Getting To Know Bobby Johnson 1/2/02

Part 1 of 5, Next Segment

At the conclusion of his first week on the job, Vanderbilt head football coach Bobby Johnson spoke at length with VU assistant media relations director Larry Leathers about numerous topics important to Commodore faithful. Johnson spoke openly on questions ranging from childhood heroes to his core coaching beliefs. The first segment in this five-part series introduces Commodore fans to their new head coach. Subjects to be addressed include influences on his life, Johnson's coaching philosophy, his expectations and Bobby Johnson off the field. With cell phones ringing and high school game film running, the first segment gets underway.

Coach Johnson, welcome to Vanderbilt and great to have you on campus. How has your first few days been?

"Well, it's great. The people have been fantastic. Everybody has been trying to help. I couldn't ask for any more help. I'm very fortunate to bring Ted Cain from my Furman staff who is very committed to coming to Vanderbilt. We hit it running today, started watching film, meeting the people, some of the players and support staff. We are as excited as we can be. Coaching at this level is something I've looked forward to my whole life. Now it's come true. I want to make the best of it and I'm going to work hard to do it."

Coach, before we go further, what will you be focusing on in the first week to 10 days at Vanderbilt?

"We have a lot of things going on. We are going to try to hire the best coaching staff we can possibly get from the available pool across the country. At the same time, we have to get a handle on recruiting. Obviously, not having a coaching staff on hand for this amount of time, it has set us back. The support staff here has done a great job of keeping recruits informed of the process. We still have an in with a lot of good players. We just have to make contact with those young men and rebuild some bridges. They saw something they really liked in Vanderbilt and we just have to remind them of it."

Coach, you've been incredibly busy the last 10 days - coaching in a national championship game, accepting a new challenge, enjoying the holidays, flying back and forth to South Carolina. Give us a few of the details.

"It has been hectic. A couple of days, I didn't even know what day it was. But it was exciting and that's the great thing. You look at the opportunity before you, the fact that you're getting to coach at Vanderbilt. This is going to fantastic. You might not get much sleep and you might be on planes to here and there, but it's all worth it. It's what I've worked for my whole life, and I'm going to go hard at it."

How did you and your wife, Catherine, spend this Christmas?

"Usually we try to visit both families. Last week, we were so rushed we only were able to see my family. We plan to visit Catherine's family around New Year's Day. For a football coach, it's always hectic at this time, between trying to wind down from the season and gearing up for recruiting. It is one of the few times we get to spend alone."

Did Santa Claus still find the Johnson residence? Did you receive a favorite gift this year?

"My wife tries to dress me the best she can. Sometimes I'm a tough subject to dress. She gave me some nice sweaters. To tell you the truth, probably the best time was just having a day with her and getting to see my family."

For the past eight years, you have been surrounded by a number of great young men at Furman and been tremendously successful along the way. What are you feeling as you leave that group of kids behind for the challenge here?

"I absolutely think the world of those guys. I spent years recruiting them to Furman, coaching them, trying to improve them as football players and young men. They were a joy to be around and I'm a better coach and person for the experience."

How difficult was that trip back to Greenville after the loss to Montana, knowing the Vanderbilt job was on the table?

"It was extremely emotional because we put a whole lot into that football game. I knew there was a pretty good chance I'd be leaving the program and wouldn't get another chance to coach the men. You also hate to leave with a loss, even if it's for the national championship. But I have great faith in those guys. They'll bounce back. They're good young men and will respond to the coach that takes my place."

What were your final words to the Furman players?

"I said,'No matter what happened tonight, I was proud of what you accomplished and more importantly, I want you to hold your head high and be proud to be a Furman Paladin.' Nothing else needed to be said."

When did you feel like you were going to be the 25th head coach in Vanderbilt history?

"You might want to ask Todd (Turner) that question. When we kept winning and Vanderbilt was willing to wait to talk to me as long as we were going in the playoffs, I figured they must like something about me. During that time, I learned more about Vanderbilt, the commitment from Chancellor Gee and Todd Turner. It just seemed to be a pretty good fit. I'm glad it took that long because it gave me time to study it and gave my wife a chance to accept it. It worked out perfectly. I was very appreciative of the first-class job Vanderbilt did in conducting this search and making sure the contacts (Turner) had with me did not disrupt Furman's championship run. That was first-class."

What did you find most appealing about the Vanderbilt position?

"The combination of coaching student athletes who are great young men in the toughest league in the country. It's the intriguing part - that you can work toward success the right way. That is what drew me to Vanderbilt. I have enjoyed coaching that kind of young men at Furman. Obviously, this position at Vanderbilt is on a bigger scale, but we'll have a chance to be successful if we do the same things."

How does Bobby Johnson celebrate a victory?

"I like to have a lot of my friends come back to the house afterward and sit around to talk about every play, the good ones and the bad ones. Just reliving it with friends and family. You get that sense of accomplishment. It's hard to win a football game. A lot of things have to go right , you have to prepare and practice. When it's over and you feel victory, whether it's 100-99 or 2-0, you just have a great sense of accomplishment. Sharing that feeling with friends and family is sweet."

Coach, on a lighter note, what book are you currently reading. What CD are you listening to? Your favorite television show? Your last movie rental?

"Let's see. I'm reading Tuesdays With Morie by Mitch Albom. I enjoy Law & Order. Probably the last CD I listened to was Don Henley. That was also the last concert I attended. I'm an Eagles fan. I rented a movie for the bus (during trip to I-AA finals) - The Great Escape, trying to get the guys exposed to a classic. I was wrong and read a book while they watched Rush Hour II. One year they responded, they loved Cool Hand Luke."

Coach, the final question for this segment, what do you and Catherine do for fun?

"We love to travel, usually where it's warm. We both scuba dive and enjoy boating. The Bahamas and those kind of places are attractive to us. Mainly, just traveling and getting away."


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