TCU Football coach Gary Patterson met with media members Sunday afternoon as his team returned to the practice field in preparation for the Cheez-It Bowl on December 26th. After a hiatus from practicing - and speaking to the media - GP pulled no punches when given the chance to speak.
A big topic of conversation was players participating in the “meaningless” bowl game in two weeks, as well as whether or not any players would be declaring for the NFL Draft early. Patterson turned these questions into an opportunity to talk about loyalty and how important it is to give back to the program and the players, and for them to do so in turn. It seems especially timely, now, given that we know that Shawn Robinson is leaving the program for greener pastures elsewhere - something that was not known at the time of the interview, though, to be clear.
The conversation started as Ty Summers, in a green no contact jersey, walked by, and Patterson was asked whether or not he would play in the bowl game. Patterson “expects him to be ready by game day”, which would be somewhat miraculous considering all of the times Summers had to be helped off the field, only to fight back and make it back, and have to be helped off again. The senior is likely a late-round prospect, and it is certainly risky for him to suit up for a game pitting a pair of 6-6 teams against each other, but Coach P believes there is more to gain than just some more game film - though that matters, too. “Well, it’s another resume game. To me, it’s a chance to build your resume. Every bit that you can put on film has a chance to make a difference. They key is, there’s no promise that you’re going to make the NFL, so this may be the last game of your life.” That sentiment rings true for another player who saw his season cut short - but for an entirely different reason. Senior defensive tackle Joe Broadnax’s career was thought to be over due to an undisclosed medical condition, one that is not football related. He has been cleared to play, but isn’t quite comfortable doing so, and Patterson is more than happy to let him make his own decision. “I am hoping Joe gets a few snaps, gets to go out on his own terms. But he’s going to have to make that decision. It’s just - he has to feel comfortable with all that stuff. I am not even telling him that he should or he needs to, I am just saying for the rest of your life, here’s the last time for you to run onto the field with your uniform on and get a chance one last time. Wouldn’t we all, if given the chance, say ‘I wish I could do that one more time’?”
That’s been a common refrain from GP, whether it’s guys playing hurt, skipping bowl games, or deciding whether or not to leave early for the pros. He’s not going to tell them what to do, just ensure they are fully informed. “All I can do is call NFL people, give them the facts, ask them for a grade, and go about my business, go about my life. What else can you do?” What it comes down to, for Patterson, is not wanting the credit for a good decision or the blame for a bad one, and in his eyes, he owes that to his players. “I’ve never swayed them one way or the other because I don’t want it to be my fault. If they go, and they miss out on their senior year, or miss out on graduating on time, or if i talked them into staying, and they got hurt and didn’t go as high in the draft - I cant be that guy.” In his eyes, it’s the least he can do. “These guys have given us everything - practicing the way we practice, the way we play, the way we do things. All you want to do is be able to give back. We have had 650-750 kids come through the program in the last 21 years - you want all of them to be successful.”
That attitude isn’t something that he preaches to his players and coaches, though, it’s something he has lived out himself over his 21 years in Fort Worth. Coach Patterson could have left for greener pastures on multiple occasions, but chose to stay time and time again. It’s east to see why. “You decide what your reputation is. I understand all of the above (risking injury to play in the bowl game), but what I also understand is that you have the rest of your life to do what you have an obligation to do. Just like i have stayed here at TCU, the obligation to everything that everyone has given us. Maintaining loyalty is not a reality for some people very much anymore. It’s hard for me to ask other people to do it if you’re not going to do it yourself.”
Patterson has done it himself, and the players certainly appreciate that. Maybe that’s why guys like Ben Banogu (a possible first round pick), L.J. Collier, and Ty Summers will play on the 26th. Sure, padding the resume matters, but so does putting on the purple one last time for these players. And it’s something Coach P is thinking about, too. “That’s how I look at it - when someday, it’s my last day to coach, ‘how do I want to remember it all’?”