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January 3, 2009
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA
JOHN HUMENIK: Charlie, we'll get started with you, just a general comment about your preparation so far.
COACH STRONG: Preparation has been going very well. Our major concern right now with Oklahoma is just the tempo, and we know this; we're going to have to tackle well. They're on outstanding football team. They do a great job of spreading the ball around on offense, have an outstanding quarterback in Bradford. But our players understand what's the task at hand. It's going to be a great challenge for us, and we're more than welcome for the challenge.
Q. Charlie, could you talk a little bit about how you try to slow them down? Do you have to go into this game thinking they're going to get their points? This is an offense that has scored 60-plus points five games in a row. Talk about how you slow them down and the fact that they play at such a high tempo and how you get ready for that.
COACH STRONG: Well, our major concern when you look at us, each game we average anywhere from 60 to 65 plays a game, and when you look at their offense they're averaging anywhere from 85 to 90 plays a game, so it's more tempo, and what we've been trying to do, it's hard to really practice, just to simulate just getting those plays in. But we've been trying to just practice at a fast tempo, and we're getting guys up on the football, and they are, they're averaging -- you look at them the last five games, 60-plus points.
But the thing about it is we know this, we play good defense, and we just have to get lined up. We have to get lined up on defense and we have to tackle well.
Q. Do you guys watch these Bowl games that have been happening and pay attention at all to these Big 12 offenses, Brandon, and what they've been doing? Are you aware of that or are you just focused on your game?
BRANDON SPIKES: Well, personally I haven't really watched too many Bowl games. I've just been focusing on Oklahoma, so I really couldn't tell you how their conference is going.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: I feel the same way as Brandon. We've just been going 100 percent, every practice, just trying to play the best we can.
Q. Brandon, you guys have had such a great year defensively, and the offense obviously at Florida gets so much of the talk, but probably the unsung story of this football team is how good this defense has been. You've been around Florida, you've been around some great defense. Talk about this defense and what makes it so good.
BRANDON SPIKES: Well, I think we had a lot of younger guys just step up to the plate. They made a personal decision, and they wanted to come out and play Florida tradition defense. I think we've done that. Our off-season that was a really big part of it, younger guys kind of attack there, and we took that in and knew if we worked on it in the off-season it would pay off, and I think that's what happened this season. We've been playing good every Saturday, and steppingstones -- you know, after we got beat by Ole Miss that was the reality check for us that we were beatable and guys started doing all the smaller things, and it kind of worked out for us.
Q. Jermaine, could you just talk about the need to try and get pressure on Sam Bradford, how important it's going to be for you guys on the line to be able to generate some rush where you don't have to always blitz, just the job of getting to the quarterback?
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: With the type of offense they run, the hurry-up offense, we have got to hurry up and get set and do what we've been doing, playing football. Every quarterback, you get pressure on him, knock him down, sack him a couple times, it will always mess up their rotation of how they're throwing the ball. So we need to just get to Sam Bradford and get in his head.
Q. What is it like going get Tim Tebow in practice each day? That guy is so intense. Just talk about that a little bit.
BRANDON SPIKES: It's an honor just to be on the same team with a guy like that. He's a winner. I guess when he wakes up in the morning, he's trying to figure out how he can get better and help his team. But just to watch him grind and his preparation of the game is really good for younger guys and guys like myself. There's always a way he can get better, and that's kind of how he approaches the game.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: Tebow, every time he goes to practice, he tries to get better. One thing you do when you go to practice, you either get better or get worse. Every time he comes to practice he's trying to get better. So we just try too feed off of Tebow, Spikes, too, everybody, just trying to get better.
Q. So much is talked about him being this great football player, Heisman Trophy winner, but talk about some of the things he does off the field. It seems like that's just as big as the things he does on the field.
BRANDON SPIKES: It's kind of amazing to me, too. He has a chance to give back to the community. Some guys go to spring break, stuff like that, Tebow takes his time with disabled kids and just everything, man. Every time he gets the opportunity to do anything with the community, he's there, and I kind of look up to that because he don't ever really make a personal decision that he's too tired to do this, he's too tired to do that. He just sucks it up and does it.
Q. Brandon and Jermaine, talk about the time that you guys have had, the downtime that you guys have had the past couple days through the holidays and how you guys maintained your focus and intensity for this game.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: We had a couple days off, but the main thing is when we get back and go to work, we just go to work at 100 miles per hour.
BRANDON SPIKES: We have a thing, these three phases we go through throughout the Bowl preparation: Our coaches, our coaching staff, they do a really good job of keeping guys in shape, making sure they're making their weight, staying game ready. We really were not concerned about that. We're just focused on Oklahoma and their explosive offense.
Q. Coach, how important is Tim Tebow to your defensive schemes, seeing that guy every day in preparation for quarterbacks over the year?
COACH STRONG: These guys have said it, Tim Tebow is a winner. You just look at him and everyone around him, he makes them better. The thing about Tim Tebow, Brandon said earlier, every decision he makes is for the football team, and anything we want him to do -- we ask him to go play scout-team quarterback for us just to make us a better defense, he'll do it.
But he's a winner, and everybody around him, he makes them a better football player.
Q. Brandon and Jermaine have been kind of impact players since they've come to campus, can you talk about the development though of Ryan Stamper and what he's brought to your defensive side of the ball?
COACH STRONG: Ryan Stamper is the most reliable football player on our team. If you were to take a football player, and you can ask these two guys right here, if you were to take a guy on our football team and say who's a guy that you know you can always count on... Ryan Stamper. But it's not only Ryan Stamper, if you look at our football team, Brandon Spikes became a good football player this year. If you look at last year, we asked the guys that played and you talk about our defense last year, it's like the guy that got to third base without ever hitting a baseball. Now guys understand what it takes to be a good football player, Jermaine Cunningham, Spikes, our whole defense, guys have really stepped up.
You look in the other room there's Ahmad Black, someone that we didn't even hear about last year, was just a special teams player. Ahmad has come on and been a great football player for us. This whole defense, I don't know if these guys realize how good they are, and they're a good defensive team, and they don't realize how good we are, but we do have a good defense.
Q. And as a follow-up, I know you've been around some good defenses at Florida and I know you still have one huge game left to play, but this particular defense, can you put into perspective just how good they've been this year.
COACH STRONG: You know, like you said, in '06 we had a really good defensive football team, but we had a group of guys on that team with Moss, with Reggie Nelson, you had some first rounders, and you're going to have some guys that are going to develop on this defense into first rounders, but right now those guys haven't developed. We have a defense now that is a good, solid team, a defensive team where guys understand that they don't want to let anyone else down, and that's the way they play each week. They play like that. I cannot let my teammate down.
We always talk about win every play, and these guys understand that. You have to win every play, and that's what they're trying to do, win every play.
Q. Could you talk about the match-up with Gresham for Oklahoma, what kind of things he does well and how you try and defend him?
COACH STRONG: Well, he's a big tight end that can run and catch the football. He will be a match-up problem for us, and what we have to do is there's times when we're going to play some man coverage and we're going to have to go cover him. But he does a great job of running routes, does a great job once he catches the ball, can run away from defenders, but he's a match-up problem for us.
Q. You guys talked about focusing on football, and it's got to be somewhat impossible to do that at all times. How much do you look forward to events like tonight, a beach barbecue? How much do you look forward to getting away from the football field to experience south Florida?
BRANDON SPIKES: I think to experience south Florida, it's a great play, a beautiful place. But we're here on a business trip. We can't really let distractions like that get in with our team and stuff like that. We're here on a business trip. We're here to win, and that's it.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: We're here on a business trip, but you can't be with football 24/7. Sometimes you've got to go out and leave your mind. While we're down here we've just got to know what the task is at hand, come down and take care of the task at hand.
Q. Could you talk about the running game of Oklahoma, and is that sometimes overlooked? And with DeMarco Murray out, how that will affect things? And a little about Chris Brown.
COACH STRONG: Well, DeMarco is an outstanding football player, and you hate to see any player in a big game with an injury like that where he has to miss it, but Brown rushed for 1,000 yards, and the running game is a concern for us. Each time we go into the game, we want to talk about stopping the run. We always talk about that because you try to make a team one dimensional. If you allow a team to run and flow the ball you have problems. We're going to have to approach this game the same way. We're going to have to stop the run.
With Brown, he's gained 1,000 yards rushing, and we're going to have to approach this game and we're going to have to stop the run.
Q. This is for the two players: Guys, could you talk about Bradford, what you see out of him, what particularly stands out that looks impressive to you? And is there anybody else you've seen in your career that he reminds you of?
BRANDON SPIKES: I think Bradford, he does a great job of managing the offense. He gets the guys lined up, they get the checks in and they're on the ball before you know it and they're running another play. But as far as his running ability, he scans the defense and he knows what coverages are going on. I think he does a really good job of that, and I think he does a good job of throwing the ball on a tight line. If we're playing, man, we're going to have to stick him because he'll get the ball -- we can't let him really sit back and sling the ball. That will kind of mess up our defensive scheme. We want to pressure that guy.
Other players on the team, I think the offensive line, they're really big and athletic, so we've got to do a great job. The linebackers got to come down here and try to get our blocks and make plays.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: With Sam being a Heisman winner, we've got to try to contain him, try to get pressure on him, try to keep him off rhythm because once he gets on rhythm, he's one of the best at throwing the ball. He just reads the defense and controls the offense real good, so we've just got to make sure he don't get on rhythm.
Q. Brandon, the outstanding suit you wore yesterday, is that your good luck suit? Did you wear that two years ago, and will you don that again at all in the next week?
BRANDON SPIKES: I'm kind of superstitious. I figured we won big out at Arizona my freshman year, so I figured I'd throw it on one more year, what the heck. That's what I did. It's kind of nice. My mother made it for me (smiling).
Q. It's sort of been made up in the media that the Big 12 is all offense, and there's Oklahoma, and the SEC is all defense, and there's Florida. Do you guys take it as a personal challenge to prove the SEC is better and that defense wins out over offense?
BRANDON SPIKES: I think they're having a great year, their quarterbacks and their offensive attacks. They're tearing it up out there, but I feel like this will be a defensive game. Defense wins championship. So I feel like whosever defense comes, who comes to play and show up and gets stops and causes turnovers, I feel like will win the game. Whosever defense plays better will win the game.
Offense sells tickets and defenses win championships.
Q. Brandon, how much does it help that you guys -- it's a different city obviously, but you've been here at the national title game before. You've won it. How much is that helping so far?
BRANDON SPIKES: Well, it's critical with the experience aspect. We had guys like me and Jermaine in '06, we was able to experience that opportunity. We was around guys that they knew what it took to get here, and they took what it took to win a championship. With that on our hands, I think that will help us out. We know what to expect as far as this phase of practicing. When we get ready to practice, we can't really let outside distractions bother the team. We've got to keep all the wash and stuff like that and most importantly keep the younger guys focused because it's very easy -- this place here in south Florida is very easy to get off the task what we're here for. I think knowing what we've done it before in '06, I think we know that we can do it again. As long as we stay focused.
JOHN HUMENIK: Charlie, from your perspective as a coordinator having done that two years ago.
COACH STRONG: Like Brandon said, what's really critical is coming here two years ago, actually in Phoenix, just the whole experience. And then just the preparation and getting guys ready to play, and then you look at the game, it's January the 8th, a lot of guys are already going to be finished by then. But just our whole focus and the preparation of guys going out each day and competing.
And he had spoken earlier about just phases. We try to break it down into three phases where phase 1 is right when they finish their final exams we practice three or four days where we really get after it and go out and hit, and then we let them go home for Christmas and then come back for phase 2, and then before we came here we end it up and we go to phase 3. But we break it down where guys understand there's three phases, now we're in phase 3, and it's game week, so let's get ready for game week, and just like we've done all season we're taking care of business, and this is the way we prepare and this is how we've been doing it.
Q. During the Orange Bowl on Thursday night there were Gator fans walking around the parking lot and in the stadium doing the Gator chomp. Could you talk about the fan base and how this is almost a home game for you guys?
BRANDON SPIKES: The Gator Nation, I'm pretty sure we'll fill most of the seats. When we figured the game would be here in Florida, we wanted to be here. We kind of had a whole Florida base, the Gator Nation would be here. So I'm glad it's in Florida, and I'm pretty sure our fans will be quite happy that we're here, and they'll be ready to cheer.
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: I feel the Gator Nation is one of the best fans in the country as far as college football. After every game you'll see the whole Gator Nation waiting to sing the fight song. I think we've got a pretty good fan support.
JOHN HUMENIK: Charlie, thank you, Brandon, Jermaine.
Questions for Ryan Stamper, Major Wright, Ahmad Black, Joe Haden. If you've got a question for a particular player, please ask it in that regard. If you want all four to respond to the question, please say so.
Q. Major, what's it like to be kind of home this week? And are there more distractions? Or just what's this week going to be like for you?
MAJOR WRIGHT: It's kind of tough for me being home, a lot of kids calling me. They end up getting my number, calling me, trying to distract me. But I don't know numbers, I really don't pick up. I'm trying to stay focused.
Q. Ryan, can you talk about just your development from leaving First Coast to high school way back when? Originally I think you were going to go to Auburn and ended up going to Florida at the last second, and the work that you've had to put in to get onto the football field here?
RYAN STAMPER: Just like you said, I committed to Auburn. Coach Meyer came in, when he got the job, that pretty much changed my mind, go to Florida. First year I red-shirted here, second year didn't really play at all, that was my red-shirt freshman here. Last year I did pretty well on special teams. When I got in on defense, I did well.
This off-season past was a big one for me. I got in the weight room, bigger, stronger, pretty much tried to become a leader on the field, and then just when the season got here, I just stepped my game up and players started respecting me, coaches started respecting me, became a captain on the team, and now we're here now. It's been real good for me this year. Like I said, I'm proud of that.
Q. How was having Tim Tebow on offense helped you guys as a defense, him being so dynamic out on the field every week?
RYAN STAMPER: Well, Tim Tebow, the energy he brings to the team, makes you want to play to the same level he's playing at. Just watching him at practice, when we're going through practice, when he's going against our twos. Our one defense is going against our two offense, it just makes us want to practice even harder. He's out there having fun, so when you're out there sweating and you're tired, you're like, man, I'm sweating and tired but this dude is having fun. It makes you want to have fun and go out there and play and get better.
Q. Major, talk about his intensity.
MAJOR WRIGHT: He's one of those guys that motivates you. He can get you up in the weight room. Say, you bench 225 five times, he's one of those guys that will make you get it six, seven times.
Q. Everybody is talking about him on the field but talk about him a little bit off the field. It seems like he's just as dynamic off the field.
MAJOR WRIGHT: He's one of those guys that's primo. He does everything right. He's one of those guys that's just a leader on and off the field. He helps you on and off the field, Bible study. He kind of leads the Bible study, study groups, anything. Tebow is that guy.
AHMAD BLACK: Well, you know, Tebow stays one complex over from me. And growing up with Steven Wilks, Steven Wilks is over there a lot, so he kind of has me over with Tebow a lot. Just him being there, just his presence brings up the whole room. You know, nice guy, kind of aggressive off the field, too (smiling). Aggressive with everything he does. He takes care of himself and lives a great life.
JOE HADEN: With Tebow, his roommate Riley Cooper, me and him are really cool. So usually when I go over there Tebow is just chilling on the couch watching TV, and I just go over there and just mess with him a lot, just playing video games. On and off the field he's a really good dude; he'll just call you when he wants to go out and do something or he'll just call you to go over there and chill with him.
Q. Joe, I noticed the haircut. Could you show us each side so we can get a good shot of it, and could you explain what each side means?
JOE HADEN: Well, on the right side I've got a star and a "5", my number. And on the other side I've got "BCS 1". Not we're ranked No. 1 in the BCS, we're in the championship game, so I put a "1" right there.
Q. Who did it?
JOE HADEN: This dude named Tony. I just met him matter of fact because last week at the SEC Championship Trattou had a mohawk and I liked the designs that he had in his head and I asked him who did it so I could get it for the National Championship game. He told me, and I went on Thursday and got it done.
Q. Do you think you can get Tebow to do that?
JOE HADEN: I don't know, I haven't even -- damn, I need to go ask him (laughter).
Q. Earlier Coach Strong was talking about Ryan Stamper and said he's the most reliable player on the team. What's he mean by that? What did he mean by saying that, I guess? Is it true for you guys? Do you agree?
JOE HADEN: I definitely agree with that. I always mess with Stamper all the time, he's he looks a lot older than he is (laughter), so we call Stamper the grown man of the defense (laughter). He just always does his job, just always kind of like Coach will tell you, left, right, right, left, be in this spot, be in position, and when you look at film, he'll say hold the B gap, Stamp is going to be in the B gap. Just little stuff Coach tells him to do, he's always going to be there.
MAJOR WRIGHT: Following up on what Joe said, Urban told him one day, "Hold your water in practice." Stamp ended up holding his water the whole practice. Coach told him, "Hey, you got to go," but Stamp is still holding his water (laughter). It was kind of funny because Coach told him to hold his water and he ended up holding his water the whole practice.
He's one of those guys that's accountable, he's a funny guy. We talk a lot, and he's one of those guys that you can look up to.
AHMAD BLACK: Me and Stamper are always joking around. But I joke around him and tell him he's an accountable guy. We joke around, but honestly he is an accountable guy. Everybody on the team can count on Stamp to do his job and be in the right places at the right time. Nobody has doubts about his abilities at all.
Q. Do you guys think the defense at Florida gets a little bit overlooked at times because of Tebow and the high-powered offense, and this defense that you guys have been a part of this year has been so dominant, there's been -- you've had stretches where the first team unit didn't allow a touchdown for games, three, four, five games, one of the best defenses in the country, but it seems like at Florida people talk about the of offense and Tebow. Can you guys comment on that?
AHMAD BLACK: The offense is a high-powered offense. We've got great personnel on the offense. Coach did a real good job of getting them lined up and getting them in the right spots, and the scheme is a great scheme. But it gets overlooked because we've got great players, like I said. But we've got a great defense, too. We just keep them out there and let the offense score, and that's how you win games.
RYAN STAMPER: When you have a great defense and a great offense, the defense is always going to get overlooked by the offense because everybody wants to see the offense. That's the fashion of football. Everybody wants to see that. The defensive players are basically the players that are getting the job done, but it's not pretty much overhyped and stuff like that. We don't really mind that. We just try to put the least points on the board as possible and let the offense go out there and do their thing. I mean, we like a little bit of hype because we know we're pretty good. But this week was the most pretty much -- National Championship was the most like when they really talked about what good our defense was. That meant a lot to us because we put in a lot of work this year.
JOE HADEN: Definitely the offense sometimes gets a lot of the looks. But I won't blame people for overlooking the defense sometimes, with Tim Tebow, Murphy, Randy, Demps, all those dudes. I might overlook us sometimes, too. We just want to come out there -- the thing is the coaching staff and the offense and all the players and stuff, we know what the defense is doing for the team because we're holding other teams down and the offense is scoring the points. As long as we know what we're doing inside our circle, I think we'll be all right.
MAJOR WRIGHT: It kind of hurts us to know that our offense ends up getting all the hype, we get no look at all. But we're the guys who put -- we give them great field position on the field. Like Stamp said, we get them the least amount of points on the board. It kind of like shocks us to know we don't get so much look.
RYAN STAMPER: We're in Sports Illustrated, though (laughter).
Q. You guys are one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Oklahoma is one of the best at holding onto the ball. What does that match-up mean and how do you cause a turnover?
RYAN STAMPER: Pretty much causing the turnover is putting the pressure on, not making him feel comfortable in the pocket, and that's what we have to do a great job of this game. Bradford is a great quarterback, and we've got to bring pressure and give different looks when we're not blitzing, make him think we're blitzing, when we're blitzing make him think we're not blitzing, just confuse him a little bit, and before you know it put the guy in position to make the play and get the turnover and cause fumbles. Not just hit him, try to rip the ball out and just make plays, just be a playmaker out there.
MAJOR WRIGHT: Forced turnovers start with the front seven, Stamp, Spikes, Cunningham, those guys kind of get it going, kind of put pressure on them, make the quarterback like get the ball out of his hand quicker.
AHMAD BLACK: Our turnovers come a lot from the front seven. They get pressure on the quarterback and cause interceptions back in the secondary. So I think getting better coverage on the wide receivers, getting coverage sacks, possibly making Sam Bradford fumble the ball a little bit could help. You know, one man holding him up and strip the ball out his hand.
JOE HADEN: Relentless effort to the ball. Whenever he has the ball, just make sure whoever has the ball, the whole defense is going to swarm him. So one person has him standing up, just hit him, get the strip. Once you know he's going on the ground, try to strip the ball and stuff like that.
Q. I know you guys are here to focus on football, but how do you feel about doing team events like hanging out on the beach for a barbecue and stuff like that?
RYAN STAMPER: I'm from Jacksonville, Florida, and I've never been to south Florida. The farthest south I've been was Orlando. So the palm trees and the beaches and the big hotels and all that is new for me probably just like Oklahoma. It feels real good to be down here just seeing the water and the nice buildings and stuff like that. I didn't even know we had a barbecue, but I'm looking forward to the barbecue (laughter).
MAJOR WRIGHT: Me being from down south I kind of see all the beaches and all the nice palm trees and stuff like that. But me being down here with my teammates and really spending time with them, it means a lot to me.
AHMAD BLACK: Being down south, I've got family down here and I've been coming down here a lot growing up. It's really not new to me, but it's kind of exciting to be down here for the National Championship. It's something different for me.
JOE HADEN: It's a whole lot different for me. I'm from up north around Maryland where it's cold, so being down here with the palm trees and all that stuff is exciting. Just going out there and spending time with like Major last night, him showing me around, like this is his area, and just going out with him and stuff like that is just real fun.
Q. It's been a long football season, but if I remember correctly in the summer, the secondary in particular was very much maligned on this team; you guys got a bad rap. What changed for you guys? You were thin at safety going into the fall. What's kind of turned things around and enabled you guys to play so well this season back there?
MAJOR WRIGHT: I would say the dedication. The off-season we really dedicated ourselves to this football season, saying that we're not going to let one another down. We will not have another season like that, putting it all on the secondary. That will never happen again. A lot of guys, we kind of dedicated ourselves to watching more film, kind of doing things with one another, communicating out there on the field, and kind of just being around each other and kind of like just feeling everything around.
AHMAD BLACK: I felt like coming in, same age as Major and Joe, but I felt like the young guy. They started last year, so I came of kind of looking up to them, and I'm back there with Major helping me out along the way. D-Mo got here, so D-Mo was still around helping me out and showing me the ropes. I kind of felt like I couldn't let the guys back there with me down, as well as the guys in the front seven. So doing my part and hanging out with these guys, them helping me out, and helping the secondary out, too.
JOE HADEN: The thing about that was when we was walking here right before we got in the car to come here, Coach Heater saw us walking with our jerseys on, and he said, "What y'all about to do? Last year everybody was making fun of y'all." (Laughter). That's what happens in a year.
The thing is basically the secondary. When we played against Michigan last year, we felt like it was a whole lot our fault. But the thing that changed is last year we were all freshmen, really young, didn't really know what the college football was like. That was my first year playing corner, Major was a freshman, too, just like me, so we felt like in the off-season we knew we had to step it up if we was going to try to go farther than 9-4.
So we felt like the big thing was we had to work on our stuff, get in the film room, and one thing that helped the corners out was Janoris came in and stepped up a whole lot. And Coach Bedford came in and taught us different techniques. He was in the NFL, so he taught us different stuff to watch when you watch film like routes and snaps and stuff like that. So he helped us out a whole lot.
Q. Start with Ryan and then if all of you could talk about this: Coach Strong, could you talk about what he's like to play for, what kind of a person he is? And for all of you guys, just how it is to play under Coach Strong?
RYAN STAMPER: Well, I personally think Coach Strong is one of those players' coaches, one of those coaches that all the players love, gets along with all the players, and he doesn't only put in position to make plays and is a great coach, but you can really talk to him as far -- probably coaches are all about football, they don't really get too personal with you and talk to you and things like that, but Coach Strong could talk to you about anything like that, you can joke on him, talk about his bald head and he doesn't take it personal or nothing. So he's one of those kind of coaches and just not one of those coaches that's just all about football. He can be a friend to you, too.
MAJOR WRIGHT: He's the coach that puts you in a winning situation. He's a coach that when you're down, he can say a joke and make you -- like bring your whole day up. Like Stamp said, you can crack on him, he can really go be like one of his sons. He can be a dad to you. He can be a coach to you. He can be an uncle to you, whatever you need from him. He's a coach that's always there for you in all situations.
AHMAD BLACK: Coach Strong, he calls everybody "Sorry". I mean, he calls Spikes "sorry", and Spikes is one of the best players on the team.
Like I said, he's always joking around, high energy type of coach. He's always got something to say in a positive way. Sometimes negative, but he's joking about it.
He recruited me, so I'm kind of close with Coach. I call him up every once in a while or text him. He'll call or text me. He's always there for you and puts you in the right situations, and he's just a great guy.
JOE HADEN: Same thing all of them said. Just a real good dude, a person you can talk to on and off the field. If you have personal problems, since I'm far away from home I can call up Coach Strong and talk to him. Since my dad is not here, I can call him up and talk to him about stuff besides football.
Q. Major, you're coming back here, your old stomping grounds. A lot of coaches put a lot of premium on players from winning programs, and obviously you come from one of the winningest programs around. Can you tangibly see the lessons that Coach Smith taught you? And do you see how they have really impacted your ability to really succeed at the next level, whereas not to name names or anything, but players you observe on other teams or what not that maybe don't come from great programs? What's the difference? What has the impact of playing for a great program like Aquinas made on you as a football player?
MAJOR WRIGHT: Coach Smith, my high school coach, he's a guy that really believes in discipline. He gets that point across every practice. He's one of those guys that this has to happen, and it's going to happen no matter how you do it, no matter how you say it, it's going to happen. So he's one of those coaches that he relies on discipline.
He's a great coach. I feel like he taught me a lot. A lot of things that Coach Smith, he did for me in high school, I see it like carrying over in college. I know like saying that Lakeland, they killed us in the state championship three years in a row. I seen him up here laughing, so I wanted to put that out there (laughter). But I feel like Coach Smith, he really disciplined us.
JOHN HUMENIK: Fellows, thank you for your time. Good luck to you all.
End of FastScripts