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Coming Home

Today is apparently WWL’s Pac-10 preview day (at least in the online section of their college football page). And the headliner happens to be none other than CRN. You can already see WWL's Ivan Maisel's sit down with CRN below.  In addition to that interview Maisel has written up (yet another) profile piece on CRN with the angle of the prodigal son of Westwood looking for "redemption":


Maisel’s piece is extensive and hits on lot of familiar themes we have been reading in Neuheisel profiles this year. Yet Maisel managed to squeeze in some new comments from Neuheisel on how he is not the same person who left Washington five years ago and some new stories re his original and latest arrival in Westwood. First, Neuheisel told Maisel about how his decision making process (to date) as head football coach at UCLA has been different than the one he was used to as the head guy at UDub:

He hasn't coached a game yet, and given the Bruins' injuries at quarterback and the lack of experienced offensive linemen, that may be a blessing. But when Neuheisel talks about the task before him, he doesn't sound like the coach who left Washington five years ago.

He isn't.

"The one thing that's been different about this job and the jobs previous for me," Neuheisel said, "has been that I haven't succumbed to that feeling like, 'You're behind.' There's always a feeling like you're behind. There is always a sense of urgency, like 'I've got to do this or we're going to fall behind on that guy (recruit). We're going to fall behind on this guy.'

"And I haven't succumbed to that, doing something that I haven't thought out and made sure that we do it the right way. At the end of the day, there is time. What there isn't time to do is go back and fix mistakes that were made in haste."

In other words CRN will be living by the word of some legendary Coach who preached the axiom of "be quick, but don’t hurry."  Well Neuheisel will have time on his side at UCLA. He has already shown his quick impact in his ability to bring in Norm Chow while holding on to DeWayne Walker. He will get his share of recruits if he goes on to build this program with the same methodical tenacity and relentless his counterpart has shown over at the basketball front. It will take time. But the greater community of alums and students will back him as long as goes on about rebuilding our program the right way.

And one of the main reasons we are going to give him this room is because his story on how arrived and made a name for him at UCLA. From Maisel on Neuheisel’s path to UCLA as a walkon:

"At the end, I was trying to decide if I was going to Princeton or UCLA," Neuheisel said, "and I had really made up my mind I was going to Princeton, because I hadn't heard from UCLA. And now that I'm on this side of the fence, I understand why I hadn't heard -- I wasn't that important.

"But I got a phone call like four days before (the Bruins) were going to start camp. And Terry says, 'Are you going to be there?'

And I said, 'Coach, I think I'm going to go to Princeton; they've shown that they want me and need me and all that kind of stuff.'

So he says, 'That's probably a good idea. Especially if you don't think that you can play at this level.'

Well we have read the stories about what followed in Westwood. Maisel’s piece goes on to provide more stories about Neuheisel keeping at it – relentlessly (something Forcier, Dean, Moore and all other young Bruin underclassmen I am sure can relate) – at Spaulding, while fighting away the freshmen homesickness (familiar to many of us) day after day. We know how the story of Neuheisel as a UCLA student ended in his senior season in Westwood. Here is how the Neuheisel as the head coach of UCLA era started (also recounted in WWL's OTL interview w CRN)

On Dec. 31, the day UCLA introduced him as its coach, Neuheisel had coffee with the chancellor emeritus, Charles E. Young, and then took a walk across campus.

"So I'm standing right in front of Royce Hall and Powell Library and I'm up on the top of Janss Steps," Neuheisel said, referring to the 87 steps named for the family that sold to the state the land that would become UCLA. "It's one of the most beautiful places on campus because you look out and there's Bel Air to the left and Beverly Hills behind you and you're looking down on all the athletic facilities and the dorms are in front of you." Neuheisel soaked it all in and nodded to himself.

"And it was like, 'I'm back,' " Neuheisel said. "And I kinda did that Rocky thing at the top." As he raised his arms above his head, basking in the moment, "Some poor student behind me is like, 'Are you okay, sir?' "

From the top of Janss Steps, Neuheisel called his parents. This time, he didn't tell them he wanted to come home. He already had.

And here is a little shot of Neuheisel’s (and our) home:


Janss Steps. Photo credit: twinkl1o04's photostream (flickr)

We know it will take him a while to make things right again in Westwood. But that is all right. Reading that article once again gives the impression how a guy is finally at peace with the strength and weaknesses of what makes up his identity. Given what we have seen from him last few months, we feel even better about UCLA decision to bring him home. Given the way he has handled himself with a chip on his shoulder, we all feel good that he is going to shine though as a head coach, just like he did as a walk on Bruin quarterback. It’s just a matter of time. But as we said above, no need to hurry. He is home.