ARLINGTON, Texas — Kevin Sumlin had to flip a lot of switches at Texas A&M.
And that's not some sort of metaphorical statement.
When Sumlin arrived in College Station a year ago, the coach found himself going around the football facility always turning on lights. He felt like the building was stiff and cold and lifeless, and he hoped to inject some life into the facility.
A lot like the Aggie program.
(All right, here comes the metaphor.)
Much like Sumlin's efforts to change the feel of the football facility, he has worked to change the vibe around this program.
The Aggie swagger is back.
“He just gives us a spark,” receiver Ryan Swope said of Sumlin, “really just motivates us and inspires us to go play with as much heart as possible.”
The results are evident. Texas A&M has won 10 games for the first time in more than a decade and did so in its inaugural season in the ultracompetitive SEC.
All of it started with an attitude adjustment courtesy of Sumlin.
“The first couple meetings that we had ... there was just a sense of confidence, a sense of ‘we can play with all these teams,'” receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. “He believed in us, and I think that helped.”
Sumlin said as much, telling the players that they were talented and they could be a good team, but there was also just a way that he carried himself. He walked with his head high and his shoulders back.
There was just an air of confidence around him.
“It affected me,” Nwachukwu said, “and I felt like it affected a whole lot of guys on the team.”
Then when the Aggies hit the practice field, Sumlin simulated tough situations. Late-game scenarios. Do-or-die circumstances. He wanted his players to face adversity so they could prove themselves.
The lessons didn't take right away, as Texas A&M had second-half meltdowns in both of its losses that were reminiscent of past seasons.
But the last five games of the season, there were no meltdowns. There were only big wins, including a road upset of then-top-ranked Alabama.
The players credit Sumlin.
“He's changed attitudes a lot,” defensive end Damontre Moore said.
Swope said: “People doubted us, but Coach Sumlin didn't doubt us. He knew we could compete and be competitive at the highest level. He was right.
“We believed in him, and he believed in us.”