I don't need to say a lot of nice things about Coach Neuheisel at this point. I think I wrote enough during those days leading up to his hire, when we were making the case about why we thought he was the right fit for our university.
That said, I think the recruiting of Norm Chow really shows what is so special about Coach Neuheisel. Guess who CRN teamed up with to recruit CRN to Westwood: none other than DeWayne Walker. From Rich Perelman in What's Bruin (emphasis added throughout):
"I think it was important the two guys knew each other," said Neuheisel. "The question was just asked whether Norm was considering taking a year off and certainly after the rigors of an NFL season, and the length of time Norm was away from his family, that had to be alluring. But DeWayne and I had forged a relationship here in the last few weeks, one of trust, one of mutual admiration, and I had DeWayne get involved in the process of talking to Norm because of their relationship.
"And to let everyone know, this is going to be an ego-less thing. The three of us are going to be partners, partners in a start-up company that has a huge, huge upside. We're going to share and commiserate equally and together. That's what I sold. DeWayne and I went over to Norm's house, and just like you'd go over to your blue-chip recruit's, and in his living room, we shared the vision with his family. It was a really special time, because Norm obviously a very devout family man. Family is critical to him. Family is critical to me. And to DeWayne as well. And we're going to create our own family, one built on trust. And I just think the sky's the limit on where this partnership can go."
Also, for those who are concerned about how CRN and Chow will be able to work together given CRN's offensive background:
"You don't have to look very far in the statistics to find out that this guy can call plays, and that this guy can diagram an offense. What we want is to make sure everyone participates in the UCLA offense, feels appreciated. If anyone in college football has done it better I'm not aware of it."
Chow concurred: "Let me say this, too. I'm not looking, and never have been, someone who needs power or control. When you coordinate an offense, the word means a lot. You put everybody's thoughts together.
"Together, collectively, when you see a team do well, it will be UCLA. It won't be Norm Chow, or DeWayne Walker or Bob Palcic. It will be UCLA and the head coach Rick Neuheisel."
"I'm going to find out where he lives and go deliver some flowers to him," he said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "I'd be lying if I didn't say it's given me an added boost not only in confidence as a player, but also in the coaching staff and as far as my desire and my drive to play the game. Having a chance to work with Coach Chow and what he brings to the table, knowing that he has developed a lot of different quarterbacks, it's nothing but exciting for me and I can't wait to work with him. I'm going to come into spring ball in the greatest shape of my life and ready to go."
Olson and Chow aren't strangers; they met with Olson was a teenager. "I probably met Coach Chow when I was 13 or something like that. I went up to his summer camp, the BYU football camp when he was on staff there when I was just a little youngster. He recruited me at USC and developed our relationship even further there. He's just a great man and a great football coach.
"I always wanted to play for Coach Chow and things didn't quite work out at USC. I looked at USC twice - when I came out of high school and then when I got back from my mission. I always wanted to play for Coach Chow, I'd be lying if I didn't say that. I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from the best and I'm going to make the most of the opportunity and work my hardest to do what he asks me to do.
"I can't remember when I was this excited about football."
Yes, I know we have a long way to go.
Yes, I know next year is going to be difficult. I believe we are going to struggle to win 7 games next season given our brutal schedule (remember, even with Chow and Palmer, Pom Pom won only 6 games in his first season).
Yet, you can't blame this place for being filled with a little joy. We haven't had this much hope and optimism around UCLA football in more than a decade.
It's magic and we wouldn't be experiencing this if Dan Guerrero and Gene Block hadn't made the right call following the departure of Karl Dorrell.