Soon after Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez, the seniors-to-be filed into his new office, one-by-one, to hear the same message.
Center Kyle Quinn remembers Rodriguez saying something like this:
“This is your team. It’s the seniors’ team. I may not have recruited you guys, and this is your last year, but I want you guys to have the best senior year possible. You’re my guys.”
This is always the worry with a coaching change — the tenuous relationship between the new coach and the old players. The guy with the long-term plan doesn’t always have use for the short-timers. The short-timers tune out the guy with the long-term plan.
“We really bought into his philosophy and his mindset,” Quinn said.
“We were eager to change,” said senior defensive lineman Chris Merrill. “We knew we had to buy in for change to be implemented.”
“It started with us,” added senior fullback/defensive end Taimi Tutogi. “We talked to the guys and said, ‘Look at this guy’s record; he’s done a lot of good things at previous schools.’ The guys followed their leaders.”