As promised, here is more of my interview with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. The initial part of the Q and A appeared in Sunday’s edition of The Gazette. (See it here).
Q: Last year you and your staff were new, but players had experience. This year your staff is entrenched but there’s not much experience among the players. Which season was harder for which to prepare?
A: They both certainly are filled with a tremendous amount of challenges, but you’re always going to have challenges at an academy. That’s part of working at one of the three academies.
Q: What would constitute a successful 2008?
A: Always for us at our place, you always know what the mission is. And the mission is to turn out the world’s best leaders. That means they’re extremely well educated and character-wise they are strong young men and young women at the academy. That’s where I think no matter where you are you want to do that, but here at the academy that’s always where it starts.
Q: The day after the Armed Forces Bowl, you mentioned the possibility of using two quarterbacks during the 2008 season. When did it become a reality?
A: I’ve done it before. Now how much, maybe it was for only one or two series a game. It varies from year-to-year. We did it last year at a bunch of positions. Even safety, where (Aaron) Kirchoff would come in and (Chris) Thomas would be out for a series or Kirchoff would come in and maybe play a couple series for Bobby Giannini. I just think that’s part of developing young people. And I like to have a lot of guys involved. I think it’s great for morale, I think it’s tremendous for depth whenever someone gets hurt or dinged up. There were points last year where we go play at Notre Dame (with Travis Dekker injured) and because (Keith) Madsen had a chance to play a good bit you’re still able to function. When Caleb Morris gets hurt later in the season, you’re still able to move the ball well in the last couple games when maybe he wasn’t completely healthy. That’s something I want to do. I think it makes it a better experience for our players the more guys that are involved. It’s just got to be proven that you’re ready for that kind of responsibility.
Q: When did you use two quarterbacks before where you gave a lot of reps to the second guy?
A: I’ve done it probably in 2002, or actually in 2001 (at Wake Forest) I did it a good bit. I think it’s possible to do. And I think it’s certainly the way we’re going to begin, especially the first few ballgames this year.
Q: How much have the injuries to Z receiver Ty Paffett and tight end Travis Dekker hurt the team?
A: It’s the reality of football. One of the toughest parts of coaching is you’ve got a young man that’s done absolutely everything the way that it could be done. At this place, the military part of it, the leadership responsibilities, academically and lifting and running. Just their dedication, you know how much they’ve put into it – their hearts. You want those guys to be able to experience their senior year of football. And first and foremost your thoughts are with the kids. And yet you’re going to have to be able to adapt as you go along. We need to get to a point where in three years you’re extremely deep and you realize, OK, you can be able to adjust. And yet we’ll be able to adjust this year. We’ll still be able to adapt. You’ve got to do it in different ways.
Q: You were named the No. 5 most influential sports figure in Colorado Springs by The Gazette. What does that mean to you?
A: Every single day you work at the academy, you’re here for one reason, and that’s to help young men and young women develop and grow and be prepared as leaders. That’s our mission. Every day you walk down the hallway you know that’s our mission. Our best chance for young people to be successful when they leave the academy, our best chance to be competitive as a football team, and our best chance to enjoy working at the academy is when it’s completely a team and it’s an ‘us’ approach. And that’s the only way we’re going to do it.
Q: Who has told you that Air Force can’t be consistently competitive in a conference?
A: I’ve heard it a number of times – in fact at graduate functions this summer I was asked that – is it realistic for the Air Force Academy to be able to do this in football. And, again, I know that it’s tough and you’ve got to have incredible support at this place. And then the other thing, I want to see if just, strategically, if there are things we can do for the academy. Instead of having a $95 million stadium project, whether or not it can come to fruition, can we find little things here or there to always do to enhance the well-being of the academy? Is there something you can do with the tunnel walking down into the stadium? Is there something you can do with the perimeter fence around the stadium? Is there something that you could do with as you drive onto the base on game day, just have things that say this is an Air Force football day. In a way where it brings more spirit to the school, and it’s helpful to the way you work from a football standpoint, but more importantly it reflects extremely well on the academy.
Q: You did some of that in the hallways of the football offices, right?
A: We did. At this place, I just think that’s part of growth and development. And they don’t have to be unreasonable. They don’t need to be greedy, they don’t need to be demanding, they don’t need to be multi-million dollar projects. But just simple little things. The thing we don’t want to do, we don’t want to operate from a mindset of, ‘Hey, if it was good enough 15 years ago, then it’s got to be good enough now.’ I think that’s part of growth, that’s part of development and I just think it’s great for morale. For employees around the academy, I think especially for the cadets, for what you’re trying to teach them here at the academy for what they do one day. And you realize that it doesn’t have to be anything that’s extravagant and extremely fancy, but just something that’s classy. And really it helps the institution.