I was first introduced to the Texas football culture in the spring of 2009. I never would have guessed eight years later how much of an impact this culture and mindset would have on my life. Texas football has truly changed my life and has become a dream of mine to be an active member in the Texas football community.
At this time, I had just finished coaching my second full season of high school football up in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) as the secondary coordinator. Our head coach extended the offer to me to become the new offensive coordinator of our varsity team, which I was eager to accept and get to work on building an offensive system to fit our talent. Manitoba high school football at the time was geared more toward running the ball, with the odd Levels or Flood concept run by teams. Generally speaking, teams only passed 30-40% of the time. I knew that I wanted to do something different but at that I did not have much of a coaching network. Safe to say, I was a bit lost and confused with where to start.
At this time coach Mike Leach’s air raid system was starting to gain some exposure in Canada and teams were beginning to employ the odd element from this system into theirs. These teams were only implementing what they saw on TV so I thought of how to get a leg up on them. I had nothing to lose, so I took a shot in the dark and contacted Texas Tech University to see if I could come down to their facility and learn from their staff. Much to my surprise, after talking to their Director of Football Operations (Tommy McVay), they said that they would be more than happy to have me come and visit down in Lubbock.
Coaching in Canada is entirely on a volunteer basis at the high school level, so in order to make this work within my budget I, along with a fellow coach, flew into Dallas and made the drive to Lubbock. On this drive we were simply blown away by the size of all the high school football stadiums that we saw; it was like we had landed in football heaven. After this 5+ hour drive, we arrived at the Texas Tech campus and it was love at first sight.
I have been lucky with my experiences that I have had in Lubbock with the Raiders football program, and have been honored to watch and learn from some phenomenal coaches like Lincoln Riley, Mike Leach, Sonny Cumbie, and Kliff Kingsbury. The amount of knowledge that these men were able to pass on to me has been unmatched. I was able to bring back a vast collection of knowledge about offensive systems, positional details and drills, and how to run a successful program overall with a winning culture. This has played a key role in my coaching career so far, as I have been fortunate enough to be a part of three championship teams as both a coordinator and head coach.
Another thing that I became more and more interested in as I was exposed more to the Texas football culture was whether or not the entire community was as committed to the program as those inside the building. I had a keen interest in this not only at the collegiate level, but at the high school level as well. From all of my experiences, the culture is like nothing else out in the community and was energizing to be a part of. I was able to witness a Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M game, as well as a Friday night lights matchup between Odessa Permian and Midland High School, and both were absolutely amazing experiences. After this I knew that it was not only a dream, but a goal of mine to do everything that I could to get a chance at coaching football in Texas.
I was heading to an annual football clinic in Seattle when I received a message from Coach Cumbie, and he wanted to let me know that Coach Randy Jackson (who was at Grapevine High School at the time) was going to be a speaker at the clinic to talk about culture. He told me that this would be a session that I absolutely could not miss. I made sure to catch Coach Jackson and, as he would say, he “brought the juice” that day with his passion and advice on how to build a championship culture. At the end of the session, he was kind enough to let all of the coaches know that they were welcome to come down to Grapevine and learn about their program culture first hand. This was an opportunity that I absolutely could not turn down.
I booked my flights and a few months later was headed down to watch a week of spring ball at Grapevine to absorb their culture and learn from one of the best in the business. I had a great time and hit it off with Coach Jackson, talking ball and culture with him. I headed home with a new plan to implement into my program and was yet again in awe of the overall culture of Texas football. I wanted to make sure that I could learn as much as possible and to have it fresh in my mind, so I flew out again in October to catch a Grapevine home game. It was amazing to see the the atmosphere and how the entire community was out supporting their football team.
After the game, Coach Jackson told me that if I was amazed by their game that I should go to watch Southlake Carroll vs. Euless Trinity the following day for an even bigger crowd, as they were both top 10 6A teams. We took him up on the suggestion and made our way over to Dragon Stadium to catch an amazing game in front of roughly 14,000 screaming fans. We followed this up on the Saturday by heading over to TCU as Coach Cumbie was now on their staff and they were playing Oklahoma. I was speechless after this weekend and realized that I had a chance to be a part of something special.
Over these past eight years of being exposed to the Texas football culture I have been able to learn so much about building not only a successful program, but how to start a culture and build a family. I have learned the bond and respect that the coaching brotherhood has for each other and how open and willing they are to help each other out. I always knew how important football was to a young person their development for life, but after my experiences in Texas I can now see better than ever how much of a positive impact it can have on both the individual players and their surrounding community.
For any young coaches out there who have the chance to go and experience the Texas football culture first hand, I would say to you that this is an opportunity you cannot miss out on for your growth as both a coach and a person. Texas is an amazing place and it now holds a special place in my heart. I would have never been able to have as much success in my coaching career without the friendships that I have forged with coaches during my experiences in Texas. I’m beyond excited to head back down in August to visit Texas Tech again, and to see Coach Jackson’s new team at North Forney. I’m sure that this trip will help me continue to grow as a coach and work toward my goal of one day joining the Texas football coaching family.
By: Adam Smith
August 1, 2017