I wrote about new Oklahoma State safeties coach Van Malone for Sunday’s Oklahoman and his journey from being tricked into becoming a high school assistant coach in Houston to the newest assistant for the reigning Big 12 champions.
Here are some leftovers from that interview that did not make it into the story. They hit on a bunch of topics.
On the connections between him and the OSU staff (which are detailed in the story):
“Just a lot of relationships over the years. It’s just a testament to don’t burn bridges. I really train my players, ‘It’s not what you know. It’s not even who you know. It’s who knows you.’ They know you because of the work you put in and your character.”
On his first impressions of this season’s group of safeties:
“The first thing that I was impressed with about them was their leadership, the fact that they go out and they work. Sometimes with younger guys, you kinda got to prod them and (say), ‘Hey, why don’t you come out and catch some balls? Why don’t you guys go extra?’ These guys do it, and Daytawion kind of leads it. I talked to him early on and said ‘OK, Markelle (Martin) is gone.’ We need a leader that stands in the secondary and represents the secondary. I’m not going to pressure you to do that right now, but definitely you have to be the leader of the group. Brodrick (Brown), of course, is over there in the other room. Fine, you can never have too many leaders.
“I was just impressed with the way they work and how they, as a group, they pull for each other. They’re aggressive. I’m an aggressive person, I like aggressive play. It’s about changing the game, but it’s about imposing your will on your opponent.”
On his biggest challenge this season:
“When you’ve got five juniors, finding enough opportunities for those guys. Because they all want to start, and I have no problem with that. I like that. I try to grow and develop them, but getting my guys to trust me to trust that, hey, the team is first, then you, then all that other stuff that comes along with it. Trust me that the team is going to be first. Trust me that I’m going to make, as best I can, the right decisions for the team. That’s probably my biggest thing. There’s not a lot of challenges around here. There’s a lot of pressure, but I think we have the resources, I think we have the players. I think we have, in Coach Gundy and the rest of the staff, I think we have the makings of some really good stuff. We just got to let the rest of the world see it.”
On free safety Shamiel Gary, who transferred from Wyoming and sat out last season:
“I like the fact that (Gary is) highly competitive. He entered the spring and he and Lavocheya were going neck-to-neck, back and forth. That’s the way it started, with ‘Voch ahead of him, and to move ahead of that guy, you’ve got to beat him. We have packages where (Gary is) the guy. He’s going to be on the field, he’s going to contribute, he has really good football savvy, football intelligence, and that’s probably the most impressive thing about him. He’s played. He’s from the area. He’s aggressive. He’s what you want at the position. I was really impressed with him this spring. I expect him to come into fall camp and in his mind, it’s spring, let’s keep battling.”
On his use of Twitter:
“That’s where the kids are. When you’re right there, they’ll come in and they’ll tell you things that are going on with them, they’ll tell you what’s going on with the team. But when you’re distanced from them, then you’re disconnected and you’re not going to get what you want. As long as you understand some of their stuff, and as long as there is a line and there is a wall, (it’s OK). If I tweet, it’s always going to be correct English. There are certain standards. But like I said, that’s where the kids are. If we want to connect and relate to them, we can’t sit back in our world and say, ‘Hey, come to me,’ because they won’t. But we go into their world and move in and out, then I think that’s a good thing. I have young kids, and I want to know what they’re doing. And if I can’t speak the language, or at least faintly know what’s going on, then I’m in trouble.”
On what he hopes his players learn from him:
“No matter this job and the pressures of it, how important your family is. …These young men that we deal with, how they need to see you as a person that grows.
Third down’s important, but you seeing me model being a good father, being a good husband. That’s important, too.”