What has your journey as a coach been like?
I grew up like a lot of kids, I obviously loved sports. I was fortunate to play at a big high school in Texas, Port Arthur Thomas Jefferson. Kind of a refinery town, big time football. I grew up playing football and baseball and came through at a really good time when there were a lot of good athletes in school. We won a state championship in my senior year of high school in 1983, and I signed with LSU to pay baseball.
My claim to fame is that I was Skip Bertman's first recruit. I was so fortunate to see how Skip got in there and resurrected the program. Especially being in the early stages of that and seeing the foundation, my coaching bug started there. It's amazing how much you reflect to things like that in your life.
When I finished, my first real coaching job was at UL-Lafayette, where my former high school coach was the assistant there. I was fortunate enough to start recruiting, to get on the road at a young age. I really enjoyed that side of it, and probably the best thing that happened to me was after four years there, I hooked up with Jim Wells, who was at Northwestern State. I was with Jim for two years there and came with him to Alabama as an assistant for seven years. We had a really good run together, went to three College World Series, and I felt prepared to become my own guy. I was fortunate enough to come back to Northwestern State as the head coach for six years. After that I actually came back here [to Alabama] for two years as an assistant, and now I'm in my fifth year as the head coach here.
Like anyone who is fortunate enough to be in the position I'm in, there's a lot of guys that have really laid the foundation for me. Obviously Skip Bertman and Jim Wells are at the top of the list for me, guys that really molded and shaped my philosophy in coaching and how to run a program.
On utilizing Alabama football as a resource
You have to understand where you're at, first of all. Alabama is a football school and always will be, and we relish that. We love football like everybody else. When Coach Saban came in, just the way he put together the program has been amazing to watch: the recruiting side of it, the development side of it. And it's not just football. The way they've developed their student-athletes as young men has been really amazing and it's such a great plan: if you just follow it you're going to have success, whether it's in the NFL or out in the real world, whatever you choose to do. They make sure you get your degree and do the right things.
Obviously the University of Alabama speaks for itself; it's a tremendous academic institution and athletics university as well. A lot of it sells itself, but it certainly doesn't hurt to bring in recruits on Saturdays, take them to a big time football atmosphere, show them great facilities and resources, and let them know how you're going to develop them as young men.
We're very fortunate; we have great support from our administration in all of our athletics. And obviously it helps with football and the brand that they are. They're going to be on national TV every Saturday, and we try to take full advantage of the resources that they create for all of us.
How have you laid the foundation of your own program?
From day one when we start with our players in our program, we try to let them know how important the little things are: being on time, having good character and representing yourself, your family and the program in a first-class manner. You’re gonna be judged whether you like it or not and at the end of the day when you look in the mirror, how to you want to be judged? All of those little things become the big thing at the end of the day, and that’s your character.
We talk a lot about how we want to do things. We hold guys accountable for their actions and we talk about that a ton as well. It’s all those things, from being on time to being respectful in the classroom, with your teammates, with your peers, and just putting forth your best effort.
How have you assembled your coaching staff?
My staff is made up of all former players, starting with Dax Norris and Andy Phillips, who’ve been with us since day one. They were both AllAmericans here at Alabama. You want people that are competitive and that can get the job done. When I had those guys as a coach, the first thing you notice is their character; I knew what kind of men they were. Secondly, I knew their passion for the University and how driven they were going to be to make this program successful and continue on to be successful.
It’s proven now, with those guys, but I never have to question their character or what they’re doing, I know that their best interests are always going to be with our program. Even with our volunteer coach and director of ops- Bobby Barbier [current Volunteer Assistant Coach] was a player of mine at Northwestern State, an academic All-American and a very mature person. Same goes for Ken Brown [current Director of Operations], who played here. So I’ve surrounded myself with men of character that have a passion to be successful. I’m very comfortable every day that I’m surrounded with the right people that I want around me.
Things Mitch Gaspard-coached teams do well
Play hard. We stress every day to have energy. There are things you control and things you can’t control, but I control my energy and my attitude every day. We try to have a positive attitude and energy every day we practice and every day we play.