I have followed Gus Malzahn’s career for a while now. I have interviewed him and had chances to hear him speak on several occasions.
But the one thing that always strikes me about him is his passion for football. You can just tell he loves it. He eats, sleeps and breathes it. And regardless of the profession, passion/drive are the key ingredients needed in order to succeed.
A few years back, my co-worker Lyn Scarborough and I took a trip to Nashville for the National Coaches Convention. There, I had a chance to see Malzahn, who had just been named Auburn’s new OC, give a presentation to coaches of all ranks on how he coordinates practices, runs different plays at different areas of the field, uses tempo and so on.
It was the first time I’d ever heard the guy talk. But in the brief time in that room with all those aspiring coaches on all levels, I realized coach Malzahn was a special talent. He had all the attention of his peers, and you could just sense the guy’s love for football by the way he orchestrated his message and responded to questions from his locked in audience.
Tuesday night in Birmingham, AL., Malzahn spoke to the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club about his recently inked 2013 recruiting class. Despite the driving rain and chilly temps outside Rosewood Hall in Homewood, a number of Auburn alumni and fans braved the weather in attempt to hear what the 26th head coach in Tigers’ history had to say about one of the top signing classes in America.
After suffering through one of the worst season’s in Auburn’s history a year ago, Malzahn made it a point to tell all those in attendance that he didn’t want this year’s team worrying about last year. He said Auburn would “get its edge back” and mentioned that he’s stressed to the current players that it’s a new day and with hard work things can get turned around. He also made a point to thank his assistant coaches (numerous times) for all their hard work on the recruiting trail.
Due to the timing of Gene Chizik’s firing, Malzahn and his assistants only had a brief period to recruit, which put the new staff at a disadvantage early in the process. But the new coaches weathered the storm and amazingly put together one of the finest groups of high school players in the land.
One-by-one Malzahn broke down each of his signees by showing those in attendance highlight reels of each player. The Tigers’ head man stopped and started film as if he was slicing up an opposing defense during game week, which gave those in attendance a more detailed look at an individual player’s talents. His presentation — that could be seen high on the walls of the ballroom in separate areas — was strikingly entertaining for me considering it offered up his opinion in real time.
In addition to dissecting the player’s playmaking ability, Malzahn also took the time to say a few words about each player. On numerous occasions he mentioned that this guy comes from a great family, or that guy loves Auburn. And let me tell ya something folks, that kind of stuff is important.
Hey, having great players is a good thing, but great players with bad character will eat away at the soul of a team. In Malzahn’s first recruiting class it appears as if he signed great players with solid character. I know Georgia fans will snicker when they see Nick Marshall’s name, but hopefully he has grown up and matured into a guy that won’t find trouble anymore. Young adults do deserve second chances, and he may have found out the hard way about that.
In closing, Auburn fans have a lot to look forward to. One of the best offensive minds in college football and a veteran defensive staff are about to move on to Phase II (Phase I: hiring assistants and recruiting) of the rebooting process when the Tigers take the field for spring practice. Malzahn knows the challenges he faces with his team, and you can rest assured he knows who he has to take down in the SEC West to get another one of those national title rings on his finger. It will be a hard road to hoe, but something tells me that the Gus Bus will be stationed in Lee County for a long time.