Jedd Fisch’s Arizona T-shirt reads: It’s Personal. The all-encompassing mantra encourages his team to build personal relationships with each other. One might ask what that has to do with winning football games; the Wildcats’ head coach would argue: Everything.
“Our program’s It’s Personal brand is the mentality of always trying to make the people around you better,” Fisch says.
“If we can root for one another, help each other get better, and be accountable to one another, our football program has a chance to win a lot of football games.”
Fisch, who was an offensive coordinator in the NFL and college ranks, adds up 21 years of coaching experience and mentorship from greats Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll. He arrived in Tucson in December 2020 amid a pandemic and an 11-game skid rounding out the Kevin Sumlin era.
The pandemic left his coaching staff campus-bound, with little chance for full-scale recruiting. Instead, they focused on getting the team mentally prepared for spring ball. They also made inroads with alumni.
Fisch’s staff includes letterwinners Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil, Tedy Bruschi, Brandon Sanders and Syndric Steptoe. And when Bruschi and Rob Gronkowski returned to the sidelines to coach the spring game, Fisch sent a clear message: History matters; alumni matter. He even added a touch of nostalgia by wearing a Dick Tomey-era jacket.
“The best way for me to honor the past is to honor the head coach who had the 12-1 season in 1998, who started Desert Storm, whose mural we see every day when we practice,” Fisch says.
Q&A — Football letterwinner Glenn Parker ’12 talks with Jedd Fisch about a fresh start for Arizona football.
Glenn: We’ve all noticed you like to have fun. How important is fun for turning around this football program?
Jedd: I want our players to love being a part of our program. All of us do the things we love better than things we don’t love. And we spend more time at it. Our goal as a coaching staff is to bring joy to our team and have fun competing.
Glenn: This is a fresh start for Arizona football. What’s your approach to winning?
Jedd: We have a high standard, and we look for competitive greatness at all times. That leads to being your best when your best is needed. Right now, our best is needed every day we walk on that field. Then, on game days, we’re going to play with competitive greatness.
Player Development — PRO: Purposeful, Resilient, Original
Glenn: Can you talk about how you grow student athletes with PRO in Life: Purposeful, Resilient and Original?
Jedd: You know, 1.3% of college football players make it to the NFL. The rest become something else. First and foremost, we say, we want to help you become a pro. And we want you to have a mission in life that will help you execute your plan in other ways. Whether you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an NFL player, businessman or an accountant, be a pro in everything you do in life, and you’ll succeed.
Purposeful. Become somebody that has a purpose in everything you do, and you will have a great opportunity to become a professional in life.
Resilient. Life isn’t always going to be easy or give you opportunity to do everything you want. How are you going to handle that?
Original. Be original in what you do. Have an originality that comes from within.
Leadership — It’s Personal Team Culture
Jedd: When it comes to leadership, we talk to our team about raising the bar. We talk about respect, accountability, innovation, selflessness and enthusiasm. If you know how to show respect and get respected for your work; if you’re accountable and show accountability to others; if you can innovate and be different and original; if you can be selfless, which is not thinking less of yourself, it’s just thinking about yourself less; and if you can be enthusiastic and energetic and have some passion in everything you do — you’re a great leader. Those are the people we want in our program.
Winning Style — Offensive and Defensive Attack
Jedd: Our offense will replicate what you see on NFL Sunday. We will be under center more; we will have more play action. Our offense will be similar to teams like the 49ers, Rams, Seahawks. We’re going to be faster — more no huddle. We’re going to get out and score on teams quicker.
There’s no question we’re going to be an attacking-style defense. We’re going to be physical and aggressive. We’re going to bring five rushers a lot. Our coaching staff knows what it looks like. Chuck Cecil was an NFL defensive coordinator. Ricky Hunley was an NFL D-line coach. Don Brown, in my opinion, is the greatest defensive coordinator in college football, and DeWayne Walker was an NFL DB coach for years. We’ll mix and match, and schematically we’re looking at man coverage and zoning schemes.
Glenn: How about mental toughness and focus?
Jedd: You’ve got to learn how not to lose before you learn how to win. That means we can’t be a penalty-driven football team. We can’t be a team that turns over the football. We have to be disciplined. We have to be a team that takes the football away. We have to be opportunistic. We have to find a way to make plays with very few mental mistakes. We want teams to beat us; we don’t want to beat ourselves.
Glenn: How about the Pac-12?
Jedd: The conference has great parity — everybody’s about the same or close to it. There are no extremes of one great team or two great teams. Everybody can take a jump forward, and everyone can fall backward. Our goal is to take the leap forward and push some teams backward.
Glenn: You’re going to have to recruit to do that. What’s your recruiting strategy?
Jedd: Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. The quote in our building says, ‘You compete with schematics, you win with people.’ We’ve got to win the state of Arizona first and foremost. We’ve got to win Southern California and players in Vegas, Reno, Utah and Texas. If we do that, we’ll be able to win championships and be a special football team. There’s no doubt in my mind. We have enough great top players in the state of Arizona, California, Texas, Utah. If there’s an extra guy somewhere on the East Coast, sure. But for us, we’re going to live and die on the West Coast.