1-of the best no one really knows about.
San Diego State Aztecs preseason football workouts begin tonight, and while the Chargers draw all the attention in this major league city, little attention is given to the man doing an impressive job.
The Aztecs trips to post season bowl games have become a tradition in football, much like March Madness invites have become part of the DNA of the SDSU basketball program.
Rocky Long may be old school as a coach, but he gets wins, results and respect.
There are hardly any BCS invites handed out in this Mountain West Conference neighborhood over the years. Aside from what Boise State did and Utah did, the Mountain West is just another mid-major conference, on TV, playing football.
They recruit a different type of football athlete at SDSU, not many 5-star guys, but rather players you get in, keep academically eligible, and the type you ‘coach-em-up.”
And that’s who Rocky Long is. The real meat and potatoes type of coach. Witness what he did last year with JUCO-walk on QB-Quinn Kaehler, who had to talk his way onto the campus, just to get a tryout.
He’s creating things each year. 1-year finding linebackers to run his wild 3-5-3 defense; another season finding starting cornerbacks; then replacing OTs by moving players around; this year it’s looking for safeties. He is a can-do guy.
When Ryan Katz went down, Kaehler came in to just manage the games. A rocky couple of turnover marred starts turned into stronger performances. By the middle of the season, the Aztecs were winning games, and Kaehler was making plays, lots of plays. It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity with this coach, who came here after buidling something from nothing at New Mexcio.
It must be a weird feeling to be in the shadow of Jim Mora and Steve Sarkisian, the in-the-spotlight coaches at UCLA-USC. It must be a somewhat disappointing feeling when no TV reporters, 1-beat writer, 1-radio guy shows up for media day. It must be an empty feeling to have to face more empty seats at your home games, than fans-friends-alums screaming and yelling. It must be disappointing to be in the shadow of all things Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
San Diego State may be much like Fresno State and Boise State, a really solid program, but they are unlike them too-because in this market, few pay attention and it seems fewer care.
It has been a long uphill run for SDSU. The Marshall Faulk electric era was a long time ago. Bowl games are here, but no national recognition to speak of. The Aztecs put players in the NFL on a year by year basis, and they are starting now to get transfers-bounce backs from the USCs and Oregons of the world.
But you get the sense, none of the outside stuff means much to Rocky Long. Just wants to go to work everyday, be a good coach, a strong leader, and develop young men who reach their peak on the field and in the classroom.
Good coach, good man, doing a good job, in relative obscurity. That seems to be okay for this old ball coach, for all he wants to do is ‘coach-em-up’. And that Rocky Long does very well…