TH - How did you wind up back at Robichaud?
TW - I wanted to coach football and track. I coached a couple of weeks down in Tampa Bay with John Gruden, got to see what football was like and my athletic director (at Robichaud) and I spoke one day and he was like, hey why don't you take both jobs (track and football)? and I was like, hey, I get to coach both, track and football.
TH - Ultimately is this just for the experience?
TW - Right now, it's for the experience. Every guy dreams of having his own team, of being a head coach of a team...As a player we always sit down and say "if I had my own team I would do x, y and z." So I have my own team and I had a chance to put those things to test. Some have failed and some work. But you don't know until you get a chance to try it. Does this lead to something bigger? I would be telling you a bold face lie if I didn't tell you I didn't want to move on and be an NFL head coach.
TH - Why NFL over College?
TW - I've always dreamed big but I want to be a college head coach and I want to move on to be a pro head coach. My ultimate dream is to be a GM. Call me a dreamer but that's what it is.
TH - What are some of the things that you thought as a player, coaches should have done and that you have now implemented as a coach and they've been successful?
TW - Sometimes coaches give up on things, they'll get frustrated and give up on a certain play or certain player pretty easy. And I've had that with some of my coaches. Coaches might look at a kid and give up on him and I'll say "wait a minute, he's growing." It's like the little things you're looking for in a kid. He might not be the greatest or the fastest but as long as he's growing and he's learning. As long as that light bulb is still on, it might not be bright all the time but as long as it's still illuminated...I took my NFL experience as well to try and help guys through.
TH - Are there some things that you didn't like as a player but find necessary as a coach?
TW - Yeah. I do. For instance, especially football being more of a traditional game, coaches will do it just because that's how it's been done for so many years. I'm not a big believer of just hitting all the time, just bashing each other. Now, there comes a time where you need to hit, but the whole practice? My guys will tell you, I get angry at them ...stay up; stay off the ground; don't tackle him; what if he rolls an ankle? Because I don't have a lot of guys and for me to lose a player to a silly tackle, it makes no sense. That's one of the things we used to feel "why are we out here beating each other up all the time?"
TH - What did you take most from Bo, now that you're a coach...ultimately there are two different things, what you can take from him as a man and as a coach?
TW - I didn't play under Bo but he was around and he and I had this talk about track. And even still afterwards he would give me a lot of advice but the one thing I took from Bo was, the coaches, even he as a coach and Moeller as a coach, they are held responsible. And coaches may understand why a player might make a mistake but they don't have to accept it. And it used to freak me out because I was like, â€œif you understand, why can't you accept it? And I tell my kids this all the time, basically what it means is, you're gonna make a mistake I understand that, the other guy is going to win I understand that too but, don't get comfortable with it. If you don't get comfortable with it, then the coach doesn't always have to get on your case, because if your expectations climb higher than the coaches then you're ok.
TH - Not needing to say something to a kid because you know he's not going to make that mistake again
TW - I've come to grow with some of my kids and now even in film sessions, if now that kid's expectations have grown beyond mine, so if he makes a mistake, I won't say anything to him because I know he's beating himself up inside.
TH - what are some of the major keys to recruiting at a school like Michigan?
TW - First and foremost, academics. Even though you recruit a kid, if the kids grades are horrible...so basically there's a window of kids you can recruit, they might be blue chip players on the field but if their grades are suspect, and not only if they're suspect you have to look at the life of the kid and decide, will he be able to survive here? So that's the first and foremost and I think that's one of the hardest jobs of recruiting is not only is he a blue chipper on the field but can he make it through the school. And I think tradition is another one. They call Penn State tailback U and I talked to Freddy J a lot (Fred Jackson) and I asked him since you've been at Michigan J how many tailbacks have you had that go to the league and that have been all-americans? And you look at them, Myself, Biakabatuka, Chris Perry, A-Train, now Michael Hart? So the lineage helps out a great deal. Just players and players. It's funny, I talk like this now but I have guys that walk through the locker room that say, â€œI used to watch you when I was a little kid. So that helps a lot. And then just television. Kids want to be on TV. They want to be seen nationally. They want to know A) they're going to be playing for a national championship or B) going to a bowl game.
TH - In terms of coaching, and this has been a huge problem and it seems weird because we have the talent and we're successful, I love Lloyd Carr but how do you stop the spread offense?
TW - You beat the spread offense with pressure, just immense pressure. Really, the quarterback in the spread offense, all he is is just a running back who can throw. So if you give him time, he kills you with his arm and once again, if you give him lanes, he just takes those lanes and he runs. So if you sit back, he's going to kill you. My take on it is, why sit back and get shot up? If I'm gonna get shot up I'm coming at you, I'm coming with pressure.
TH - Of all the teams that you've been around, and growing up in Michigan, who is the best player that you've seen come through Michigan?
TW - Oh man. I would go with two. I don't know really how to rate them but I'll say Tripp Welborne. Oh man, he was incredible. Number three. To me, seriously, the style he had on the field. He would take an interception back, or a punt return and then block a field goal! They were playing Michigan State and there's a picture of him and Vada Murray and they're jumping (to block a field goal) and it looked like they were seven feet off the ground man. It's one of the sweetest pictures. Tripp was one of my guys. I love Tripp to death. Then you go back and there's a guy that people really don't talk too much about but was an incredible guy and to me it was Mark Messner (born in Riverview!!). I think when you talk about offensive line, he wasn't the tallest, he wasn't the biggest lineman but man he just worked, he worked his butt off. I remember those two guys really well.
TH - What was your favorite place to eat on campus?
TW - Oh, where else? Cottage Inn. Cottage Inn lasagna boy! A couple of guys used to call me, what was that cats name? Oh Garfield. A couple of guys used to call me Garfield because I used to eat the lasagna all the time.
TH - I think so much pressure is often put on coaches and certainly in college the spotlight shines more on the coaches now, you're given a year to turn a program around, even for the past 10 years people have been calling for the resignation of Joe Paterno, but what are some of the responsibilities for a head coach at the different levels?
TW - High School you are hands on. From my experience at my high school, we don't have a trainer so you're trying to patch kids up, trying to get them ready. You have academic counselors but you also have to be on top of their grades. And then in certain areas like where I'm at, you're playing counselor, you're playing bus driver, I might have to drive some kids home that might not have a ride home. You're hands on, you're everything to these kids. You have multiple jobs, you have multiple hats. College comes now where you're more of, you have to be more of a charismatic person because of recruiting. You have to be articulate you have to be approachable for tv. Someone that mom and dad can say hey, I'll put my young man with you for his four years of school. He can get his education and also be a great young man when he leaves. Also winning. College is big business. If you don't think it's big business ask Saban how much he has in his bank. And now more parents are paying big money to these recruiting agencies to get their kids recruited. So now itâ€™s a business and if a parent says I don't want my kid to go to that school because they didn't win or because they didn't beat this school and guess what? Now that kid won't go there. Remember you're marketing to the parents, too. So the coach must be a charismatic person and he has to win. Then on the pro level, the bottom line is winning and having an incredible relationship with your general manager. They have to be bound at the head
TH - But clearly some systems, like Bill Belichek's or Bill Parcell's or Bill Walsh, clearly they have to know something more than someone like Bruce Coslettâ
TW - Well the second thing I was going to say is your system. Believing in your system and sticking to it. Not only believing in it but adding on to it, revitalizing it and making players believe in the system. And it has to be to the point where you say hey, it's my way, and it's not why because I say so, it's my way because it works. And you just have to trust it.
TH - We've got a tough stretch right now with Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, the big ten right now seems to have a lot of talented programs, hopefully we can keep pulling these things out as we've been doing, do you have any thoughts on how this season has gone down and what might happen at the end of the season?
TW - You know what? I try not to even do that because every time I try to do that I come out wrong. But I think right now, and I'm truly honest, but Illinois is looking tough. I think it's going to come down to Illinois. Penn State, I don't know who did the ratings, I don't know but Penn State paid somebody, they donated something to somebody because they were very over-rated but Illinois, I think whoever's going to win the big ten has to go through Illinois. Unless they have a big drop off but Wisconsin is pretty tough but they fell last week, I'm pretty sure it's going to have to go through Illinois.
TH - And one day if Michigan calls you 10 years from now and says hey we want you to be our head coach, what would that be like?
TW - What would that be like?! It would be like, it took you ten years?!
TH - That means you want it in the next couple years?!
TW - ll take it! Yeah. I mean, why not? I'll put it to you this way, I always said I'm blessed beyond belief. A kid who didn't know anything, coming from the streets of Inkster, I get a chance to go to the university of Michigan, I play professional football and now I'm back coaching two sports that I love, at my high school. Then all of a sudden you tell me I'm the head coach at my college?! Come on now.
TH - What was the secret to this year? I have friend from Downriver, from Riverview and they were saying you're the talk of the town. The fact that they were bottom dwellers and all of a sudden you guys are in the playoffs.
TW - I'll put it to you this way. It's really no secret. It's just getting the kids to believe in a system. We're all creatures of habit. You've probably taken a class where you say I've learned it this way and I'm going to continue to learn it this way because it's comfortable. But until someone gives you a failing grade and you start to opne your eyes and you say, "hey, let me try something else" and that's basically what these kids were doing. I had to get them out of their comfort zone and introduce something totatly new to them and once they figured it out they were like, "hey, we can play football."
TH - What was that? What did you specifically institute? Was it an offensive system, a defensive system, a mindset?
TW - It was a mindset. And it's called accountability. They would lose and they would get upset and they'd start pointing a finger and so I asked them when did your off-season start? And they said they didn't have an off-season. They say, I was playing summer basketball or I was playing summer league baseball or x, y and z. So I said, "oh, so you want to blame the coaches for your demise?" When football season is in, it's football season. Baseball season's over, get your butt out here conditioning for football. I said "right now, we're on level three" and they said "are you kidding me? How many more levels do you have?" and I said "I have five levels." They were like, coach we're not going to survive level five and I said you'll be able to but those guys who are coming late will not be able to make it. And what happened was they started seeing some of the best athletes in the school dropping off but the guys that stayed in the program, they were like, coach I understand what you're saying now. I'm running around trying to do everything else except concentrating on the task at hand. And that's pretty much it.
I'll tell you another story. These kids are shoe crazy. I had some kids miss a Saturday morning film session to get a pair a sneakers. So our captains said hey coach did they tell you where they were going and I said yeah they called me and so they said so you know about the sneakers and I said yeah and they said well what are you going to do and I said it's not what I'm going to do, what are you going to do. And that's all it took.
TH - Start letting the leaders lead.
Well thanks so much to Tyrone. We talked for over 40 minutes and most of it as you can imagine is written above. He had a tremendous vibrancy on the phone and I believe will one day be coaching at the college level, hopefully at Michigan!