Mike Sherman left College Station four years ago after a 6-6 season. He was, the legend goes, standing in the driveway of Matt Davis’s house when he was notified of his firing, attempting to persuade the highly coveted quarterback to come to A&M. After the call, he is said to have encouraged Davis to come to A&M anyway, because Sherman was convinced he would be a big success here.
Yesterday I read an article about Sherman’s current football team. After leaving Aggieland, he became the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, famous mostly in that stint for drafting his own Aggie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, in the first round. When he was fired by the Dolphins, he decided to return to New England to be near family. After a career coaching at the highest levels in both the NFL and college football, he was not in need of money. But the athletic director at a local high school persuaded him this year to become their head coach for the princely sum of $6,000.
I knew he was coaching high school, but what I didn’t know is that his team has yet to win a football game. I can see how someone who had coached Brett Favre would be tempted to walk out mid-season, as Steve Spurrier did at South Carolina last month. But the article describes the same guy I wrote about four years ago when he left, a man whose investment is in people, not in his own personal branding or success. What Mike Sherman enjoys is watching those people succeed.
Ironically, I watched Matt Davis play last night, and he is enjoying some of that success that Mike Sherman predicted for him four years ago – only he is now the starting quarterback for SMU, and his performance put a scare into nationally ranked Temple. Davis initially enrolled at Texas A&M, but a logjam of quarterbacks and the emergence of Johnny Manziel led to his decision to transfer. It has been a difficult year for Chad Morris’s Mustangs, but Davis’s competitiveness and athletic ability have given SMU fans hope.
In the article I read, Sherman described the millennials this way: “They are multitaskers and can handle a lot of things at once. But they don’t handle adversity real well.” As I wrote four years ago, I watched Mike Sherman handle adversity here, culminating in a painful last-second loss to Texas in his final game as A&M’s coach. He handled it with class and dignity, and he walked through it optimistically to that last moment in Matt Davis’s driveway. Those Nauset Regional High School students, many of whom face very trying circumstances, could not ask for a better person to teach them that lesson. I think NBC Sports recognized that, because they have produced a reality show that has followed the team this fall. I am no fan of reality TV, but each minute I watched online today has spoken about the humility and impact of teachers, parents, and a coach who didn’t have to take on this assignment.
The changes that have happened here the last four years are astounding. There is a new perception of A&M since our entry into the SEC, and we have renovated a stadium and built facilities that are the envy of all who see them. Fan interest and monetary support are at an all-time high, and the result has been unprecedented success in recruiting. We are also a place where nine wins is no longer enough, and where challenging for SEC and national championships will be expected. If you are the quarterback and play badly for two or three games, social media will keep you fully informed of your worth.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon before the Auburn game, and Twitter is abuzz because Johnny Manziel is home, and the former Heisman Trophy winner is likely to be at tonight’s game. But I hope, in the near future, we will welcome home someone who, though he may have had a .500 record in his four years here, solidified the integrity and stability of a program badly in need of it, and recruited a bunch of NFL players to boot.
I can guarantee you he is not spending any time worrying about whether we do or not. He is too busy doing what he was put on earth to do—coaching football and preparing young men to lead fruitful lives. But we have rarely had a public representative of this university who better embodied Texas A&M’s core values.
Let’s bring Mike Sherman home and tell him thanks.