WR coach focuses on relationships to mold football players
Though UH had its smallest amount of turnover from its coaching staff during head coach Tony Levine’s three-year tenure, there was still change.
The Cougars added outside receivers coach Tony Jeffery this off season to replace former coach Brandon Middleton. Jeffery has history with new offensive coordinator Travis Bush at UTSA, his last stop. Jeffery believes relationships with players are more important than Xs and Os. He explained his philosophy in an interview with The Daily Cougar.
The Daily Cougar: What drew you into Houston and why did you decide to come coach for UH?
Tony Jeffery: Houston. I left home at 18 years old, and having the opportunity to come back fourteen years later was the chance of a lifetime… I had a previous relationship with (offensive coordinator Travis) Bush at UTSA and he put in a good word for me, stood on the table for me to get me hired here. I had known (Head) coach (Tony) Levine for several years, he didn’t know me but I knew of him and just the first meeting I had with him went really well.
It was a great draw obviously because of my roots and my family being here, and also just the people being great from top to bottom.
TDC: Has the transition and adjustment process coming to UH been smooth for you?
TJ: It has been smooth, having my whole family here, obviously they’ve been a big help but also just knowing my way around. I lived in San Antonio and it’s the sixth largest city in the country, I come home and Houston is the third largest in the country, it’s been a smooth transition and I couldn’t imagine it being any smoother, to be honest.
TDC: Experience goes a long way, especially from when you played and coached, so how do you think your time at UT and UTSA helped that aspect for you?
TJ: It’s allowed me to grow. I started off a quality control coach and was able to learn the profession from a great group of coaches at the University of Texas. Obviously Mack Brown being the man and the coach that he is, playing for him and having the opportunity to coach under him did a lot for my career, and Larry Coker hired me on at UTSA. When you put people first everything else falls in line and Coach Brown at UT did that, and Coach Coker as much as the same.
Being able to learn from those two, both have won national championships so they know what it takes to be a champion and the other coaches that I’ve coached with along the way and the players that I’ve coached. I’ve learned just as much from players as I have from coaches on how to motivate and how to get guys to buy into what you’re selling. It all comes from one allowing them to know that you care about them, preaching academics and how important family is, and it’s all just worked out everywhere I’ve been. I’ve been very blessed to start my coaching career in the state of Texas, and still going into my ninth year coaching still being able to be in Texas and now to be back in Houston is pretty neat.
TDC: What are some key things that you tell your outside receivers?
TJ: I’ve been trying to build a relationship with them first and almost put football second. I was around my last group of receivers for four years and that allowed me to really get to know them. I learned that getting to know them as people first is more important than knowing them as players first and everything else will fall in from there.
TDC: How do you think the Cougars receiver’s skills levels are and do you see anybody having a nice impact season?
TJ: It’s still early, I’m still learning them. Obviously these guys that played last year are having a chance to play, like Greg Ward was the backup quarterback last year and now he’s playing receiver. The thing I didn’t know before I got here was that we’re young. The outside receivers are really young, which isn’t a bad thing, but that means that they have a lot of growing to do. They’re willing to work hard and they want to be good.
So for me to sit here and say this guy or that guy is going to be the guy, it’s still too early. I want to challenge those guys to put their best foot forward every day, and not worry about the result but the process it takes to be successful. Adding five more receivers this summer, that’s really going to present a challenge and shake up some things. I just want them to do the right thing on and off the field but also compete every day and be able to say they’ve done something for someone else on a weekly basis.
TDC: So do you believe the (outside receivers) are buying into what you’ve been trying to instill in them thus far?
TJ: I believe so; you never know what to expect once you come into a situation, you don’t know their backgrounds or much about them at all. I really have to give them a lot of credit because they have bought in to the way that I want them to do things, and I know that comes from the approach I took of getting to know them first. Allowing them to want to be themselves but also understand what they need to do on a daily basis to get better, not only as a student athlete, but as a person.