Today's interviewee is Woodward Academy coach John Hunt, whose team defeated No. 1-ranked Blessed Trinity 13-10 last week. In his ninth season at Woodward, Hunt has a record of 80-24 with four region titles. He is a former NFL player and assistant coach. He's played under Tom Landry and coached under Steve Spurrier.
John Hunt, Woodward Academy head coach
1. What was the difference-maker against Blessed Trinity, and how significant was the win? "Obviously the significance was huge. They're the two-time defending champions, and I know they lost quite a few players [to graduation], but they've got a culture going there. Coach [Tim] McFarlin has done a great job building that program to its current point, so to go to their place and win is huge. It's a confidence-builder. The thing from last year is that we were snakebit a little bit with injuries and lacking some in leadership and lost our way in commitment to the weight room. We challenged them at the end of the year. It started in January, and we had a great summer as far as attendance and work ethic. I think that showed Friday. The key to our win was our defense playing so well, and then special teams was phenomenal. We had a couple of kicks inside the 10 in the latter part of the game and the field goal at the end. Defense and special teams were the difference."
2. You've had three quarterbacks at Woodward who got all-state recognition, and now Mike Wright, who is committed to Central Florida, has a chance to become the fourth. What about Wright stands out to you? "Mike is so athletic, and that was helpful the other night when he had quite a lot of pressure pretty much the whole game. He was able to evade and create things. That sets him apart from other great quarterbacks we've had since I've been here. Hopefully Mike will continue to develop as a quarterback. That's what I'm trying to emphasize with him. If he continues to do that, we'll continue to improve."
3. You've played and worked with scores of coaches through high school, college and the NFL. Which coach had the greatest influence over your career? "Any coach will tell you that they take little bits of pieces from everywhere they've been, and I've done that, but probably the person that had the biggest impact on me was the offensive line coach when I was a graduate assistant way back, Rich McGeorge. His approach to coaching the kids and his emphasis on technique and getting kids to believe in you changed my thinking. I played under Charlie Pell [at Florida]. He was a Bear Bryant player, so he was a Bear Bryant disciple - grind and pound, grind and pound. That's all I ever knew. And Coach Spurrier came rolling through, and the way he did things was laid back. I was certain it wasn't going to work because it was so anti what I'd been around. Coach McGeorge told me there are different ways to skin a cat. 'The players have to know you care and that you're coaching them to the best of your ability. Do that and you'll be fine.' Danged if he wasn't right. He opened my mind." [McGeorge was Spurrier's offensive coordinator in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits and his offensive line coach at Duke and Florida. He was a nine-year NFL tight end with the Packers.]
4. You coached under Spurrier, played under Landry. How would you describe those football legends? "Landry, he was stoic. He was that person you'd see on TV, but at the same time, he had a quick wit. He had a humor about him. As a coach, he was right there in it, more than just a CEO-type guy. He was right in there, calling the plays. And he also was really fit. Under that suit, he was rock solid. [Hunt played for the Dallas Cowboys in 1984, when Landry was 60.]
"Spurrier, I learned a great deal under him. I do appreciate him taking a chance with me. He had a spot open [in 1999 after Hunt had been a high school coach for six seasons in Florida]. I called him, and he was gracious enough to hire me out of high school when not of lot of big-time coaches would do that. He was fun to coach for. He didn't micro-manage. He didn't sweat the little things. In my younger days, I would lose my mind over little things. He was like, 'Ah, it will be all right.' I try to coach like that at Woodward Academy. We have some great assistant coaches. I basically stay out of their way and let them do what they do. I learned that from Coach Spurrier."
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