Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mr. Personality - Coach Sumlin


Is it safe to say Kevin Sumlin was the right man for the job?  Not yet, but I sure do like what I see thus far.

Now let’s be clear, if the Aggies go out there in August and September and put up a bunch of  inconsistent efforts that result in goose eggs, I will 100% turn on him.  (It should be noted I am absolutely an irrational fan - sue me.)  Sumlin will then be classified (by me) as all personality, with nothing to back it up on the actual field.  I’m not looking for a 10-win season.  Just win the games you are supposed to win, win a couple we aren’t supposed to win, and, please, just look like a team ready to compete every week.  I'll let you decide which games are which.

But since the games haven’t started, let’s talk about that personality of Mr. Kevin Sumlin.  He is young, energetic, confident, and demanding.  I love that mix.  I want the players to love him, yet still fear him; willing to go to war for him, but not willing to cross him.

Football teams are a large, complex living organism.  Sometimes things need to be changed at the top (the brain), and that is why letting Mike Sherman go was the right decision.  Sherman was an exemplary human, whom I think is specifically manufactured to succeed at a supporting role, more specifically, an offensive coordinator.  The head coach of a college football team might as well be the mayor of the city or the president of the school.  Their entire life is devoted to balancing a bunch of ego-driven football players, financially-driven admins, and success-driven fans.   A&M needs someone to inspire them, to fire them up, to make them believe.  Some coaches lack the vibrant personality to be the man at the top of the totem pole.  And honestly, that is perfectly fine; those men are meant to be fantastic coordinators (i.e. Mike Sherman and Wade Phillips). 

As far as specific leadership style… well, sometimes your team needs the stern, stoic leadership of a Nick Saban; and sometimes your team needs the loud, stirring leadership of a Mike Tomlin.  Obviously, most people would throw Coach Sumlin in the Mike Tomlin boat (heck, they even look alike, along with Omar Epps), but I don’t want to pigeon-hole him yet.  A college coach is far different than an NFL coach.

I love that Kevin Sumlin is involved on twitter.  Current Texas A&M students love twitter, future A&M athletes love twitter (LaQuvionte Gonzalez - @LAQUVIONTE_GJay Arnold - @JArnoldTAMU85, & Kenny Hill - @Kennyhill13,  seem to be fond of it), the whole world seems to love twitter right now.  Twitter is a revolutionary tool that helps us FEEL connected with people we once deemed to be out of reach.  Twitter allows someone in the position of Sumlin to give us all a little peek into his world.  And Sumlin embraces that notion.   Anyone who follows him has likely come to know that when he tweets “YESSIR” it usually means another recruit has committed to Texas A&M.  
As evidenced by this proclamation when Darian Claiborne committed on July 3, 2012.

This not only invigorates the devoted fan base to no end, but it proves that Coach Sumlin cares enough about those who surround him in order to let them be involved to an extent.  Family isn’t just a tagline at Texas A&M, it is the fabric of our University.  Sumlin seems to get that.

The Texas A&M student body is very different now than it was 10 years ago.  And it will undoubtedly be very different 10 years from now.  I believe Coach Sumlin does a fantastic job of understanding the student body as they are today, much more so than his predecessors ever did.  Obviously his age is helpful in that equation, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.  Sumlin appears willing to adapt and evolve with the college football atmosphere.

Another tidbit that I love: Sumlin plays music at practice.  He obviously believes that a football practice is no place for solemn, silence… and I couldn’t agree more.  Not that the music of Drake, Rhianna, or Skrillex truly replicates a game day atmosphere, but guess what, I have zero doubt the players love it.  It not only creates an up-tempo atmosphere for them to practice in, but it also gets the energy at a whole new level.  Getting the mood right can make or break a practice, and consequently, the team as a whole. 

A college football team in its simplest form is a gathering of fifty-plus 18-22 year olds that just so happen to also be raging, athletic monsters.  These kids need to be harnessed at times and let loose at other times, but they ultimately should be molded into a winning product.  This becomes the ultimate juggling act for a coach who realizes that winning football teams turn universities across the country into national brands (see Florida, Texas, USC,etc). 

Again, a college football team is a complex living, breathing organism and which needs a brain to direct it.  Right now that brain, whether we like it or not (which I currently “like” it) is Mr. Kevin Sumlin.

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