-By Jessica Davis
Some things never change. Houston Nutt was a man known for his fervor, his southern charm, and his passion for football. And he still is. The man had the nickname “Right Reverend” for goodness’ sake.
Nutt first began coaching at Oklahoma State in 1981, and would later become a head coach for Ole Miss in 2008 until 2011. One of the first things Nutt learned early on in his coaching career was that he would always be held accountable. Whether it was being held accountable for a player’s mistake or a team’s performance, accountability would be a recurring element throughout Nutt’s career.
Most recently, Citadel senior guard player Victor Hill was suspended indefinitely for posting on Facebook how he and his offensive line brothers were going to go for FSU players’ knees and add to their injury list. I asked Nutt what he thought of the situation and how he would’ve handled it.
“I mean you can’t say that, that’s ridiculous. I understand their blocking scheme, they cut and I understand that. But you gotta be really responsible what you say on Facebook, the world is watching now. You know, you can’t hide anything anymore.
Everything’s in the light and everything’s going to come out. I like how they handled the suspension of the Citadel player.”
Despite never holding a direct connection with FSU, Nutt has known Coach Jimbo Fisher since his days at LSU when Fisher used to work alongside Nick Saban. On top of that, Nutt says he’s always been an admirer of Bobby Bowden.
“I went on the Nike trip with Bobby Bowden. He’s always been a hero of mine. I’ve always looked up to him. I love the way he does everything. I was in his [Jimbo Fisher] office September 9th, and now he’s the big time head coach…you know when you’ve held up the crystal ball you’ve done great.”
I asked Nutt knowing everything he knows now (about coaching), if possible what would he tell himself if he could go back in time to when he was first starting out in coaching.
“When I first started out it was all x’s and o’s. Whereas now, it’s about the ‘total package’. It’s about making a difference in a young person’s life…The biggest thing is seeing the man outside of the playing field and sit down with the player and get down to what’s really going on with them. A lot of players don’t grow up having two parents around.”
And total package is right. Character development and having a strong moral compass is now just as critical for some football coaches as the player’s skill level. (Just ask Coach Fisher) In the past, a story about a player committing petty theft, or having a slight run-in with the police wouldn’t have garnered much national attention. That isn’t so much the case now.
With the rise in demand for excellent player character, I couldn’t help but ask what Nutt’s opinion was regarding Orange County Public Schools getting rid of their Chaplains. Chaplains are mostly local ministers who volunteer themselves for players when they need assistance with something going on in their lives, or just as someone to go to that isn’t a fellow player or coach. They usually bring a Bible and say a prayer with the team before games. Orange County decided to eliminate Chaplains from their public schools, and replace them with ‘life coaches’ instead.
“I do think it’s important that you have the physical aspect of football, you have the academic part of college football, and then you have the spiritual side of football. I do think it’s important it’s done the right way. I’m not talking about trying to cram
something down players’ throats or enforce something on these players. But it’s important that these players have someone to talk to, sometimes besides a coach.”
Faith has been a talked about topic ever since football was born, and Bobby Bowden was and is known to be vocal about that very topic. But when it comes to fans having faith in their players, FSU fans weren’t exactly blown away after the Seminoles played OSU and the Citadel. I asked Nutt, even though the football season is still young, if Seminole fans can expect another blowout season like last year.
“I just think that when I talk to some FSU fans they seem to be a little underwhelmed. However I don’t understand that. It’s the second week, I think they’re going to be fine, really do. I think they’re going to continue to get better, they’re very athletic, but everyone’s going to bring their A-game to the Seminoles…so they have to be ready.”
Before Nutt could escape me from asking him anymore questions, I sneaked one last question in for him. There were rumors that Nutt would return to coaching again, and I wanted to know if those rumors had any merit to them.
“I do hope so, I hope there’s one more left. One more job out there for me, but you just don’t ever know.”