It can’t be easy being a college football coach in 2018.
Not only are you dealing with the same issues that have been present in the sport since the beginning, you’ve added infinite issues that never would have been imagined even 20 years ago. The way recruiting has evolved (some for the better, some for the worse - but mostly for the worse), coupled in with the advent of social media, has changed the way programs conduct business in so many ways.
That’s no different for TCU and Gary Patterson, who recently dealt with an issue at the confluence of youth and social media, something he addressed over the weekend during media availability after a practice. Patterson was asked about players posting injury information on social media platforms, and he took it as a teachable moment. “It’s not very smart because now every opponent knows which foot, which leg, which whatever. So, whether you like it or not, they go for it.”
Patterson’s frustrations make a lot of sense - giving an opposing defender a clue as to what might be an area of weakness for you is never a good idea. Football is a physical game, and we have all heard stories about what happens at the bottom of the pile - twisting an ankle or a leg after a tackle is unfortunately not uncommon, and if someone sees a way to get a high-caliber player off the field, they very well may take it. Coach P went on to do some analysis of young people today, that was fascinating as well. When you think about social media - twitter, facebook, instagram, and the like - so much of it is based around “look at me!”. Add young people into the equation, and it becomes even more so. “We are in a part of our lives where everybody thinks you’ve got to have someone feel sorry for you, got to show everybody what’s going on.”
Ultimately, we see this every year - a young player figuring out how to grow up, and making mistakes along the way. Patterson takes his responsibility to grow these young kids up very seriously, a reason that many parents feel comfortable sending their kids to play football for him. Just listen to what Ross Blacklock’s dad said as part of the Star-Telegram’s excellent in-depth feature on the now-injured DT. “It’s been a great choice for him going to TCU. He loves the school, loves the campus. And I’ve got to thank the coaching staff, too, because they’re doing a great job and he’s becoming a gentleman and a man. Coach [Gary] Patterson and the rest of them are doing a phenomenal job because he’s kept his head on straight and been focused and doing everything we could ask.”
And it’s obvious that GP not only takes the job seriously, but enjoys the process as well. Loving them through it - a lesson he learns at home, too. “Some of these guys, when you have younger teams, they have to learn how to do that process. Kind of like putting things out on instagram. You’ve got to understand, be a little bit smarter about it, understand what you’re trying to get accomplished - and understand [accomplishing your goals] will put all of us on twitter. Doesn’t mean we don’t like them, doesn’t mean we don’t love them, doesn’t mean we don’t care about them… it’s just as Mrs. P says about me ‘I’ll always love you but some days I don’t like you.’ Us guys, we all screw up. Young players, they all screw up. It’s our job to get them straightened out to where they need to be and what they need to do.”
Patterson’s philosophy has been played out time and time again over his tenure in Fort Worth - the role he played in the lives of players like Casey Pachall and Kenny Hill can’t be overstated. When it’s about caring about the person more than the football player, good things tend to happen. And that’s what TCU Football is all about.