I’ve been re-acquainting myself with coaches or analysts that, after recent changes, are in different positions. I knew of Mickey Conn but I didn’t know, Mickey Conn.
I had never observed his demeanor, his persona, nor heard his voice. His coach-voice. In preparation for writing this piece, I watched his first meeting with the media following his promotion to co-defensive coordinator. I was struck with one thought. In a lot of ways, he’s a lot like his boss, Dabo Swinney.
His glib, southern drawl, his “aw shucks” manner, and the way he speaks from the heart reminds me of Swinney. There is a prevailing belief that two likeminded people, usually by fate or by circumstance, find one another.
I’m sure that more than applies to Conn and Swinney. Not knowing either personally, I’ve observed and truly believe, they are similar in many ways. Almost two of a kind. Each posses a strong faith. Each have devoted their careers, their energy, time and a large portion of their lives in the building of great young men, that just happen to be great athletes. Obviously, it’s their calling.
Conn was a former graduate assistant at Alabama. A position coach that became a head coach and then, built his own program at Grayson High School. Does that sounds familiar? While Conn’s beginnings were on the high school level, it makes little difference. He and Swinney have walked a similar path. I think these two men were drawn together by fate, not circumstance. It was a matter of destiny.
In that interview he was asked, ‘who and what is Mickey Conn?’ His answer was so Daboesque. He stated and I’m paraphrasing, that he was a man that loves coaching, loves the student-athletes and understands everything is for, and about them. They’re here for more than football, they’re here to graduate.
Conn see’s himself as a leader, yet is willing to follow, as a player’s coach and a small part of the bigger team. Sure, that suspiciously sounds like “coach speak” but flowing from the mouth of Conn, it felt real. It felt right.
He was asked numerous times during that interview about his role as co-defensive coordinator and working with fellow coordinator, Wes Goodwin. Honestly, it gave me the feel of a trick question. One asked as if to elicit, even a hint of controversy. Conn didn’t take the bait, he simply stated, ‘Coach Wes would ultimately call the plays.’ He was straight forward, upbeat, citing each has a position group, each has a voice, input, and each are ultimately teaching defense. An aggressive, attacking defense.
He said it was Venables style but make no mistake, it’s a Clemson defense. Also, like Swinney, he’s quick on his feet, driving home the points of loyalty, team and unity. In Conn’s mind, I’m sure, listening not so much to what he says but how he says it, ego plays little part in his make-up.
I suspect all coaches are alike in some ways, driven by the same things. But the parallels between he and Swinney are uncanny.
One last observation from his interview. When asked how the players were handling the changes, Conn said the thing he was most proud of was how each player bought-in, and embraced the change. Without saying the actual words, he was implying, they were indeed ‘All-In.’ That says all I need to know about this defense, this teams future. It was nice to finally meet Mickey Conn and yes, he and Swinney are two of a kind, both aces.