George Will

Because South Florida is the incubator of so much high school talent (skill positions, Shannon says; for linemen, look to the Midwest, hence the Nebraska trip), during the off-season many NFL players come home to train at the University of Miami's facilities. Shannon says his players "see the fancy cars, the gold chains," so as he takes over Miami's football program, he plans to "come in with a stern attitude."

Stern adults got Shannon to the peak of his profession at age 40. A fourth-grade teacher told him, "You're very smart -- don't let anyone tell you different." A fifth-grade teacher, disapproving his choice of clothes one day, said, "Don't ever come to school like that again." When he was in junior high school, his football coach took the team to play a team in a juvenile detention center, a sobering experience.

Shannon's rules for his players include: If you miss a class, you don't start the next game. Fall below a certain grade point average, you can't set foot off campus. A conservatively dressed man, with the elegant hands of a surgeon or pianist, Shannon wants his players to learn ``how to respect life," so when "they leave the university and the football program, they will go with confidence." They will go, all of them, having taken a public speaking course.

Duffy Daugherty, who coached Michigan State from 1954 through 1972, was an aphorist ("Football is not a contact sport, it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport") and a realist. Because of alumni demands for football perfection, Daugherty said: "A football coach's main problem is that he is responsible to irresponsible people." Shannon, who like 80 percent of his players is African-American, feels responsible to, and for, them.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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