Monday, January 08, 2018

New ECU coach hits the ground running

Editor’s Note: Ada News sports editor Jeff Cali had an exclusive interview with new East Central University head coach Al Johnson Friday morning. Following are some excerpts from that question-and-answer session. A community meet-and-greet with Johnson has been scheduled for Tuesday at JD’s Cafe and will run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

By Jeff Cali
January 6, 2018

Ada News: You left the University of Wisconsin football team on a fun note. Tell me about the experience of the Orange Bowl victory over Miami.

Al Johnson: “The Orange Bowl was a great experience. It’s the first time I’d ever been. I’d been to some Rose Bowls and a lot of other bowls. It was a lot warmer than it was in Wisconsin or in Oklahoma, for that matter. I enjoyed it and the family enjoyed it, as well.”

Ada News: I’m sure it’s been a whirlwind for you since you arrived on campus. Tell me how things have been since you got here.

Al Johnson: “It was definitely a whirlwind. We left the morning of Jan. 2 and drove all day and into the night. We got here Tuesday about 10 o’clock. I got up early and got to work. You’ve just got to start prioritizing. That’s the big thing. You’re getting pulled in a lot of different directions. You have to do the HR and a lot of other things, but you really have to prioritize what needs to be done now. I have a nice long list (he shows me the list) of things to get done and mark a few off. For every one I mark off, three get added. But it will calm down. There’s just a lot to do right now with the transition.”

Ada News: A number of people have asked me why you would leave Wisconsin for little ol’ East Central. So why ECU?

Al Johnson: “I always say “why not?” This is a great university with a long tradition. This a great football town. When I moved to Dallas and played for the Cowboys, I met my wife. But I was also fortunate to meet a lot of people from Oklahoma (during his four years with the Cowboys). It started down in Hugo and kind of branched out. I was really drawn to Oklahoma because it was a lot like home. I grew up in rural Wisconsin, in a part of the country where people were genuine and you did business with a handshake. People were real. They weren’t trying to be somebody they’re not. You don’t always get that in big cities. That’s really what drew me to Oklahoma, the people.”

Ada News: I understand you were interested in the ECU football program before the head coaching position came open.

Al Johnson: “I was looking at this school for a long time before anyone on this campus knew who I was. I was watching from afar. When it actually did come available ... I decided to go with everything I had. Every person I had ever met with Oklahoma ties, I called and asked if they had ties to the university. I called every friend and every connection I had. Luckily, I had OU connections, I had Dallas Cowboys connections, and I used friends of friends who knew people who worked here. I used every connection I could to at least get my name out there to let them know I was interested. I just wanted a real look at this job and this opportunity.”

Ada News: Have you had time to sit down and meet with the returning Tiger football players yet?

Al Johnson: “I’ve only met a few returning players on campus. Timing wasn’t conducive enough to have a full team meeting. I did not want to go a month and a half from being named the new head coach to our first team meeting. So what I did is get the roster, get all their phone numbers and called all the players. I was able to get through to about 99 percent of them all. We had good conversations. It took three days, but it was worth it. I wanted to let them know I was here for them — that we are in this together. I wanted them to know I would do whatever I could to help them and this university. They had just gone through a whole month of being in limbo and not having a head coach. I didn’t want it to be another month before they heard from me. I had to answer the same questions and talk about the same things 75 times, but I believe it was worth it. I didn’t want them to go through Christmas and the holiday season not knowing what was in store for ECU football. For a lot of these kids, football is a very important part of their life. It’s what brought them to Ada, Oklahoma. I wanted them to be OK.”

Popular Posts