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Ready For The Neu Days

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:

In his three seasons as a Baltimore assistant, most recently as offensive coordinator, he didn't call plays -- Brian Billick does that now -- but spent much of his time working with young quarterbacks. Neuheisel was a major influence in shaping former Ravens reserve Derek Anderson, now a budding star with the Cleveland Browns.
Derek Anderson is not the only career Coach Neuheisel advanced in the NFL. He also revived the career of Steve McNair. From a January 2007 article in the Washington Post, which described how the former Raven assistant coach rejuvenated the former NFL MVP, helping that franchise make the NFL playoffs last season:
The sound of a football hitting the crossbar echoed throughout the Baltimore Ravens' indoor practice facility late on a December morning, signaling a winner in a pre-practice throwing contest.

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.
I will get to that little cross bar hitting competition again a little later. But going back to Coach Neuheisel's time in the pros, he made it pretty clear what he is most passionate about in the Times article linked above:
[W]hat has Neuheisel missed most? That's easy: football on Saturdays.

"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."
Coach Neuheisel can say those things because he knows a little about a kid coming out of nowhere and emerging as an "instant hero." From Brian Dohn of all people (who seems to be letting go of his grudge?) on what Coach Neuheisel went through before making his mark in Westwood:
Tom Ramsey often watched a battered and bloodied walk-on stagger into the locker room after another practice as the scout team quarterback.

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."
So much for the perception of a kid who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Oh, and about that story about the cross bar mentioned in the Post article above. Dohn provides this:
Stevens, who was one of Neuheisel's backups in 1983, recalls a game they used to play in practice during down time. Each quarterback would throw the ball at the goal posts, trying to hit the cross bar.

"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."
Speaking of getting to work has a post on how the new head coach is not wasting any time. Everyone is talking about his effort to hold on to Walker and to pursue Chow. This is not news to us. KellyBruin brought this possibility up more than a week ago, and Rich Perelman from the LA Times also talked about the financial feasibility of bringing in Chow and retaining Walker as assistant coaches a while ago as well. Either way, I feel confident Coach Neuheisel is going to find a way to put together the best staff combination possible under his watch.

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):
"This is what I've wanted for a long time, someplace I've always wanted to be," Neuheisel said in a conference call Saturday. "Coming home is a thrill that's hard to describe. There's a lot of work to be done and I'm anxious to get my hands into it.

"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.
I had no idea distinguished alums who are law school professors, doctors, CEOS, attorneys, teachers, professionals or UCLA students (who come from the top 1-2% their respective high schools) were considered as "low-end fans." But whatever. We will let that slide. We got one of the guys we wanted on BN.

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.