'Willis and Travis will hit it off'

Miami running backs coach Don Soldinger had Florida-native Travis Henry in the university's football camp when Henry was in high school, so he's familiar with the Bills running back. He thinks Willis McGahee and Henry will get along just fine. This is the final installment of Soldinger's interview with Mike Doser.

Mike Doser: Did Miami look at Travis Henry when he was a high schooler in Frostproof, Fla.? You must have heard about him?

Soldinger: Travis came to our camp. He was a good player. It's funny, that's one of our mistakes probably (laughs). We thought he was a little bit short when he was here. He was about 5'8", 5'9". I don't know what he is now …

Doser: He's about 5'9".

Soldinger: He was small. But he's a real special guy. It's hard to tell at a camp, but he turned out to be really special. I think he and Willis will hit it off really good. I really do. They'll get along. They'll be fine.

Doser: You were with Miami when highly regarded running back Melvin Bratton tore his knee up in 1988. You've seen Frank Gore suffer an ACL tear. Now Willis. Has Willis handled his rehabbing situation better than anyone else you've ever seen?

Soldinger: He's handled it better than anyone I've ever seen. Melvin had a lot of scarring in there and he just didn't heal well. They did not have the technology back then.

With Willis, I come back from national [coaches] convention and there's only one place to find him: at the rehab place. That's where he stayed for eight hours a day.

That's what he is. He's very mature and matter of fact about it: "This happened to me and this is what I've got to do to get better and I'm getting better."

Put it this way: Buffalo didn't and is not going to waste any money on him. They picked the right guy. You want that guy on your side if you're trying to win a Super Bowl. They got a bargain.

That's my opinion, and I've coached them all.

If you have Edgerrin James, you don't have to worry about him. That guy's a flat-out man. He's going to do what he's got to do.

Clinton Portis is the same way.

Clinton Portis is a guy that got robbed. I told him that too. He said, "I'm coming out." And I said, "The only thing I can tell you is get what you're worth because this is all business at this level." And he got picked in the second round. He's not getting what he's worth. He's a first-rounder too, as far as I'm concerned.

Doser: He played like it last year …

Soldinger: Sure he did. I don't know if they're going to renegotiate his contract, but they should, but I don't know if they will. That's my point to these guys: Get what you're worth. Once you sign, don't worry about it. Go to work and get the victories. Go to the Super Bowl. That's what the goal is. Just keep winning football games. Stay focused. Correct the mistakes and keep winning, and do what the coaches tell you. A lot of guys don't do that. That's why the league is the way it is. That's why you have a lot of problems in the league.

Doser: So you prefer college football to the NFL?

Soldinger: Sometimes I prefer high school to college. I was a high school coach for 21 years.

Doser: You mentioned Bills running backs coach Les Steckel earlier. How do you think he'll benefit Willis?

Soldinger: (Les) is really into his kids. He's going to get along with Willis really well. Once Willis realizes that this guy is out to really make him better as a football player and as a person, Willis really respects that. That's what he likes. Les puts the person first. That's the way to deal with Willis.

I'm telling you Willis is going to be unbelievable. You guys are going to love Willis.

Doser: You're very sure about this. Willis suffered a less serious injury than Robert Edwards, but it still was significant, yet you're so sure …

Soldinger: Positive.


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