SD Bolt Report Exclusive: Ronnie Harmon

SD Bolt Report had the chance to catch up with former San Diego Chargers running back Ronnie Harmon. Harmon is now coaching running backs at Western Illinois and after repeatedly turning down interviews over the last few years is ready to talk about the past and the present. He was very accommodating and often asked, "How am I doing?"

Rather than start with the usual rhetoric and realizing this was Harmon's first interview in quite some time, we eased him into the proceedings.

Ronnie Harmon admittedly has not stayed in touch with the team and we had to catch him up on the happenings in San Diego.

The first surprise of the day was telling Ronnie that training camp had moved from the plush confines of La Jolla to Carson.

"They moved it," Harmon said in surprise. "What? Hold on -- are you serious?

"Oh my goodness, I did not know that."

Further explaining the move did nothing to sway Ronnie from the shock. He seemed at ease with the topic off him for a spell and provided the witty banter seen by reporters during his playing days.

"Do we ever get it in the NFL?"

Harmon was on the 1994 team that went to the Super Bowl. The training camp back then… La Jolla, California.

"Did they say why?"

I explained the idea to Ronnie about bonding…

"Oh, so you couldn't get that in La Jolla?"

Hotels, not going home every night – blah, blah, blah.

"Oh I know where that is at," said Harmon. "LA people don't like San Diegans…"

They sure don't. During training camp, Raiders jerseys in the stands were not out of the norm. Talking to people in Carson, we found lots of Raiders fans that just wanted to come by and witness a practice, any practice.

I went on to tell Ronnie that the offense and defense were given separate locker rooms. Obviously, you work with your particular unit more, but each relies on the other to be successful.

"All I am saying is…you see it for what it is. Take what you want from it. I am not saying it is wrong. I am not saying it is right. It is a different way."

Ronnie was more than surprised to hear the bulk of the 1994 team was dismantled. Somewhat shocking was his lack of knowledge on the suspect. We explained the Internet to Ronnie, and the future looks bright for his knowledge of the team.

"That is life in the NFL."

Ronnie Harmon took over as running backs coach of Western Illinois this summer. The move reunited him with his former Iowa coach, and Head Coach of the Leathernecks, Don Patterson.

Ronnie had been coaching in the high school ranks before getting bumped into his first gig in the college ranks. He was working with running backs in San Diego (Horizon) and New York City (Holy Cross). High school is a different world to coach in and without the aid of recruiting it becomes that much tougher.

"It was alright," Harmon said of the high school coaching stint. "It was kind of difficult to win sometimes. Everyone is not on the same page all the time."

How he got the post? It sounded like just dumb luck, but we find that hard to believe in San Diego. Coach Patterson has always been fiercely loyal to his old players and continues to stay in touch with all of them through the years.

Under Patterson, who was as assistant coach at Iowa during Harmon's career, the Queens, N.Y., native earned first-team all-Big Ten and first-team all-America honors, and was twice named Most Valuable Player while leading the Hawkeyes to four consecutive bowl games from 1982-85.

As a senior, he led Iowa to a No. 1 national ranking for five consecutive weeks and a berth in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions. He set a Hawkeye record with 11 receptions in the 1986 Rose Bowl, and ended his career with 2,442 rushing yards, 2,045 receiving yards and 32 total touchdowns.

"It was just by word of mouth.

"There was a coach here that was on the staff at Iowa. I was at a retirement function for a coach here and it just so happened that they were looking for a running backs coach at Western Illinois and the Coach mentioned my name. So (Patterson) gave me a call and of course I said. ‘Yeah.'

"Four or five days later, I drove out."

It turns out it was all by chance. The stars had aligned and Ronnie happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"I'm convinced after talking extensively with Ronnie that he has the same commitment to becoming a great college coach that he had for becoming a great player," said Western Illinois head coach Don Patterson at the time of the hiring. "I have no doubt he will serve as an ideal mentor to his players."

Now that Ronnie has moved up the ranks, is it only a matter of time before he joins the ranks of the NFL as a coach?

"I don't even think about that. This is where I am at right now."

Ronnie says he is putting in, "between 7-11 (hours)," at his new post each day. The experience he is getting will help him to continue to climb the ladder of success that has followed him through his career.

When asked if he was enjoying it, Harmon responded with a resounding, "Oh yeah!"

How do they look this year?

"They look as good as they looked last year. That is all I can tell you. I really can't give you any insight just yet. All of them are great people. I just met the guys once I got here. Everyone is pretty nice."

Any the Chargers should be scouting?

"Man…I can't tell you that. You have to ask questions like that now that I am a coach?"

Yes we do. And the questions will continue to come. Ronnie has to answer them now, where in the past he could deflect them. With LaDainian Tomlinson here it seems unlikely that we would grab a back from Western Illinois, but one never knows what gem might come out of there. Last year we took Mike Scifres and it was not that long ago when Rodney Harrison was a fifth round pick who played college ball with the Leathernecks.

The tough questions haven't even come and Harmon is always asking how he is doing. He sounds like an actor trying out for his first role on stage. When asked if he had any stories from his past that were funny, he reveals recent history. In fact, he thinks this whole interview is funny.

"I am talking to you, that is pretty funny.

"I was a pretty low key kind of guy, I didn't get involved in a lot of that. I worked out and played football and that was it. If I had any stories I probably wouldn't tell you."

Nothing. No taping people to the goal post? No having a rookie carry your jock? No stories at all?

"I couldn't tell you stories like that. That wouldn't be nice."

No one asked for nice, we want the skinny, the juice, the nugget.

"I like to be nice, far from what some reporters might think. Just because I say no, doesn't mean I hate you. No, no thank you I am not interested.

"I have to talk now, before I would say ‘Nah.' You know I wouldn't even accept the interview. Now…this is killing me. How am I doing, am I doing ok?

For the third time today he has asked how he is doing. I can only sit back and laugh, which draws him in even further. We are lucky to be granted an interview from Harmon as we reiterate this is one of the first interviews he has done in years.

"I am not really good at this. You just don't know…"

Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Parcells don't allow their assistants to interview I say spurring him into reflection.

"Really," as the light goes on for Ronnie and he ponders changing his answer to a previous question regarding coaching in the Pros.

Luckily for us, the interview will commence again tomorrow.

Part II of our interview with Ronnie Harmon will begin anew on Tuesday.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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