mentor.
"There are two things that stick out to me about Coach Rader instantly," said Frerotte. "One, the way he recruited me. Two, the way he coached me.
"He was the only head coach who visited me two times in Pennsylvania when I was being recruited. Coach Rader knew I had a strong arm and the physical tools and had scouted me enough to know he wanted me badly. He worked me harder than anyone else and I felt more comfortable with him than anyone else.
"Once I got to Tulsa, I knew we would be ahead of the curve in the passing game. We didn't just go through one-two-three progressions in our reads, we learned defenses and coverages inside and out, which made our reads easier to make."
Rader started Gus from scratch, Frerotte says.
"I didn't know about footwork, poise in the pocket and all the essentials a good quarterback has to have. He molded me into a quarterback," Gus noted. "He was a huge boost to me in my career.
"I was drafted in the seventh round by Washington and Heath Shuler was drafted in the first round. Because of what I learned from Coach Rader, I felt I was way ahead of the curve in making the transition to the pros and I eventually beat Heath out due to that preparation I got from Coach Rader. He not only took me from raw to finished product starting from scratch, he helped me define myself as a quarterback by teaching me things beyond the college level."
Rader, 52, excitedly stood at the podium of his introductory press conference at Ole Miss Friday morning, as humble as Croyle and Frerotte described him to be.
"We are very, very excited to be here. Janet (wife) and I are extremely happy," said Rader. "I wanted to be around good people, have a chance to win and coach quarterbacks. Ole Miss and Houston Nutt give me the opportunity to do all those things. The only thing that would supplant me from here is if the Dallas Cowboys called me to be the head coach.
"This is a very intriguing situation. I know the kind of person Coach Nutt is and I know the kind of coach he is having faced him before. It fits me. Beyond that, I have played here twice, going 1-1 at Alabama, and the tremendous fan support here certainly drew me. This was a no-brainer for me and my goal is to supplement everything going on here. Again, I'm very excited."
Rader gave up a successful career in private business, a chance to enter politics in his home state of Oklahoma and moving away from home to come to Ole Miss.
"The itch of coaching has drawn me back, and this perfect situation," he smiled. "You know, I have not called a bad play from my couch in three years. I wanted to see if I could keep that streak going.
"I turned down three positions while I was out of coaching. They weren't right for me. For me to give up everything I had in Tulsa it had to be right. This is what we are supposed to do - come to Ole Miss and help win football games in a great program. I'm honored, truthfully."
He feels he will fit in with the Ole Miss staff easily, but he hasn't had time to really get to know the other coaches well yet due to the rigors of their closing out recruiting when he came on the scene. But he has no issues with being a co-coordinator or any ego about roles, etc.
"I know the chemistry is good on this staff. Coach Nutt is about winning. The assistants are about winning. They are issue oriented, not personality driven. I have talked to (QBs) Nathan (Stanley) and Raymond (Cotton) a couple of times and am starting to develop some chemistry with them," Dave added. "As far as my role, that is TBD - to be determined. I have no problems with anything I have been told. I don't anticipate any problems. The head coach is about winning, not ego. I know his coaches are the same way."
Rader has been out of football for three years. Is that an issue?
"I have watched a lot of football during my break from coaching. I actually got to see more of what was going on throughout the country then when I was coaching in a particular conference," said Rader, who evaluated, recruited, signed and coached John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy at Alabama for part of their careers. "I was also involved in the media end and went to a lot of games. I stayed in touch with friends in the business who wanted me to share things with them. I have kept abreast.
"I have been in here studying the offensive system at Ole Miss and there haven't been many blanks, to be candid. I expected some, but it's been very good so far. I really don't feel like there has been a pause at all. This is a good system, an exciting system, and I'm very excited to be in it."
Rader said he does not know much about the Rebel quarterbacks, but his first impression was good.
"I know more about Nathan because he is from Oklahoma, but when the two of them walked through the door of my office, I thought to myself that is what QBs are supposed to look like," he smiled. "They seem like nice young men. Obviously, they are very young and we have to get going with them right now.
"I don't know them, they don't know me. We will all have a blank slate. I am going to throw them everything I know and then go after it. We are on the clock and we are going to have to mature a lot. The clock is running. We are going to be moving fast. The maturation of our quarterbacks is critical to the maturation of our offense. We are going to have an essential, critical spring coming up. There is nothing between them and maturity but air and opportunity. We will get after it."
He expects his stay at Ole Miss will be much easier than his three-year stint at Alabama from 2003-2006 when Mike Shula took over from ousted Mike Price.
"I learned there you don't come in in May and miss spring training for your first year and you don't go to a program on probation," he stated. "That is why I am so excited about having spring training here."
Rader does feel it is an advantage that Stanley has run the Ole Miss system and Cotton has been in on all the meetings for a year in this same system.
"Raymond didn't get many reps in the system, but he was in the meetings. Nathan got more reps and should have a big jump on the learning curve," Rader noted. "I can tell from talking to them they are chomping at the bit to have an opportunity to get the reps and get better. I can truly feel that from them."
The co-coordinator title means little to Rader.
"I am very much looking forward to coaching with Mike Markuson. His guys always play well. That is huge. He's known in the profession as a coach who is very, very good and very solid," Dave stated. "I'm sure he is looking at his young centers the way I am looking at our young QBs, but we'll get it done."
Rader doesn't know what his recruiting area will be but he knows he will recruit quarterbacks from a position standpoint.
"I really enjoy the recruiting process. Evaluating, meeting them, getting to know them and their families. When you have a good product to sell, recruiting is a lot of fun," he closed. "To be honest, I did not know everything we have here to sell.
"My goodness. This campus. The facilities we have. Throw in our head coach. That's a pretty good package to show a recruit. We can sell all that. I look forward to that for sure."
Rader meets the press
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