(Earlier this week, I sat down with the illustrious Houston Nutt, former head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks and Ole Miss Rebels, to talk about the game this weekend. What followed was a thought provoking, insightful conversation from one of the unique minds in college football.)
TwoYards: Thanks for agreeing to meet with me Coach Nutt. I was a big supporter of yours back in 2008.
Nutt: Two yards. Three yards. Four yards. Yards are what you need. You try to get a first down. Players, they want that first down. Bang! You string together enough downs, you got it. Just got to keep on going, keep on with those yards and then you’re there.
TwoYards: Can you talk a little bit about your experiences in Fayetteville and Oxford? Two great SEC towns, surely you’ve got some interesting stories that can really compare and contrast the two places.
Nutt: You want to know about those towns, Yardybird, let me tell you. Woooo. Lot of heart down there. Lot of heart. They’re hungry. They want to win.
TwoYards: Who wants to win? Are you talking about Oxford or Fayetteville?
Nutt: When you’re talking about winning, you’ve got to spell before you speak. Nothing comes first. Got to really dig in and get to where you want to go, or you won’t get to go anywhere. That’s what I told old Darren McCluster. Said, "You got to run that football to get to where you’re carrying it." True story.
TwoYards: A lot’s been made about the FOIA requests from the Arkansas fans. Do you harbor any resentment toward that school or that fanbase?
Nutt: Lifeblood. Fans are the lifeblood of a football program. One time, fan came up to old Jevan Snead, said "You sign my ball?" Held out a dead hamster. Jevan said, "That’s not a football." I said, "And I’m not a fan." You get my meaning?
TwoYards: (pauses) Okay. Any favorite restaurants in Oxford, coach?
Nutt: Got to eat. Got to do it. Don’t eat, you won’t have energy. Game week, we used to give our players biscuits and sausage gravy three meals a day. Some folks said we were crazy, but you didn’t see our players passing out from hunger at gametime. Old Jerry Powe used to ask for thirds every meal. That was a competitor. Knew how to eat.
TwoYards: You’re not really listening to any of my questions are you?
Nutt: We all got questions. How do we win? What’s a family? Who’s Pete Boone? Where’d I park my car? Got to answer those questions. Want to know the secret of getting in that end zone, getting that touchdown?
Nutt: Got to ask questions. Then got to answer them. Am I a `170 pound running back? Yes. Is my line not blocking well? They are not. Why is Coach Nutt telling me to run it up the middle against Alabama? Because he knows they won’t expect that. When you get down to it, we’d lose some yards every play, but then, bang! Touchdown in the fourth quarter, when Alabama least suspected it. Got to be tricky. Clever football. Out-think your opponent and you out-wit a squirrel with an acorn. That’s the best advice I got for you, son.
TwoYards: Any chance you’ll give me a prediction for the game this weekend?
Nutt: Don’t make predictions. Can’t use them. Predictions tell you what you can’t do not what you can envision doing. Next time someone asks you for a prediction, you just tell them to circle the wagons. Once them wagons are circled, that’s when you know the world opens up for a chance at victory. Everything’s circular. Think about it. Trees, roofs, houses, wheels, squares. All of them are circular when you look hard enough. Just got to look. We don’t look. Nobody looks. Can't look if you don't see. That’s where we’ll win the game, men. We’ll look for those circles, and they won’t. We’ll go out on the field and find the circles and that’s where we’ll throw the ball.
TwoYards: Coach, I’m just going to go on and head out. Thanks for taking the time.
Nutt: Thanks for inviting me. I’ll pick up the check.