YORKTOWN, Ind. — Dave Tanner drove his light blue Volkswagen Bug just down the road, past the corn stalks and past the homes of all his players and boosters. Past the big white water tower with “YORKTOWN” in green lettering, with a tiger painted on the side.
He was on his way to interview Brady Hoke. He hoped Brady could teach his linebackers how to make the perfect fundamental tackle, but also join him in building a football family.
This town is all some knew. Generations lived and died here.
How would Brady Hoke fit in? What would his legacy be? How would his name be remembered?
Tanner drove through the heart of Yorktown, a downtown you could easily miss if you weren’t looking for it.
Now, not much has changed on Smith Street since Tanner coached the Yorktown football team in the 1980s. There’s only one barbershop, one florist, one stoplight — and three bars.
An old tractor is parked next to a shed. Houses line its main street like it’s a neighborhood. The close-knit community strangles even its most urban area.
And if you’re not looking close enough, you’ll miss Merrill Quate, a family man in a family town, sitting on a lawn swing in his front yard, petting his dog Shelly and sipping a cup of coffee. From afar his face wears a permanent frown, but his wrinkles are deceiving. If you take the time to talk to him, he’ll flash a toothy grin.
He looks out at the small downtown, calmly enjoying his evening. He can see everything from his spot. You could never tell, even talking to him, that Merrill has Alzheimer’s disease. He has good days and bad.
“Nothing going on in Yorktown,” Merrill says turning to the empty street behind him. “Kind of a dead-ass place.”
Merrill grew up down the road in Muncie before moving to Yorktown with his second wife Dottie. This is Dottie’s home. Born and raised. Her son Ty played for coach Tanner.
Dottie comes outside and seems to worry about Merrill. They usually play Bingo every night with the other seniors of Yorktown to keep Merrill sharp.
“He can’t remember everything,” she begins. “He can remember his childhood, but he can’t remember what happened yesterday.”
She sighs as Merrill returns from his spot.
“Quiet little town,” he says.
“The church is over there,” he points. “The school is over there.”
“It really is a nice town,” Dottie adds. “It’s home.”
His family is here. Hers is too. She waves to an elderly couple riding their bikes across the street. All their friends are here.
Dottie sees them all when Yorktown plays its cross-town rival Delta High School. It’s standing room only for those games.
Ty still talks about his 16-tackle, two-sack game during his senior year against Delta.
Ty’s high school buddies — Jeff Barr and Jay and Jesse Neal — still meet him at Mr. Mouse, the bar around the corner, to talk about the glory days.
But first, their old coach, Dave Tanner, had to pull up to Brady’s apartment that day, a few miles down the road but a long way from Brady’s world. Tanner was about to invite Brady into his world.
Tanner needed to hire a linebackers coach, and Brady’s coach at Ball State had referred him as a player who used all of his eligibility and needed a part-time job while he finished school.
Brady had no intentions of becoming a coach. After the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan, he thought it was his duty to become a secret service agent to protect the President.
“Are you interested in coaching?” Tanner began. “And tell me a little bit about your background.”
Brady started talking about his mom and his dad, the two people who always kept him on the path, no matter how much he zigged and zagged.
Then he started talking about Laura, the girl he met in seventh grade, the girl he married at Ball State, the girl who was his best friend.
“Shoot, this is the guy I want,” Tanner thought to himself. “You’ve got values. You’ve got commitment. He’s a family person.”
Within five minutes of walking through the door, Tanner decided this was his guy.
He stayed another two hours talking about life.
Brady Hoke remembers he had two goals at Ball State: “Play football and probably drink every beer in Muncie, Indiana.”
As a student, Laura would come home from work for lunch and Brady would be outside throwing the football around with his buddy.
“Brady, aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Laura would ask, looking at her watch.
“No, they cancelled it.”
“Brady,” Laura said sternly. “The sun is shining. They did not cancel class today.”
She was right.
“I think it was something within Brady that he knew he needed to buckle up — I mean, we were married for goodness sake,” Laura says now.
“He was a kid and needed to grow up.”
The act continued until Chris Allen, Brady’s linebackers coach at Ball State, sat him down.
“What does your name mean to you?” Allen asked.
This was bigger than Brady. He didn’t care that his own name was being muddied, but what about his older brother Jon, who played at Ball State? Or his parents?
When Brady was out back tossing the football, skipping class, he wasn’t thinking how he was muddying his family, his teammates, his school and his coaches.
They were why his name meant anything in the first place — he represented them too. There were people in his life worth choosing right for.
That day, Brady Hoke realized his name meant a whole lot to Brady Hoke.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
This day is dreary, so the sun isn’t out to cast a shadow of the tall water tower, onto Yorktown High School. It’s a Monday and the JV team is playing Delta, but there are fewer people in the stands than players on the field.
Cars drive up and down Tiger Drive, right over the yellow paw prints painted on the road leading up to the school.
Brady, Tanner and the other coaches stayed up all night painting those paw prints. That was the week before they played Delta in ‘82. Now it’s tradition — one of the few lasting physical marks Brady left on the school.
But what measures the true mark a coach leaves?
You have to get around the right people to hear stories about those 1981 and 1982 seasons — Brady’s only two years at the school.
You have to find one of the boys Tanner used to show Ball State highlight tape to before their games. Jarring hits and big plays flashed. Every defensive clip had Brady in it.
Few people heard the stories Brady told Tanner, about gouging players’ faces so they wouldn’t want to run to his side anymore.
When he was at Ball State, Western Michigan’s scouting report said: “Very physical football player, who’s very smart. And will knock the crap out of you.”
Fresh out of college, he was already a celebrity at Yorktown. The kids didn’t know Brady wasn’t the most athletic guy on the field, or that he had to become a technician, really learn the game and how to study film, to develop into a team captain.
That didn’t matter. Those boys never forgot how Brady ran sprints with them, winning every race, and how he knocked them over when he demonstrated drills. They never forgot how hard he slapped the side of their helmets when they made him proud and how they smiled even though it hurt.
They never forgot how he made them laugh, then looked them in the eye when it was time to work: “Do we have a problem here? This is what we’re going to do in practice today: I’m going to push you.”
They wouldn’t let him down.
He was old enough to be your brother, but he coached like a father. He’d ask about school, their families, but he could already tell if something was wrong. Then he’d talk to them in private.
The closer he pulled you, the more you grew.
He knew which ones to push and which ones needed another father.
Just ask Jeff Barr how much he knew about playing linebacker before Brady Hoke got there.
Jeff would tell you how his style was simple before he met Brady: line up and run to the ball like a maniac. How Brady’s practices consisted of hitting. Hitting. And then more hitting.
How Brady would spend a whole 20-minute practice period showing the linebackers how to use their forearm to shed a block.
Brady loved the seven-man sled — each linebacker had to explode into each dummy up and down the line with his forearm. Brady expected them to move the whole sled by themselves.
Wired like Brady, from a good family but tough as nails, Jeff didn’t mind. So Brady pulled Jeff close, took a liking to the kid. Knew he could push Jeff.
“Jeff Barr was a miniature Brady Hoke,” Tanner said.
When Jeff came to practice without his helmet on, Brady would bark: “That’s a Power Drill,” which meant extra suicide sprints after practice.
The next day, Jeff made sure his helmet was one.
Again: “That’s a Power Drill!”
“What for?” Jeff asked.
“I don’t know, but I’ve got all day to think of it,” Brady replied.
He’d tease Jeff. But in those serious moments he taught Jeff everything he knew about playing linebacker.
“That was the way my Dad was on me,” Jeff says. “I guess I liked it. I liked the attention. And I have a lot of respect for Brady, so when I saw him give that back to me, that just made me try harder.”
Then Jeff taught Jesse Neal’s oldest son everything he knew about being a linebacker. Three years ago, the kid broke all of Jeff’s Yorktown tackling records that stood for 25 years.
Don’t forget about those Neal boys.
Just ask Jay and Jesse where they’d be without Brady Hoke.
Jay — the popular, big-strapping star running back — almost cried every day because he had nowhere to go. His parents divorced and living with three brothers, a sister and a single working mother, he couldn’t study at home. It was chaos. There was no food in the refrigerator.
Jesse, the youngest boy, was the quiet one. His older brothers thougt it was their duty to make Jesse tough, rough him up. They would all get into “rock fights,” throwing stones the size of baseballs at each other.
“They’re a rough bunch — fighting — and they don’t take no crap from nobody,” Jeff says. “That whole family. All of ‘em.”
Jay and Jesse were running backs, but meeting a linebacker in the hole? That was nothing.
Brady pulled them close too. He checked in on Jay’s grades, just like he did everyone else, making sure a Division-I talent didn’t go to waste. Jay considered quitting his junior year. Brady went to his house and talked him out of it.
Brady guided Jay to Ball State, instead of bigger schools that were farther away, where Jay would be lost in the shuffle.
When Jay graduated, Tanner and Brady took turns taking Jesse out to breakfast every morning, and they made sure the skinny running back ate three meals a day.
Just like Brady’s coaches at Ball State, Tanner cared about molding the kids as people. Brady’s college coaches had been like that and Brady decided he liked Tanner’s world.
“To me, that’s what this whole thing is about,” Brady said.
Laura and Brady sat down at the end of the season, and it was clear Brady’s calling was no longer to protect the President, like he thought. Those Yorktown boys changed everything.
Those two years, Brady watched how Tanner made the team a family. As Tanner put it: players play harder the more they have invested in it.
Play for something pure, like the love of a family, and not out of fear of being benched or other selfish goals. Play for Dave Tanner. Play for Brady Hoke.
In the week leading up to the game against Delta in 1982, Tanner had a team bonfire the night before the game. They burned a fake Delta letterman jacket of his.
The guys went nuts.
Tanner wanted this year to be different: Delta was heavily favored again, it was homecoming there and Yorktown hadn’t beaten its rival in quite some time. So Tanner pulled his guys close.
A booster came up with the idea of having the mothers write letters to every player and every coach right before the game. Tanner handed out the envelopes. He got one from his mother. So did Brady.
“I’ll tell you what, there was not a dry eye in that locker room,” Tanner says. “We could not say a word, could not give a pep talk, because we were all crying.”
Delta jumped out to a 12-0 lead by halftime. Yorktown was too emotional.
Yorktown calmed down in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Jay Neal burst through the line like a bowling ball, running over defenders, legs churning. Jeff Barr, a two-way starter at guard, sprinted down field to land more blocks. The whole Delta game plan was to run away from Jeff when he was at linebacker.
Jay Neal scored the game-winning touchdown. Yorktown 13. Delta 12.
The whole town rushed the field.
“Dad, I’m not one of your football players!” Kelly Hoke would shout.
Brady’s father, John, a junior-high principal, was strict with him, so Brady is strict with his only daughter. All of Brady’s favorite words — accountability, responsibility, toughness — Kelly hears them at home because Brady heard them.
The problem is he also has 100 sons to take care of.
Laura and Kelly have adapted. The only night Brady is guaranteed to be home — or at least nine times out of 10 — is Thursday night, family night, for homemade pizza.
Laura and Brady didn’t even think twice about the future when Brady left Yorktown to be a graduate assistant at Grand Valley State.
Laura followed him to Grand Valley, Western Michigan, Toledo, Oregon State and then to Michigan. She always found a job.
But children need consistency.
“When your kids are young it’s hard, because as adults we can talk on the phone, you know, ‘How’s your day going?’ ” Laura says. “But for a child to talk to their dad on the phone, it’s different.
“They need to see him and touch him.”
Brady taught Kelly how to ride a bike, not how to shed blocks. He took her trick-or-treating. Dad was there, but he wanted to be there for her all-the-time for his actual daughter like he was for his recruited sons.
“There’s things,” Brady says, sitting in his office at Schembechler Hall, “that you’d always want to take back.
“I think we all live our lives with some regret.”
HIS DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN
It’s 1995 and Brady’s office isn’t as large yet as he’d like it to be. For now, it’s simple, just a desk and two chairs, with photographs around the room of former players he helped, people he wants to remember.
He’s coaching the defensive ends at Michigan, the school he’d always dreamed of coaching at, and a troubled soul is sitting across from him.
Marcus Ray’s name is hanging in the balance.
Brady’s the only one Marcus can turn to. He can’t talk to Lloyd Carr. Marcus lied to Lloyd’s face after he and two teammates used someone else’s credit card at the mall in April 1995.
Lloyd suspended him seven games.
Marcus was a “handful” by this point, having problems with other guys on the team, over women, playing time and status.
Brady’s the new guy. This is a fresh face, one without a negative opinion of Marcus. A face he can trust. And Marcus wants to change.
How can I be a better teammate?
Am I as selfish as I’ve come off?
What does Lloyd think of me?
Marcus opens up to Brady as much as he can with a coach.
“When you’re a player, it’s kind of like when you’re a son and you look up to your dad, you want people to like you,” Marcus says. “You see someone get respect: you hear people talking about Bo Schembechler, Lloyd Carr — class act. We all want that too.
“How do I get the mud off my name? That’s what I wanted Brady to do. And you see, that’s what he was good at.”
Brady was always honest, just like it was around the dinner table growing up. If Brady’s dad had a problem with someone, it would be discussed. “No one held back,” he says. “If you truly do care about people you have to communicate, the good and the bad.”
Brady pulled Marcus close.
What does your name mean to you?
Brady said this all the time to his players, and after Marcus’s credit card incident and his teammate issues, he needed to hear it again.
That’s all you have — your reputation and your name. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be?
In some other words, Marcus heard the same message echoing off the walls of Schembechler Hall.
“That’s a straight Michigan slogan, man,” Marcus says. “(Gary) Moeller asked me the same question. Coach Schembecher asked me the same question. Lloyd and Brady asked me the same question. Because they’re all from the same cloth, the same tree. That’s how Michigan coaches were going to speak to their players.”
Flash-forward to 1998, Marcus is sitting in Brady’s office again.
He listened the first time, cleaned up his name, and Michigan won a National Championship in 1997. Marcus made sure his bad name didn’t spoil a memory he’d hold tight for the rest of his life. That was his new legacy: National Champion.
Until trouble found him again that summer — Lloyd suspended him the first six games of his fifth year for contacting an agent and getting free concert tickets from a bank. Lloyd stripped Marcus of his captaincy.
So there sat Marcus Ray, or at least a shell of the usually proud Marcus Ray. This was the severely depressed, woe-is-me Marcus Ray.
Brady bottom-lined it for Marcus. This would be how he got his name back:
No. 1 — Stay out of the media.
No. 2 — Talk to Lloyd, and make sure he knows you’re working out.
No. 3 — Stay in school, get good grades, graduate on time.
No. 4 — “When you come back to practice, while you’re suspended, play on the scout team. That’s Michigan.”
“And I’m going to ask you the same question I asked you three years ago: What do you want your legacy to be?
“How do you want to be remembered at Michigan?”
Marcus’s legacy, his name, would stay intact if he listened to Brady.
“It makes you look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What does my name mean now? And what do I want it to say when I’m done,’ ” Marcus says.
By the time he graduated, he liked what he saw in the mirror.
Flash-forward to February 2011, you’ll see 34-year old Marcus Ray, sitting across from Brady Hoke again, unsure if his name is dirty or clean. They’re at a coach’s conference in Columbus.
“I don’t think you were as focused as you needed to be at Central Michigan,” Brady says to Marcus. “I don’t think you took advantage of that opportunity. I think you were screwing around a little bit. But it happens. I love you and I want you to work for me.”
After his stint in the NFL, Marcus became a coach because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He jumped around from high schools to colleges, but didn’t go back to Michigan until 2007, as a weight room coach, because he thought his name was still muddied, even after he did everything Brady instructed.
In his eighth year of coaching he had his shot as an assistant coach at Central Michigan in 2008, but he was distracted.
His wife and three kids were still living at home in Columbus and his marriage was shaky. He wanted the best of both worlds — to pursue his dream of coaching and be the family man.
“I wasn’t always the best husband or father that I could’ve been, because I forgot what my name meant to me,” Marcus says now. “That’s the power of being around people who talk that language: They keep you in that mind state.”
Two years later, he was coaching high schools again. Three years later, his divorce was finalized.
Marcus needed Brady Hoke now more than ever. Marcus was doing public speaking tours, but would drop it all to work with Brady Hoke. He nearly screwed up everything at Central Michigan, trying to jump onto Brady’s rising star at Ball State.
Now he wanted to know if Brady thought people saw the changed 34-year old Marcus or the 21-year old Marcus.
“You were the only one who believed in me years ago and I need you to be that guy again at 34 years old.” Marcus told him.
“I will,” Brady said. “Stay in touch.”
And then Brady was gone, leaving Marcus alone again with the mirror.
Mike Martin took a second to ponder the question: was there anybody on the team that didn’t like Brady?
He and the rest of the seniors did meet with Brady twice a week, giving the coach updates on the state on the team.
Every meeting, Brady asked how the team was doing, how certain guys are doing.
“He’s just a good guy,” Martin says. “Even if you take football out of it, it’s hard not to like him. Because he’s just a nice person, why wouldn’t you like a nice person — a guy that cares about you, looks you in the eye, and listens to you when you talk, cares about what you say. That means a lot.”
Martin remembers one instance before the biggest game of Brady’s young Michigan career — the first night game at Michigan Stadium versus Notre Dame.
A small faction of players spoke up.
“Man, this is for my coach — I love that guy,” said redshirt junior linebacker Kenny Demens.
Martin agreed with him and a few others around them joined in.
“Yeah, I want to do it for him,” they said.
Michigan overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the game.
Nope, as a matter of fact, Martin couldn’t think of anyone that didn’t like Brady.
MOLDING THE CLAY
If Brady Hoke had a son, he’d be something like Glen Steele.
From afar, Glen looks like just a country boy from Ligonier, Indiana, who needed football to let out his aggression. The son of a factory worker once tackled his friend through a wooden fence. He asked himself the same question before every high school game he played: Somebody’s going to get knocked out this game, who’s it going to be?
Big and bruising at 260 pounds in high school. They called him the “big bully.” Teams would send three guys to block him, four to tackle him.
When he got to Michigan, the kid from the small town had too much freedom. He had a little too much fun. He needed to do some growing up off the field.
You’ll see Glen’s father taught him to respect his elders and that quarterbacks have Dad to thank for always teaching him: “If you’re going to do it, you’re going to finish it,” including sacking the quarterback.
You’ll see how then-head coach Gary Moeller told Glen, who was recruited as a tight end, to jump in at defensive end one day. He loved it.
A kid that aggressive was bound to play defense eventually.
Get even closer. That’s where Brady Hoke is.
Glen’s actually a gentle giant, without an ego to speak of. Laura Hoke would later say Glen has a “big heart,” just like Brady. Lloyd Carr would later say Glen’s greatest asset was that he was a great listener. Glen knew he needed coaching, molding.
Brady pulled Glen close, taught him how to play with technique, burning it into his muscle memory with repetition after repetition.
Hands are high and inside. Use your hips. Feet shoulder width apart. Don’t stand up too high. Taking that six-inch power step.
In the film room, Brady made Glen watch how former Michigan legends played the right way, with the effort running to the ball, the attitude and technique Brady wanted. This is the way Michigan players play, he said.
Tradition was one of Brady’s biggest teaching tools. He’d take a guy aside and tell him, “You have the ability to do what this guy did.” And he was talking about All-Americans, All-Big Ten guys.
“You don’t change tradition,” Glen says. “You come through, you learn a tradition. You respect a tradition. You understand tradition. You pass it along to the next group of guys. What you leave is your legacy. What kind of player was this guy? What kind of person was this guy? What kind of character did he have?”
What does your name mean to you?
Brady knows that Glen’s athleticism and madman attitude is a start, but with knowledge and solid technique, Glen could be a fundamentally-sound madman off the edge.
Brady could be hard on Glen, especially about his back injury that lingered all three years Brady coached him.
“Oh, back hurts? Not going to practice today?” Brady would tease.
“That’s him being him,” Glen says. “And that’s him still lighting that fire under my ass.”
Years later, Glen’s back would require three surgeries.
Brady knew Glen would tough it out for a few days, leading by example. By the 1997 season, when Glen was a fifth-year senior, he was the only veteran left on the line. That didn’t mean Brady didn’t chew Glen out.
“There was no bullshit, he’d call you out on it,” Glen says. “If you were late or missing class, you would take your licks, that’d be running extra after practice, running the stadium at six in the morning.”
“You have horseshit hands,” Brady told Glen one day. “Your hands were not very good today. Is your wrist banged up? Are your hands banged up?”
“Nah, it was just not a good day for me,” Glen said.
“Well that can’t happen in a game.”
“I understand and it won’t.”
In the next breath Brady had his arm around Glen, asking, “How’s school? How’s the family?”
Glen grew up off the field, under Brady’s guidance. When Glen got in trouble at night, he gave Brady a call. Sometimes he called Brady at 2 a.m. just to leave him a message after a night on the town.
Brady didn’t like the late-night wake up calls, but this is why he loves coaching at the college level. “At 18 to 23, I know how I was,” he says. He needed to learn the technique. He needed to grow up.
Off the field they need a friend. On it, they need a father. Maybe they just need Brady Hoke — his players play hard for him because they love him; they play well because he teaches them.
Now get really close, right next to Glen’s shoulder. Brady’s there. He stopped practice because he doesn’t like the way Glen’s playing.
Brady holds his index finger and thumb three inches apart, holding an invisible golf tee on top of Glen’s shoulder.
“See that?” Brady asks Glen. “You know who that is? That’s Freddy Soft. He’s telling you it’s OK, you don’t have to work hard today. You can take it easy today.”
Brady could hear the other guys laughing.
“He knew that pissed me off,” Glen says.
By Glen’s fifth year, he always lined up across from the opponent’s best offensive lineman. Two future NFL stars, Orlando Pace and Flozell Adams, were his biggest challenges.
Glen tallied five tackles and a sack against Adams and five tackles and two sacks on Pace on his way to an All-America season.
Now, Brady tells his players to watch Glen Steele film.
That is his legacy.
Glen looks down at what he’s written on the white piece of paper, reminding him what he needs to talk to his guys about today. He folds and unfolds it, not staring at it for too long because each bullet point conjures examples he’d like to forget. It’s his job to fix them and teach his guys.
He looks you in the eye when he talks to you, piercing and demanding, you can’t help but listen to what he has to say.
Gray hairs start to peak out from underneath his “Fort Wayne Snider Football” hat. His beard is mostly dark hugging his square jaw, but his eyes cast shadows. That’s the only sign Glen is 37-years old. Otherwise, he still looks like he can play.
It’s raining today, so they’ll have to practice in the gym, which is good and bad because he’ll get to spend more individual time with his nine varsity defensive linemen.
The list in his hand starts with the same four things he writes on it before every practice:
3. Play with passion
4. Pad level
A few more notes are scribbled below — he won’t let anyone see what’s written there. Those two points are just between him and the starters he has to challenge today.
He heads for the gym and runs into another assistant coach, Bob Bergeron, in the empty locker room — Bergeron’s the former Michigan kicker that Brady introduced Glen to, which led to Glen landing the job at Snider.
Glen smiles as wide as he can when he says “hi” to Bergeron’s little girl, who came to work today.
Glen almost had a little girl of his own. His eyes soften and dart away when he talks about it. Last October his first daughter was born. She passed away in December from congenital heart disease. He and his wife still want two kids. They’re working on it, while Glen starts his coaching career. He’s also thinking about going back to school to become a teacher.
“When you’re trying to start a family and when you get up to that level, coaching college football, there is no time. It takes you away from your kids, especially your pivotal years that your father should be there. Lord knows a woman would have to be very understanding.
“But I also know what is more important to me, and that’s starting a family. I can do that and still make a difference at this level.
“It’s about memories. When it’s all said and done it’s our memories that are there. We’re all going to come and we’re all going to go, it’s the memories we leave behind.”
Practice is about to start.
He has nine boys staring at him, not daring to flinch, as he looks down again at that piece of paper.
These are the things Glen heard from Brady. Glen still calls Brady with questions about how he should coach certain kids. He called Brady about Donte Bowen, a defensive tackle whose school shut down, landing him in Glen’s lap for his senior season.
Bowen’s talented and has a lot of MAC schools looking at him, but he doesn’t know how to use his hands. He never really was coached technique before. Brady tells Glen to work with Bowen on his hands 20 minutes before and after practice, like they used to do.
“First of all, how’s everybody doing in school,” Glen starts.
Bowen says he’s re-taking a test on Thursday. Another defensive tackle, Weston Painter, smiles when he announces he got a 66-out-of-66 on his history test.
Then Glen looks them all in the eye at once.
He goes through each point on the list, and then starts working on their six-inch power step.
“Take that step — boom, boom,” he says, thrusting his hands into the air, showing them how the wrong step throws off balance.
When a kid makes a mistake, he stops the drill and demonstrates what they did wrong and how to fix it.
His defensive ends get called to another station, so it’s just Glen and his tackles now.
He starts them on a new one-on-one drill, showing them how to take on a moving guard with their hands, and still maintain their gap assignments.
Painter steps in first. He’s a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior but Glen still could swallow him whole. Painter’s reps are better than others but its still not where Glen wants them to be.
“You’re getting high and it kills you,” Glen says, showing him how low he needs to get. “Take everything you have and throw it out the window because you’re getting high.”
Painter isn’t perfect again, his hands are too far outside and his pads are too high. Again, Glen shows Painter where to put his hands, how to move his feet if the guard runs inside. Painter steps in again.
This time, Glen sends the guard outside. Painter doesn’t even get his hands on the guy.
Glen’s face gets red. He pulls Painter close.
“This week is going to determine if you’re a starter or not,” Glen says, his voice rising. “Let’s get it right and let’s get it going. You can do it.”
Painter steps back in.
“Better, better.” Glen says after his rep.
The period ends and the gym empties.
Glen puts his arm around Painter as they walk out. Glen does most of the talking.
“What I saw last year on tape and what I see now are two different people,” Glen says. “You have to take it seriously. Play with technique. Do it right this week.”
Painter can’t decide whether to stare at his shoes or look straight ahead.
“Everything all right at home?” Glen asks. “School?”
“Good,” Glen says, patting his back.
It’ll take many more instances, many more moments, many more choices — Painter’s going to have to live a bit longer — before the kid truly understands what his name means to him. Until then, Glen will have his arm around him.
“It’s amazing how much you really take from your coaches and make it into your coaching,” Glen says now. “And these kids down the line, they become coaches and they teach what I taught them. It just keeps going and going and going.”
The same poem that Painter reads in Glen’s playbook, Glen read in Lloyd’s, and Brady has in his at Michigan — “The Man in the Glass,” written by Dale Wimbrow in 1934.
The last stanza reads:
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.