Rick Neuheisel: From San Antonio Gunslingers QB to UCLA Head Coach
A few months ago I noticed Rick Neuheisel was appointed head coach at UCLA. It's great to see Rick back in the saddle. You have to wonder if the opportunity was afforded to him because UCLA is his alma mater. He did leave both Colorado and Washington under negative circumstances.
At Colorado he did well with the team, but there were questions about some of the football staff's recruiting methods. He bailed to Washington, leaving the athletic department to clean up the mess and face the music with the NCAA investigation.
Then during an excellent stint as head man with Washington, he gets busted for something really ridiculous—participating in a basketball betting pool. Who cares, right?
The fuddy duddy NCAA does, apparently, and Rick was canned—only to sue and win a few million in damages from the university. Nice.
Not that his wrongs were any greater than anyone else's in the coaching profession—Rick just got caught. Life hasn't been bad for him since his firing from Washington, though. He worked his way up to an offensive coordinator position with the Baltimore Ravens this past season.
I've always liked Rick as a coach, but whenever his name comes up, I can't help think back to 1984 or '85. I was watching a USFL game on TV, the San Antonio Gunslingers versus somebody. Rick Neuheisel was the QB for San Antonio. He was pretty good with the supporting cast he had to work with.
Regardless of what anyone may think, some of those USFL games were fun to watch. Some good players came out of that league. The main problem with it, as I recall, was penalties from undisciplined oaf players. You know, stupid things like late hits just slow down the pace of the game when penalties are called.
Rick was a good prospect and might have played in the NFL, but he was probably offered a decent salary to be the Gunslingers' showcase talent.
I don't know why that particular image of Rick in the USFL is burned in my memory. It's not like they were an interesting team or Rick did any one thing exceptional to stand out. I think Rick just made an impression on me with his overall demeanor on the field.
A QB really does need to be a little bit cocky without overdoing it, balancing the need for his teammates' respect with a visible chip on his shoulder. You need that edge in order to win games. You have to know you are capable of leading your team in whatever situation comes up.
A QB needs to be a leader by example with poise under pressure. Those are the intangibles—and not a lot of guys have them.
I think Rick had all that, not just in that game, but also as I remembered him when he played at UCLA. He put up big numbers but was seen as a typical Southern California blonde surfer boy who fit the image of UCLA.
So maybe he was not liked by everyone, and still isn't today. The fact is he is a helluva coach. Look at his record at Washington and Colorado. He's a good recruiter as well. I think he deserves a fair shot.
It's not easy nowadays playing in the shadow of a perennial national champion like USC, so Rick has his work cut out for him. I bet that's a major reason why he was hired at UCLA—because he still carries that brash, get after it mentality to collect the wins.
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