ST:I attended all but two games last season.
SS: What two games did you miss?
ST: I didn't make it to the Oregon game because they wanted some outrageous price for airfare and I didn't make it to Stanford, but my wife did.
SS: What was your experience like being able to watch Patrick play last season?
ST: It was great watching Patrick play in front of big crowds and watching him have such a great time. He'd never played in front of crowds that were that large – with every game being a sell-out. The atmosphere of the Trojans and the band was just a really good feeling. Add all that together with Patrick playing among the Heisman Trophy winner and it was a real good experience for me. We've never experienced anything like it before.
SS: It was pretty crazy at South Bend this year wasn't it?
ST: It was real crazy at Notre Dame – it was breathtaking. We were sitting right there in the end-zone where it all took place (the game winning touchdown). When the ball went out of bounds we didn't know what had happened. We thought that was it. Then we found out the ball went out of bounds and they put seconds back on the clock—it was wild.
SS: How would you compare how loud it was inside Notre Dame Stadium to Neyland?
ST: You can't really compare it to Tennessee because of the emotion and everything involved with that--and then just being there at Notre Dame. It was more than just packed; it was over packed with the people on the sidelines the people grouped together in the stands. No one left before the game was over, I mean no one. You can't beat that.
SS: After watching the replay of that game it appeared as if Pete Carroll was the only person, other than the refs who knew Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds.
ST: I think he was the only one who knew. Like I said, we had no clue and we were right there at the end-zone. The clock did run all the way down and people were running on to the field, so we thought the game was over.
SS: Pete said a referee ran down the sidelines and told him the ball was fumbled out of bounds, so he very well could have been the only person other than the refs who knew. So he was able to remain calm, gathered his staff and got ready for the next play.
ST: Pete Carroll himself is a man who's fascinating and interesting to watch and deal with because of his attitude about the game. And the way he handles things is unlike any other coach I know. That makes a great deal of difference with the way he relates to the kids. Patrick is always talking about how he connects to the kids and they're just out there to have a good time and do the best they can, when they can.
SS: Did you have a good feeling about Pete Carroll before Patrick left for SC?
ST: I didn't know much about Pete Carroll before Patrick went off to USC. I knew a little bit about him when he came for a visit. He and the other coaches came and we had a good feeling, but before that I had no clue what he was about.
SS: There have been a few parents of SC recruits this year who voiced their concern about the lack of communication from the coaching staff. Was that an issue for you?
ST: First off, when Patrick went off to the California for his visit, I didn't know he was going to visit the weekend he did. All of a sudden Patrick said, "I'm going to California this weekend," and off he went. He said he just wanted to go there and try it out for himself. I hadn't talked to any of the coaches before that time. Here my son is going to California and I hadn't even talked to the coaches. But once he went out there and felt good about USC, we started talking to the coaches. I understand they have a lot going on and they can't talk to everyone all the time, so it wasn't a big deal to me—especially with end result turning out real good. That's all that matters to me. Like I said before, things got off kind of slow with him, but we parents probably expect too much from coaches because they want our kids to sign this and sign that. Once the season started the communication was great. When Patrick hurt his hamstring one time, Pete Carroll called on his cell phone to tell me how Patrick was doing. We talked throughout the season and I could talk with Pete and the other coaches any time I wanted. I feel real comfortable with my child at USC.
SS: So you feel Patrick made a wise decision in choosing USC?
ST: I think it was the best choice he could have made. To get the type of experience and exposure his freshman year being in L.A., helped him to mature and grow up. He left home early to practice at USC and learn the plays. He left home early to enroll in summer school and work out with the kids, because he has a goal in mind. He knows what he wants and he's going after it. He couldn't have gotten the same type of experiences at Tennessee because it's only two to three hours from home. It's same old thing here in Tennessee. I mean, I'm sure Knoxville is a nice place, but it's nothing like the experience of going to L.A. and Southern Cal. He needed to reach out and go out on his own. I was little worried about him going there in the beginning, but he had to take that chance. Plus Tennessee didn't even go to a bowl game.
SS: I noticed after the Rose Bowl Patrick and Mark…..
SS: You know what I'm talking about?
ST: Yeah, staying on the field?
ST: My conclusion to that is, they were thinking they didn't win the ring they wanted to their freshman year, but it was a good experience they both shared together, and they feel as if they now have something to work hard for. If the time comes again, it will be them celebrating.
SS: I don't think anyone looks like they're having more fun than Patrick.
ST: Right. He's real excited about everything in life, and for him to take that with him to USC, helps him adjust to life away from home, adjust to school, adjust to Pac-10 football. Like I said, he has a goal to focus and work hard--and have fun doing it. I know things can get stressful and frustrating at times because you want to do more, but I have to constantly remind him to be patient and continue to work hard. I tell him it doesn't matter if you get if you get the ball or not and that he needs to go all-out on every play—at practices too. Even if he doesn't get the ball, he can still run good routes and make the defender look stupid. When the time comes for him to get the ball, he'll be a natural for it.
SS: Did you have an opportunity to develop relationships with other SC families?
ST: Yeah, we're good friends with Kyle Moore's family and some of the other ball players. We stay in touch with LenDale. Patrick really enjoyed working out with LenDale. I can't really remember too many names, but we got to know the Sanchez family and we are close with them. Being able to experience last season with them was real good.
SS: What are your plans for the 2006 season?
ST: Things will be a little bit different this year because we know what to expect. We'll know who to talk to and we're a lot more familiar with what goes on before and after the games. We hope get much more involved with the team, players and other families this year.
SS: Did Patrick experience any homesickness?
ST: At the beginning I know he was a little homesick, but he only told his mother that. Every time I asked him he said no. He was just trying to be strong in front of me. Once he got into the groove and felt comfortable with school, and working out and playing some, he felt much better. I heard Dwayne Jarrett had a real hard time at the beginning of his freshman year. Patrick never thought about leaving or anything like that, but he sure was happy when he came home.
SS: How many times did he fly back to Tennessee?
ST: See, he went to USC for summer school, and I think he came home once before school started in the fall. Of course, he came home for Christmas. I think it was two or three times he was able to come home.