Driving down 127 to Miami University last Thursday night brought back wonderful memories of the old days at Miami of Ohio. The days of Randy Walker and Terry Hoeppner were the times that I will always remember. Actually, I had not been back, only once since Shane Montgomery resigned as head football coach.
The first time that I was introduced to the late Randy Walker, he kind of gave me a shrug and went about his business. I had only been in the business for a few years. I would see him occasionally, but the nod was sufficient for him, but as time went, I was able to "gain his confidence and trust." He took me around in his golf cart, at one of Miami's high school 7on7, which was the ultimate high for me. We talked about high school players for an hour. The nod was gone and, in my eyes, I had arrived.
The late Terry Hoeppner was the real deal. To me, he was the ultimate head coach. Tremendous personality. Tremendous motivator. Time to talk to anyone. Honest, probably to a fault. We got to know each other while he was an assistant coach, or really while he was the DC. Different than many head coaches in that he was approachable. Just so down to earth. Promised Ben Roethlisberger that he would be a QB, not a WR or TE. I could talk with him anytime.
Both of these men moved from Miami onto the Big Ten. Randy to Northwestern and Terry to Indiana. Both died at early times in their careers. Randy died of a heart attack. Terry lost a battle with cancer. Both men where what football coaches should be all about. Simply put, "When they spoke, you listen." Both had senses of humor, but could get after it, when needed. Both could communicate and recruit.
New head coach Chuck Martin invited me to the first football camp under the lights back in the spring. I do not know him as well as some head coaches, but he made me feel welcomed. Talking to the staff, everyone understands the Miami tradition, which is huge to me. Former player and assistant coach Joe Palcic is back coaching linebackers. My two cents - I am impressed with his combination of young and older staff. Impressed with some of Coach Martin's thoughts, and he does have a solid plan on recruiting. Sorry, but Miami needs get back recruiting Ohio.
Back in the day, Miami would hold three Saturdays of 7on7 in the month of June. The last Saturday was the most talented. We're talking on the average of 25 teams. For me, the time was huge. During team breaks, I could talk with players, as well as the high school coach. Plus players and teams got better.
For some reason, when Shane Montgomery resigned, the new staff did not feel that 7on7's were necessary. Rumor has it, that a 7on7 could be back next year. If it is as organized as the "Under the Lights Camp" last Thursday, happy days may be coming back.
I know many of the coaches at the MAC schools, especially the ones in Ohio. Their programs are either there or getting there. So many good head coaches. Miami has struggled of late and has much work today. If Thursday was any indication, the Redhawks should be joining the mix soon.
But I do miss, Randy Walker and Terry Hoeppner. Now, we were not close friends. But we talked about football and football recruiting. Most of all, they were "just guys." Excellent head coaches, "just guys." Refreshing to me in this era of college football.