FNF Coaches Talk — Atlanta student credits coaches for inspiring him to gain acceptance to Dartmouth,

Welcome back, Coaches. We hope you enjoyed the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last night. Here’s our top stories of the day.

1. Atlanta student-athlete becomes school’s first accepted to Ivy League college, credits HS football coaches (WSBTV 2)

This is the type of story we love to read, and one all coaches should feel good about.

Ninety-five years of distinguished school history in Atlanta and now in 2020, Booker T. Washington High School can boast its first Ivy League student-athlete. Vachon Raye, a senior at Booker T. Washington, says the inspiration for his tireless work ethic and academic aptitude is his high school football coaches.

“My coaches instilled in me (that) it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Vachon Raye said. “I’m more about finishing the drill. Finish the drill. That’s one of our mottos. Finish the drill,” Raye said.

Bypassing acceptance into historically black colleges, Raye looked to leave his comfort zone.

“It’s just wild for him to be the first kid from this historical place to go to an Ivy League school,” head football coach Derrick Avery said.

Avery knew early on Raye was special. As a rising ninth-grader, Raye visited the weight room daily. He was serious about the sport, but even more serious about academics.

“Every summer from ninth grade, he was going away to a summer enrichment program,” Avery said.
“That helped me because obviously I got into Dartmouth,” Raye said.

Raye said it was his job to reward his coaches’ faith in him.

“Once you believe in yourself, then there’s nothing really anybody can tell you. They can’t sway you, persuade you or make you believe anything else once you believe in yourself,” Raye said.

How do you inspire your players to be all that they can be in the classroom?

2. Pushups have helped PJ Mustipher strengthen defense for Penn State football (The Baltimore Sun)

Here’s a story you should show any player who is looking to do a little more to get himself to the next level.

Since PJ Mustipher was a seventh grader at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Pikesville, Md., he has incorporated an almost daily regimen of pushups. What started as a series of 40 pushups has now increased to 100, which he still completes after waking up or before turning in as a defensive tackle for the Penn State football team.

“Being on the defensive line and playing in the Big Ten, you’ve got to be strong, and you’ve got to be big,” the 6-foot-4, 311-pound sophomore said. “I’m able to be physical at the point of attack and have my strength be better than it’s ever been. So it’s just something that started earlier in my life, and I continue to do it, and it has paid dividends to having that natural strength.”

Football has been the thread that binds the Mustipher family. Father Sam was a defensive end at West Virginia, and older brother Sam was a starting center at Notre Dame who latched onto the Chicago Bears in the summer as an undrafted rookie.

It was the elder Sam who conceived the idea of adding pushups to his sons’ workouts. At first reluctant to incorporate something as physically taxing as pushups, both sons said they now appreciate their father’s foresight.

“Our dad has always had our best interests in mind,” the younger Sam Mustipher said. “When you start doing something, it becomes a habit, and that’s what he instilled in us. Now we just enjoy doing them.”

What one thing would you recommend to a player who wants to get better outside of practice?

3. A second chance allowed third-choice Ed Orgeron to lead LSU to national title game (USA Today)

This is an inspiring story for any coach who has been fired or wasn’t the first or second choice to get hired at your current school.

It wasn’t until Jimbo Fisher chose to remain at Florida State and Tom Herman opted for Texas that LSU turned its coaching search toward the interim incumbent, Ed Orgeron, and handed over the keys for the 2016 season.

In Orgeron’s case, the stink of a failed three-year turn at Ole Miss from 2005-7 carried extensive weight among detractors unable to overlook that damaging first impression. He won only 10 games across his three seasons with the Rebels, capped by a disheartening Egg Bowl loss to rival Mississippi State, and was quickly pegged into the bittersweet category of talented assistant coaches not built to lead their own program.

Orgeron’s tenure at LSU, which was once seen teetering on the lip of disaster, now stands as one of the great redemption stories in recent college coaching.

Initially, the Tigers’ uneven start to his tenure in 2017 fanned the flames of discontent. His first team as the full-time coach lost twice that September, the second at home to Troy, rekindling the debate over Orgeron’s hiring and raising questions about his ability to rally LSU into position to challenge Alabama for SEC supremacy, let alone overtake the Crimson Tide as the league’s strongest annual contender for the national championship.

The most noticeable adjustment has come with this LSU offense, which floundered during Orgeron’s first two full seasons. His initial choice at offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, was fired after just one season, with Orgeron dictating a simplification in scheme after the year’s opening month and later admitting that he “made a mistake” in hiring Canada away from Pittsburgh. Last year’s team was barely improved at ninth in the SEC in yards per game.

The Tigers’ offensive leap came with Orgeron’s offseason addition of passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who was previously a behind-the-scenes assistant with the New Orleans Saints. Behind Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, the Tigers lead the Bowl Subdivision in scoring while drawing a historic senior season out of quarterback Joe Burrow, the runaway, record-setting Heisman Trophy winner. By beating Clemson, the defending national champions, LSU could make a justifiable case for being viewed as the best team in program history and one of the best to come out of the SEC.

How have you reinvented yourself as a coach during low points in your career?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk