UCLA will formally introduce Coach Rick Neuheisel as our 16th head football coach later today at a 2 pm PST press conference. Before he finished off his responsibilities as the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens (who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-21), Coach Neuheisel talked to Sam Farmer from the LA Times for his first interview as the UCLA head coach with the local media. The first note that stuck out to me? It was dispelling the notion of how Neuheisel alone was responsible for the Ravens' offense (a point advanced by morons like Mark May in a total sour grapes reaction on Saturday). From Farmer's note today:
Surrounded by a group of four players at the 20-yard line, the champion wore a black and purple jacket and a black Ravens cap that concealed most of his wavy blond hair. With a wide grin, quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel basked in his victory, one of many reasons he is smiling these days.
Neuheisel, formerly a star in the college coaching ranks, has found contentment in tutoring Steve McNair, whose career rebirth has coincided with Neuheisel's. While he awaits another head coaching opportunity, Neuheisel is happy to contribute to a playoff team in a role for which he would have been overqualified before his fall from the top earlier this decade.
"Sundays are different than Saturdays," he said. "That's the kindest way to put it."
He says he has missed a lot, including the bus ride to the stadium, the fight songs, the game-time decisions and watching an unknown kid rise to the occasion under extreme pressure.
"You see this kid's face and he's an instant hero, where an hour ago he might have been obscure," he said. "Now everybody in town's going to know who this young kid is, and he's just burst onto the scene."
Neuheisel says that's a little how he now feels -- refreshed and reborn. Until he got the call from UCLA on Saturday, he said, he had reconciled himself that this opportunity might never come.
"I had kind of made up my mind that that was going to be OK," he said. "But I still always had this hankering that I felt there was unfinished business in the college world. I really wanted the chance to prove that I could run a program completely within the rules and do so in a way that made the ultimate goal the experience for the kids."
Part of the gig was to have players, such as three-time consensus All-American safety Kenny Easley, pepper the quarterback - in this case Rick Neuheisel - on blitzes.
"I think he was seventh team, or maybe they didn't even have a number, and he got his (butt) handed to him every day in practice," said Ramsey, a scholarship quarterback and Neuheisel's UCLA teammate.
"He would walk in bloody, bruised, muddy, and I was damn near embarrassed because my uniform was so clean. He was like, `Yeah, I got my (butt) kicked again today, but I hope I gave them a good look.' Yeah, it's funny, but it also tells you a lot about the person."
"He could beat anyone," said Stevens, an analyst on UCLA's radio broadcasts. "Rick's a perfectionist. Everybody talks about that A-type personality with Pete Carroll, and you've got it with Rick. He really is a perfectionist with his attention to detail.
"Rick Neuheisel works hard at what he does. He's very good at what he does."
There is no one better than him in selling our alma mater. Bob Keisser from the Long Beach Press Telegram had this to say on the topic of Coach Neuheisel championing UCLA, and coming home as the people's choice (emphasis added):
"I was fortunate under Terry Donahue to play on two Rose Bowl teams, so I know it can happen. There's no one out there who can give a better campus tour. I've been there. I know what the program has accomplished."
This is why so many supporters of the program-high end guys who donate large sums of money, former players who care about the winning, low-end fans who believe in the power of the blog-wanted Neuheisel. When your ship is adrift, you need a captain who knows the sea.
We are ready for the Neu Days. We can't be any more excited for Coach Neuheisel to get here and get started. But, then again, as noted above, he is already off and running.