Video: Jawaun Singletary's highlights West Brook High
Watch a former player of University of Houston defensive line coach A.J. Blum.
I had the opportunity to visit with A.J. Blum of the University of Houston. Many high school coaches have the desire to do what Coach Blum has just accomplished: Make the jump to major D1 college football. In December 2016, he joined the Cougars' program as its defensive line coach following eight seasons as defensive coordinator at Westfield (Houston, Texas)
. Blum makes the jump to the collegiate ranks after 14 years at the high school level, including 13 in the Houston area.1. You just joined the Houston coaching staff in December. How have things been so far?
Things have been great – nonstop is the term I use when people ask "How is it?" There is always work to be done. Every day is an opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches in college football. It is truly an honor to be working for coach (Major) Applewhite. His roots in Texas run deep and to be a part of his staff is something I never would have imagined. I was familiar with the university, but to now be an employee seeing the vision and support of President (Renu) Khator, while being directly related to it is special. To work here, in one of the largest cities in America, and coach the sport I love is an absolute blessing.2. How did you like being on the college coach end of recruiting this January and signing day? And can you tell us what you did during that time?
Being on the college end of recruiting was an eye-opening experience. To go from sitting on one side of the table for the past 14 years (as a high school coach) to the other side put me in a unique situation. Being part of the decision-making process with a lot of my high school athletes gave me the opportunity to weigh the pros/cons with them regarding universities along with the coaches that were recruiting them. Now that I was the actual recruiter, it gave me a different perspective regarding what students were looking for and how it was conveyed. As far as my time during the process, it was nonstop. The process mainly consisted of establishing relationships with committed recruits, along with evaluating and identifying new prospects.
3. You spent more than a decade coaching high school football. Did you have a plan to reach the college level?
I think if you ask a majority of coaches at the high school level they'll tell you they want to coach in college. I was no different. I always had aspirations to coach in college, but was realistic at the same time. After making the decision to be a high school football coach, I learned that relationships and body of work would be directly related to any opportunity that transpired. Having worked for a coach that went onto the collegiate ranks, I intended to follow his plan: position coach; coordinator; assistant head coach; and then head coach.4. How did you go about getting a D1 coaching job? What did that process look like?
I think the process was directly related to the opportunity to work with a lot of extremely blessed high school football players, coupled with being part of successful, highly visible programs in the state of Texas. Corby Meekins (former Westfield head coach) taught me the importance of organization and proper communication when it came to recruiting at the high school level. His relationships and continued success created a revolving door of college recruiters every spring. I don't recall there ever being a spring where, at minimum, 80 schools came through inquiring about prospective student athletes.
Fortunately for my sake, a lot of those prospects played the position I coached. I believe this gave me a great opportunity to display coaching styles, techniques and drills that not only define a reputation, but also gave those recruiters an idea of what kind of player they were going to get regardless of level because of how they were trained. When looking at my individual opportunity and how it presented itself, I received a call from Coach Applewhite inquiring about my interest in a possible position. We sat down to discuss the details and went from there.5. Many high school coaches out there would love to find themselves on a D1 staff like you.
What is your advice for a high school coach who wants to become a D1 Coach?
It sounds cliché but the biggest thing I focused on is working where my feet were. I aspire to be the best at what I do. I never forced anything regarding jobs or outside things I couldn't control. In relation to that, I identified coaches at the collegiate and professional levels and studied them. When I had a chance to hear them speak at a clinic or visit with them I tried to take advantage of it. You never stop learning in this profession. Even if it's something you wouldn't do, you still learn from it.
I'd also say assess yourself on a daily basis regarding things you're doing and how you can enhance them if possible. A coach has to be his own biggest critic. What are other coaches doing that you're not to get their guys to perform at their highest potential? Keep preparation and drills aligned to the scheme that's run. Don't do things "just to do them."
One thing I feel is vital to the teaching and coaching process is "justifying the why" as to the purpose of what you coach. With social media, internet and other technology players are in tune with results but they may not be able to relate the "why and how" to achieve those results. I align my coaching process the same way a classroom teacher would regarding the "whole/part/whole" method.
Show players the "whole" (end result), then go back and teach the "parts" whether it be breaking slants moves down to individual steps or even as basic as ball get off drills broken down into actual steps. Players understand the whole, they understand the expectations, but what gets lost in translation are the small refined skills that get to the end result.Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.