New Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury was in Amarillo on Wednesday, May 15, and conducted a wide-ranging interview with 13 members of the Amarillo media.
He also attended a Tech booster dinner later that day.
J. Pat Hickman, CEO of Happy State Bank, said he has attended Tech booster meetings in Amarillo “for 40 years and this was the largest-attended one I’ve ever seen. And it’s not even close.”
Kingsbury, 33, was named Tech’s 15th head football coach Dec. 12. The hiring of the former Tech quarterback has ramped up the excitement level among Red Raiders fans.
What follows is a rapid-fire, seven-minute interview, edited for clarity.
Amarillo Globe-News: What happened on the greatest day of your life?
Kliff Kingsbury: “That’s a tough one. But my greatest athletic day was my first start ever for (quarterback) for Texas Tech. It was Spike Dykes’ last game (as Tech head coach). We beat Oklahoma, and we got to send him out with a win. That’s my favorite athletic memory of all time.”
AGN: You played with Tom Brady at New England. What’d you learn from him?
Kingsbury: “I thought I knew how to work hard until I got up there. When I got up there, he really took me under his wing and showed me how to work. It was one of those deals if you were supposed to do 10 reps, he was going to do 12. It’s always left a lasting impression on me.”
AGN: And (New England coach) Bill Belichick?
Kingsbury: “Incredible coach. The amount of preparation he put in week in and week out and then knowing special teams, offense and defense. He knew exactly the play and scheme you were going to run. He left no stoned unturned. I learned so much.”
AGN: Mother’s Day was last Sunday. Your mom, Sally, died from soft-tissue sarcoma in 2005. How’d she impact your life?
Kingsbury: “She has everything to do with how I am and I handle coaching. Watching her struggle through cancer, I have never had a bad day after that. She instilled a bunch of great things in me, like a positive attitude in me and to make sure to be the best you can in everything you attempt.”
Amarillo media: You went to Midland and now to Amarillo. You keeping the fan base close to home?
Kingsbury: “Yeah. We know how passionate these fans are up here, and so we wanted to bring this deal to them, kind of share our word about Texas Tech and what’s been going on so far.”
Amarillo media: How have things been going?
Kingsbury: “It’s been good. It’s been fast and furious getting a staff together and the recruiting right when we got here. Then having spring ball done we feel good about it. We think we have some young guys who will step up this year and play well for us.”
Amarillo media: Would it be safe to say your hiring brought the Texas Tech family back together?
Kingsbury: “People have said that; I don’t know. The whole situation was tough. If we can all get back on the same page we all want what’s best for Texas Tech. I think that’s what we are all pushing for.”
Amarillo media: What’s the excitement been like in Lubbock since you arrived?
Kingsbury: “The reception has been incredible. I think the fans see that six of us are back. ... The energy has been spectacular.”
AGN: Rumor has it you arrive at your office most days by 4:30 a.m. Is that true? Why so early?
Kingsbury: “That’s true. It’s usually the best time to get work done around there with a bunch of former players who like to have fun. I usually get in there and get a bunch of the offensive stuff done, then throughout the day handle all the administrative stuff.”
AGN: You are calling your own plays?
Kingsbury: “I’ll be calling the plays. That’s what I love to do. It’s my favorite part of the game is being the play caller.”
AGN: Will you script your plays?
Kingsbury: “Our first 15 plays we will take a lot of pride in.”
AGN: What’s been the biggest difference going from an assistant coach to being “The Man”?
Kingsbury: “It’s really just the administrative stuff. It’s a lot more responsibility of things you didn’t have to worry about previously. The football aspect is still the part I love and get to do that still. I’m enjoying the process.”
Amarillo media: A lot has been written and said about how young your staff is. What positives do you see in hiring a younger staff than most D-I programs?
Kingsbury: “It’s been good. I’ve seen all positives. Six of us played there at Texas Tech and so it’s easy to sell a product you are passionate about. I think you see that with the impact they have had on recruiting. If you watched them interact with high school coaches and the relationships they’ve built, it’s been really impressive. I couldn’t be more pleased with the staff so far.”
Amarillo media: Practices have been unique with the high-energy type of music you had playing. Do the players enjoy the music?
Kingsbury: “It’s something we started doing at the University of Houston a few years ago. If the players are down, or not feeling it that day, a song can come on and get them going. Plus, they have to learn to communicate though all that noise. So it kind of works both ways.”
Amarillo media: What are your impressions of how spring drills went?
Kingsbury: “It went well. It went well. Defensively, this is about their fifth coordinator (Matt Wallerstedt) in four years. I thought they did a good job of picking up the schemes. The front seven is all back. That should be the strength of our team. On offense, we have the obvious quarterback battle and have a bunch of good skill coming back. Not a lot of depth on the offensive line. That’s a concern. But they played hard and pushed through the spring.”
Amarillo media: Your opener is at SMU. Thought about that much or is it too early?
Kingsbury: “They are a great ball club and I’ve actually played them the last five years at Houston and Texas A&M. I’m very familiar with that group. Coach (June) Jones is one of the best coaches in America. He will have them fired up. And we will be starting a guy (at quarterback) making his first start. So you never know how that’s going to go. We know it’s going to be a big game. We are preparing that way.”
Amarillo media: What are your expectations and how much of a learning curve is there for the season? How good can you be this year?
Kingsbury: “We are excited. Last year we were 8-5 and we were last in the Big 12 in takeaways and last in penalties. You’d think if you could turn those things around a little bit you’d have a shot to win a few more games. A lot of guys back. A lot of energy. Excited about the season.”
AGN: You will be having a monster screen at home games next year. Your thoughts?
Kingsbury: “It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe how big it is. It’s going to completely change the game-day experience. We are excited about it.”
Amarillo media: Naegelin’s Bakery down in your hometown of New Braunfels has Texas A&M and Texas cookies. When you going to get a Texas Tech cookie there?
Kingsbury: “It’s tough to slide in down there. And they have the smiley face cookies. That’s what they are known for. We have to win some games and get that going down there.”