Getting To Know Bobby Johnson
Part 1 of 5, Next
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
"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
"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
"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
"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."