Anatomy of an Era: Jared Tomich, Part 2
Excerpted from Chapter 71, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 2 by Paul Koch
Anatomy of an Era: Jared Tomich, Part 2
Q: Did the Nebraska people strike you as any different from the area you grew up?
Jared Tomich: You know what? Not a whole lot different. Because, fortunately, Chicago has really good fans as far as the Bears go, and I got to see that. But being at Nebraska, we were like minor celebrities around town. It was crazy.
And then I go to New Orleans and they didn’t even know there was a football team. (laughs) I found that was really, really apparent when -my rookie season in New Orleans- I lost the same amount of games my four preseason games as I had my whole time in college. I knew it was going to be completely different.
Q: Who was the first good friend or teammate you remember meeting?
JT: Yeah, at the time it was Larry Townsend. Larry and another guy who was only there a year with us, Mike Smith. He ended up going to Chadron State.
Q: Larry ‘Black Steel’ Townsend, huh?
JT: Yeah, my first two years there we were bosom buddies running around. And that graduated into my introduction to Christian. And Christian and I would go work out every night at ten o’clock over at Gold’s Gym. Christian would come in his little 30 Series BMW. And I don’t know how we would stuff ourselves in this car, but we would go work out at 9:30 until about midnight.
Q: If only Boyd knew…
JT: And he did! (laughs) He tried to put the kibosh on it. And were we doing everything right? No, we weren’t. But we felt that if we wanted to get to where we wanted to be we had to do extra. And we weren’t going in the wrong direction. Obviously we were overtraining and doing those things, and Boyd had a hard time with it, and I think he was asked to kind of overlook it because of our personalities. It was going to be an uphill battle.
Q: You guys were blue-collar guys and you only got what you’d earned in life, right?
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Q: Tell me a little more about Charlie McBride. How would you describe him best, his methods, et cetera?
JT: His method of motivating was never about individuals when it came to football. It’s about the team and about the guy next to you, “In those times when you’ve got to dig deep for something extra, you think about those players next to you, or a family member.” And he would have something where you dedicate each game to somebody in your life -and you didn’t even have to tell the person- but you knew it. It was something extra where when you were really gassed that would just pop into your head, like an autopilot, and get you revved up.
And Coach McBride was just… you wanted to perform for him. And it was the same with Coach Samuel, too. I was more with Coach Sams, as well, and he was another one that was just an unbelievable motivator and gave the most subtle instruction you’ve ever had. He wasn’t a yeller, wasn’t a get-in-your-face or anything else coach. It was just, “This is how you do it. And you go do it.” And it was so simple, it was scary.
Q: In talking to Coach Samuel he stated that he would try to get guys with high motors, for starters. He said you guys were, ‘the difference makers.’ Was that the term he often used? Was that something you guys embraced?
JT: Right. Oh yeah. And you would take on that responsibility. And whether you won or you lost you took it on the same way.
I remember the Texas game, the Arizona State game, I remember going back to those two games we lost and completely blaming myself for the entire thing. Oh yeah. ’If I would have done this and if I would have done that’, that’s all it had to take. Nobody else, no pointing fingers. He never did any of that. ’I lost the game.’
Now, granted, a lot of other things have to happen -one player never really loses or wins the game because there are sixty minutes- but that was the mentality you had with it.
Q: Sure. You were willing to take the responsibility and shoulder as much burden as you could. Now I have to say, Jared, I have a lot of old game film, and did you just have one hellacious game one year versus Kansas State? Was Miller the quarterback?
JT: (laughs) Yeah. That was at home, when I came around the corner and punched him in the head for a sack. And they allowed it! What happened was, I was turning the corner and the offensive lineman caught enough of my hip to push me just enough out of the way that I swung my arm up and literally caught the guy with a right hook in the side of the head. And I knocked him out of the game.
I have an aerial picture of that: him literally being backward, his feet are still on the ground and his head is just about ready to touch the ground when I kind of decapitated him. I would be kicked out of the game today. When they talk about that home-field advantage, they ain’t kidding. (laughs)
Q: Was that your junior year, senior year?
JT: I think that was my junior year.
Q: When was your first year on campus?
JT: 1992. The fall of 1992.
Q: You mentioned the bonding, the family atmosphere. What do you think played a part in that and created that in contrast to the schisms and cliques and individualism that can normally creep in? Any idea?
JT: It all starts with the coaching: with the coaches’ philosophies, with Coach Osborne being more concerned with people. I remember when I got drafted. Coach Osborne was happy for me when I got drafted, but Coach Osborne was proud of me when I got my degree.
Q: Great distinction there.
JT: Yeah, and that’s what he made me feel about that. When I got drafted it was, “Hey, I’m happy for you.” But when I graduated you could see how proud he was of me, an individual coming in as a walk-on -not even that, but a Prop 48 walk-on- and being able to walk out of the school with an education.
Q: That’s a real success story right there, man. And now you’re the dumbbell and pizza king of Northwest Indiana! (smirking)
JT: (laughs) Yeah, we’re just outside of Chicago, about twenty five miles.
Q: Hey, I chatted with Bryan Pruitt the other day and he said I had to ask you about your pet iguana, Phil.
JT: Oh yeah, I had Phil when I left for school. Before my freshman year I went and bought this little five inch iguana, just to bring with me. (Growing up I always brought home every snake, squirrel, raccoon, whatever, and tried to make it a pet. My mom always put up with it.) And I was going five hundred miles away from home with nothing, so I brought this little iguana with me.
So when I’d go to the training table I’d bring along this little bag and I’d stash things like spinach and lettuce and stuff like that for it every day, and fruit. So Phil -his name was Phil- he ended up living with me all through college and even to when I graduated and got drafted. He lived to almost seven years old, but by the time he was four years old he was about six feet long.
And I was lucky enough to have about a five-page spread in Sports Illustrated and he was right there with me. He was pretty cool dude. He’d go all over the place with me, right there on my shoulder.
Q: So the Nebraska Training Table was unwittingly playing a part in the development of Phil, Super Iguana of The Plains, huh?
JT: Yep! Oh, yeah. (laughs)
Q: Do you have a favorite play from those days that stands out to you as meaning something special?
JT: No, and I’ve had people ask this before. I really don’t have just a particular play that kind of wraps my whole career up. I think it’s just more the whole thing, the two national titles. Those two games really stick out when I think back about the career.
I think my really fond memories are the Miami game and the Fiesta Bowl against Florida. There was just so much hype and so much excitement. The electricity, you can’t replicate it doing anything else. Those were just a couple of the very, very exciting moments in my career that stick with me.
Q: Anything in particular from those two games?
JT: Yeah, I think the Miami game, we were such underdogs in that game, and what still sticks in my head is halftime and Coach Osborne’s speech to us, telling us we had them, “They’re gonna tire. We’re in better shape, we’re better players, and we’ve got ‘em. We’re gonna beat ‘em up in the third quarter and we’re gonna take off with it in the fourth.” And we did.
Q: From what I’ve heard, that was a common occurrence with Coach Osborne.
JT: Oh yeah, he was very good at making adjustments. So was Coach McBride. To have two coordinators -and I figured this out later on how important this was, because even in the NFL I had coaches who couldn’t do this- if something wasn’t working they made adjustments at halftime and completely switched things around if we needed to, and that’s what worked and got it done. And I think that’s a bigger talent than what people know.
I think for the average fan and people who don’t know what goes on at halftime, when you see a team that’s losing the first half and they come back and start winning in the second half, something really happened in that meeting room. It’s a really big deal to be able to do that, because to go in at halftime with all the wind taken out of your sails and just kind of drift through that whole next half? Emotionally that’s a really hard thing to do.
Q: So for the coaches it took both humility, creativity…
JT: And a little bit of ‘rah-rah’. Coach Osborne and Coach McBride, they complemented each other so well. When Coach Osborne gave us the, “Gosh darn, men..” you knew he was really pissed. ”He is so mad right now that he had to use ‘Gosh darnit’”... but just the respect level you had, that’s all it took. He didn’t have to raise his voice or curse or anything like that. It was the same thing when he walked into a room: you’ve got a hundred young guys between the ages of 18 and 22 years old and they’re all in one room before the meeting starts and it’s utter chaos in there and they’re acting like idiots, and Coach Osborne walks in the door -and I don’t even think the military can do that- and commands the type of respect when he walks in the door that everybody is sitting upright, complete, undivided attention and just waiting for him to talk. I don’t think the military can even do that.
Charlie McBride and Tom Osborne enjoying a game day
Q: It wasn’t even that he had a demanding-type of demeanor either. He just expected it, maybe?
JT: No, never. I think he expected it. It was just something that took a long time for him to maybe achieve, because when I was there it was pounded into my head by the older guys. So it wasn’t even anything that was said or anything by the coaches, it was just something said by the other players, “You will respect this coach, you will listen, you will do this, you will do that,” and that’s the way Coach Osborne let us regulate ourselves.
It was just awesome. He didn’t micromanage. From a business sense, he didn’t micromanage at all. He delegated and we didn’t even know he was delegating to us to run the team. Now that I’m in business, these are the same things I put into my business. When I have the things I have going on, these are all the same values and structure and discipline that I’ve put into my business that have helped me get through operating four businesses, and all at a point where we’re having one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history.
Q: Every now and then do you have to say “dad-gummit” to get their attention? (laughs)
JT: And that’s all it takes, too. (laughs) I’m more like Coach Samuel and Coach Osborne: I don’t raise my voice. If you don’t do what’s expected, I’ll find somebody that will.
It’s funny, sometimes I’m so intense and just thinking about things when I’m walking around, and people sometimes say, “Are you alright today?” I’m not mad, it’s just that I’m intense and focusing on what needs to get done that day, is all. Some people don’t understand that on a day-to-day basis.
To be continued….
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