Some of you watched it, some of you heard it and others weren't able to so here's a recap for everyone and yet another chance to discuss the new football coach at Kansas, Turner Gill. Also included are player quotes from Kale Pick, Toben Opurum, Brad Thorson, Jonathan Wilson and Chris Harris
I do think it's important to temper expectations a bit because Gill certainly knows what he needs to say in this situation and personally I look forward to celebrating success on the field as opposed to a press conference.
That said, this one was top notch. Gill very quickly, confidently and decisively talked about his decision, his X's and O's, his type of player, his type of program and how he views Kansas in his career.
It was certainly hard not to walk away from this thing with a smile on your face. Gill will be meeting with players tonight, talking with coaches likely today and very, very soon Gill will be taking this class act on the road to visit with current commits and recruits to sell them on Kansas football. I have to say, I like our chances.
One other item worth noting is the current player reaction. It is overwhelmingly positive. Sure, I imagine some of that might change as guys find they don't quite fit in the new program or their expectations were a bit high, but rarely during a coaching change do you see this type of enthusiasm for the change. The outlook is positive in the locker room. One player told me, "I just wish we didn't have to wait 9 more months to get back on the field."
Athletics Director Lew Perkins:
"I really do want to thank the media. Obviously this process has taken 10 days or so, and I think everybody was great about respecting what we were trying to do. I know there were all kinds of rumors going around. I appreciate everybody letting us do our job. Obviously, the outcome is something that I'm extremely pleased about."
"We're going to do something a little different. In my 40 years of college athletics this is something unique. I'm going to ask (junior offensive lineman) Brad Thorson to read something that he received yesterday from a young man at Buffalo. I'm going to ask Brad to read this for us."
Note from Dane Robison, Buffalo senior defensive lineman, to Brad Thorson, Kansas junior offensive lineman:
I just wanted to say you guys over at KU, you're getting a great football coach. Keep your worries minimal. I know that this transition doesn't come off good parting terms with your previous head coach, and I know change can be a scary thing - not really knowing what you're really getting. But same was the case when I was a freshman back in 2005 and Coach Gill was just as new to me as he is going to be to you. But in those four years, he has transformed everything we do here at Buffalo: the way we carry ourselves, how we view the game of football and how we view ourselves as football players.
If he has taught us anything here at UB, it's to believe; to believe in ourselves, to believe in this program and to believe in each other. His philosophy and style will always be to treat each one of you guys as people first and players second. He's going to help you use football as a catalyst to better yourselves and your life right now and after football. Keep your minds and hearts open with everything he has to offer.
I'll leave you guys with one last thought from our mission statement. UB stands for `You Believe'. Each letter of the word BELIEVE stood for what this program was going to be about. The letter `B' was for believe, in each other and in things not yet seen. We believe and it's taken us to great things as players, as a team, as a program and as a community.
Good luck to each and every one of you."
Kansas Director of Athletics Lew Perkins
Continuing his opening statement:
"We interviewed some great people, but I believe in my heart that there was no question that we found the person who we needed to coach our football team at this particular time. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a great music guy, especially 60's music. Coming in this morning, I was picking up Turner this morning, and there was a song that came on: "Magic Moment" by The Drifters. I started thinking about that, that this is a magic moment at the University of Kansas. This is a magic moment for our football team. I have all kinds of things about Turner, how he won a conference title at Buffalo, he helped Nebraska win three national championships, he was a runner-up himself, he coached a Heisman Trophy winner in Eric Crouch and an All-American in Tommy Frazier. It goes on and on."
"But for the things we were looking for, we were looking for somebody who has passion for the game of football, we were looking for somebody who has passion for people, we were looking for somebody that knows the Big 12, and somebody who can recruit Texas and Oklahoma and all of the places that we want to recruit. But also the fact that he can recruit nationally. I personally believe that Turner can go into any home and get any player. I've known Turner for several years, and I've talked to everybody in the country - I can't tell you how many people I've talked to. Everybody has said to me that you can not go wrong with Turner Gill. I don't want to call him the next great star in coaching, because he is already a great star in coaching. He's a phenomenal person, he knows football as well as anybody and he's a great people person and somebody that I respect personally, long before we even thought about Turner coming here. I met Turner about four years ago, and we connected then. I'm just so excited about him coming here and being part of the Jayhawk nation."
On trying to get somebody who was unlike the previous coach:
"I think as we looked for a head coach, there was no question that I wanted somebody who was extremely positive. We look for that in any sport, whether it be a basketball coach, or tennis coach or golf coach. I think a positive attitude is something that is very paramount. I've known Turner for a while, and one of the things that I've heard talking to other people is not only how positive he is, but how competitive he is. And he fit the mold. It's kind of like a puzzle, trying to find that last piece, and Turner fit that last piece, there's no question."
On what made Turner a good fit:
"I think as we evaluated the needs of our football program, and began evaluating somebody with his background; he really fit what we needed. We needed somebody who was a competitor, somebody who understood the Big 12, somebody who obviously played in the Big 12 - or at that time the Big Eight. When he started to tell me about the staff he started to put together, I was absolutely ecstatic about that; the quality of the people, with their football knowledge. It's important to recruit Texas, and it's important that Turner is from Texas. If he can get kids from Texas to go to Buffalo, I'm sure he can get them to come to Kansas. And that's no knock on Buffalo, it's just closer to home here, and a little warmer. He's a players' coach, I thought that was important. At the end of the day, he wanted to be at Kansas. We talked about that at great length. That was as important as anything to me; he wanted to be here for a long period of time. There are just so many pieces to the puzzle that he fit."
Head Coach Turner Gill:
"It's a great day to be a Jayhawk. I want to thank Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Athletic Director Lew Perkins. On behalf of our family, we thank you for the opportunity to be here at an outstanding university. It is an honor and a privilege and we don't take that very lightly. [The head coaching job at] KU is a great job to have. It has been shown that you can win here. I want to talk about some of the legacy that has already been built here. Gale Sayers was here, and John Hadl. Obviously, James Naismith was here for basketball and Jim Ryun was great in track. John Riggins, Lynette Woodard, Steve Jeltz, a former baseball player here, and a current guy here, Todd Reesing. Kansas Athletics has a phenomenal history and outstanding tradition. Our purpose of this program is to bring this program to a point where we will sustain a winning football tradition year after year. When I think of KU, I think of one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, unparalleled leadership and a nationally-recognized university, both athletically and academically. It has an outstanding location, right here in the heart of the Midwest of this great nation. We will be able to recruit all over the country and families will be able to get to the Kansas City area and Lawrence to come see their sons play. It is a phenomenal research and teaching institution. Students are passionate about athletics here at this university. Those are some things that come to mind when I think about the University of Kansas. There is a tremendous alumni base. Also, the people here in Lawrence are engaged in this community and each other."
"The staff that will be here at KU will be second-to-none. I just want to mention that our offensive coordinator will be Chuck Long, right here. I could go on and on about his accolades, but I'll just mention a few of them. He's coached a Heisman Trophy winner, he's coached a Maxwell Award winner and an O'Brien Award winner. As the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma he set many records. He also has a passion for teaching young men about life with football and teaching young men about life after football. Also, the defensive coordinator, who was unfortunately not able to be here, but is on his way here at this point in time. Carl Torbush, a former head coach, just like Chuck Long, has been the defensive coordinator in the ACC, in the SEC and has been in the Big 12. Again, he has a passion about being able to teach young men about the same things we're going to do here. Our coaching staff needs to have a proven record on and off the field, as I've already mentioned about the two young men that will be our coordinators. As I put the staff together, that's what it's going to stand for."
"Also, you want to know what we're going to do offensively. We're going to run some spread offense, but we're also going to incorporate a fullback into the game and do some two-backs occasionally. So we're going to do some of the same things you've seen here, but we're also going to do some things differently. Defensively, we'll have a four-three scheme, we're going to be an attacking defense and we're going to cause turnovers. We're going to create great field position."
"As for what I expect from our players, I expect them to get their college degree, I want them to reach their full potential as a man, as a student and obviously as a football player. We're going to have a similar theme as far as the "Believe" in this football program. We have to believe in each other and talk about trust and faith. We have to have that in our football program. We have to be able to empower people through encouragement. That's what I want the players to do. I want to teach them how to learn and continue to press on towards their goals academically, athletically and also with reaching out to the community and continuing to build relationships with whomever they come in contact with. I want them to know how to influence by being a positive role model. I want them to be able to expect great effort all the time out of the coaching staff, out of their teammates and everyone that's associated with this university and this community."
"I'm also going to teach them how to visualize excellence. They have to visualize how to do things in a proper way. Our coaching staff will teach those life skills and life strategies again on and off the football field. Of course we have to enjoy the college experience here at KU. We have to be able to do that. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, then it will be tough for you to go out and perform at the highest level that you can."
"Here are our top priorities: recruit, beat Missouri, recruit, win the North, recruit, win the Big 12, and in most cases if you win the Big 12 then you're playing for a National Championship. And then we're going to recruit. Our criteria to recruit student-athletes are character--that will be the number one thing we'll look at, we're going to research, talk to as many people as possible to make sure we get the right people to fit KU. I'll only be interested in people that want to come here. Not coerced, not talked to, but they must be passionate about wanting to be a part of one of the greatest universities ever. We're going to have to have some people that are academically inclined to want to get their degree. Those are some criteria we're going to have from that perspective. And from a football skill standpoint, we want guys that can flat-out run, speed, athleticism, physicality and a passion. If I have all of those things, I have a great person, I have a great football player and a great man that's going to help this great country while we're playing football and after we play football. Lastly, I've been asked if I'm taking this job as a way to get to another program. The answer to that is a very decisive no. I did not come here to use it as a stepping stone to a football dynasty, but rather to create a football dynasty here at KU. Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU!"
On if he knew he wanted Chuck Long right away:
"I knew if I had an opportunity at another institution, and I wouldn't say this 100 percent, but he was definitely on my radar screen as a top guy. There's a lot of commonality with these two guys. They have the same things in mind that I do with the student-athletes. That's more important to me than the X's and O's. I want to create an environment that's productive and where we can enjoy coming to work every day. That's just how I'm wired. That's just how I think we should build a program. More importantly, it's how we can sustain it. That's what it's all about. If we can be consistent every day and go out and do the best job we can do, there will be some excellent things that will take place here."
On building relationships with current players:
"I build relationships. I'm going to get to know them in a deep way. That starts tonight. They're going to get to know me in a deep way. As you build relationships, you build trust. It will take time, it won't happen overnight, but we'll spend some time together. We're going to talk about a lot of deep issues that are going on in their lives and also things that will happen in the future. Our coaching staff is going to get engaged with our student-athletes. We're here to win today. This is not a one year, two year, five year process or anything of that nature. I'm a competitor, I love to win and I've been blessed with many opportunities and have been successful wherever I've been. We're going to continue to make that happen here at Kansas."
Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long:
On Gill inviting him to the press conference and introducing him as the offensive coordinator:
"This is Turner Gill's day, as it should be. He called me up and said, `Hey do you want to come to the press conference, I'd love for you to come.' That's the kind of guy he is: very humble. I said I would love to come. I didn't hesitate to get on a plane. It says a lot about him and his humility because a lot of coaches wouldn't do that."
On starting work right away:
"Like he talked about, we're going to meet with the young men tonight. Transition is never easy and I know they have gone through some tough transition, so we're going to try to smooth that situation as quickly as possible tonight. We're anxious to meet everybody and see everybody. Tonight is going to be a step in that direction. Like he said about recruiting, we only have one more week before the dead period starts, so we need to get to all of those commitments and start there. I'm sure we'll be watching a lot of recruiting tape the next few days, but we're going to be at it right away."
On the players experiencing change with a new staff:
"There's going to be a lot of familiar schemes that they will recognize. But at the same time, change is inevitable in life. One of the things we'll talk about is that you have to adapt to that change quickly or you get left behind. The faster you can change the better."
Kansas Player Quotes
Junior Offensive Lineman Brad Thorson
On the letter received by Buffalo defensive lineman Dane Robinson about Coach Gill:
"I was really impressed. I couldn't even believe it when I read it. Honestly, I was shocked and I still am. I have shown it to my parents and so many other people in the athletic department. I can not believe the words that he had to say about Coach Gill, considering we are taking him from their program. I think it is amazing that they feel so positively about him and how excited they are about this opportunity for their former coach."
On his familiarity with Coach Gill and his expectations for the future of this program:
"I have only been to shake his hand a have a quick hello with him in the hallway before coming in here, and the next few weeks we are going to be off campus, but I can not wait to get back and start working with him."
On the different coaching style Coach Gill will bring, as he is a `players' coach':
"I think he is still a disciplinarian. Practice is still going to be tough and our workouts will still be tough, but I like the fact that he is a very successful former player. He knows what it takes to win. It takes hard work and dedication, so to have a coach who has played with that mentality and instills those principles is great for this team."
Junior Wide Receiver Jonathon Wilson
On Coach Gill's goal to get to know all the players on a deep, personal level:
"He said he really wants to build relationships. This upcoming season will be my last, and there are coaches that wouldn't want to mess too much with players who have already been here for awhile, but he said he wanted to build relationships with players that are already here, so that gets me really excited."
On the fact that Coach Gill has experience as an offensive player:
"I watched a couple of Buffalo's games this year, not knowing this was going to happen, but just because I caught them on TV and I remember noticing he ran a spread-type offense and did throw the ball. One of the issues that we may have worried about was brining in a guy who only ran the ball, but I'm glad we have a guy who throws the ball. I am really happy about that."
Freshman Running Back Toben Opurum
On the letter sent from Buffalo player to Kansas offensive lineman Brad Thorson:
"Brad said it speaks volumes about the head coach and I couldn't agree with him more. When a head coach leaves a program, a lot of players might feel a sense of betrayal, but with a player sending a message like that to where his head coach is going, it shows the type of support and respect that he's earned from his players back at Buffalo. I feel it will be the same way when he comes here."
On the significance of race in college football hires and Kansas' hiring of Gill:
"I think it says a lot for where society has come from a standpoint of him being the only black head coach in the Big 12 Conference. That says a lot. But at the same time, you have to look past the skin color and look at accolades and his character and other reasons why he was brought to this campus."
On his first impressions of head coach Turner Gill:
"I've heard he is a motivator of his athletes and a players-first coach. He obviously shared that with us today and left an impression that he is really going to take this program to another direction and gain a lot of support and respect from his athletes."
On change and building a relationship with Gill and his new staff:
"It's kind of disappointing that we have to wait so long for the football season to come back around. With him being here today and getting the chance to start building a relationship with him and his staff, it's a feeling of excitement and you can see that in the player's faces here and the people here that are all excited for the change that will occur around the program."
Junior Defensive Back Chris Harris
On what the last to weeks have been like for the players:
"It's been pretty tough on the team with not knowing what direction we're going in and who our coach is going to be. We're just so happy that we finally got a coach, just because the process took so long."
On what he knows about Turner Gill:
"Just what the Buffalo players are saying, that he's a players' coach, which is something that we haven't had really. That will be a big key because we'll be able to trust our coach a lot more. It's definitely nice to have a players' coach around, being able to build a relationship with him. It's so much nicer to have a players' coach because you build trust in your coach and you want to go out there (on the field) and fight for him. It helps out a lot."
On what Coach Gill said about improving in the classroom and off the field:
"Very few of us are going to go to the NFL, and after (playing at Kansas), we're going to have to find jobs. We won't be playing football all of our lives. It's just good that he is going to come in here and teach us how to be men, and how to carry ourselves off the field."
On what Coach Gill's biggest challenge will be:
"I think the players will fall right into whatever his plan is. I don't think that will be a challenge at all. I can't really say what his biggest challenge will be."
Freshman Quarterback Kale Pick
On his reaction to Turner Gill being named the next head coach:
"All I've heard so far are good things about Coach Gill. I'm really excited to get to work with him and build the relationship between me and him, and the rest of the team. I'm really looking forward to the team meeting later on tonight so I can get to know him better and know his coaching style better."
On what it means to `connect with your coach':
"It's very exciting news that we're going to have a great relationship with our coaches and we're fortunate to have a coach like that that wants to know us other than just as football players."
On his thoughts about running Gill's spread offense:
"I think it's great for our offense, mix and match a little bit. To mix it up on defenses, I think will make it more challenging for them. I'm looking forward to getting a hold of the playbook and start running right away."
On if he's nervous about what lies ahead:
"I wouldn't say I'm nervous, maybe more excited that we got the coach that we did. I was a little more anxious during the process, because I didn't know what to expect. But last night when Lew (Perkins) announced the head coach, I was really excited to work with him and get to know him better."