I know we are still a bit of a way from the start of fall drills (which actually start at the beginning of August) for college football teams.

I also know the event we’re going to discuss today happened about three months ago. Here’s my answer to people wondering why I’m going to talk about an address by Murray State Head Football Coach Dean Hood that was part of the Friends of Scouting Luncheon in April.

Because, in my humble opinion, it is something that people need to hear (I’ve wanted to do this column for awhile but never could find the right time to execute it). Also, in my humble opinion, it explains why the Racers’ future on the gridiron is awfully bright. 

You see, you’d expect a football coach to start any appearance with something football related. Not Dean. He gave what I believe is an analogy that left the audience speechless right off the bat.

He talked about how a dad who was working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic was at home at the same time as his son, who had just concluded his NTI assignments and needed something to do. So the dad gave his son a new assignment.

“He sees a magazine laying on a coffee table, opened it up and there was a picture of a world map on one of the pages. So the dad rips out the page with the world map, tore it into a bunch of pieces, gave him a roll of Scotch tape and told his son, ‘Hey! Go put the world together and bring it back.’

“So he gets busy working on his work and the kid comes back in five minutes and he’s got the world all together. Everything is pieced up right. Dad can’t believe it. He says, ‘How did you do this?’ The kid turns it over and there was a picture of a man on the back. He said, ‘All I had to do was put the man together and I fixed the world.’”

When you hear a football coach begin a speech like that, you know you’re in the presence of someone who thinks differently. He didn’t lead with something football-related. Other coaches probably would have.

But there’s a lot of truth to that story, isn’t there? Fix the man, fix the world. This could apply in a lot of situations going on right now, couldn’t it? 

How the world gets fixed? Well, I think Dean gave an insight to that too. You take the hard route.

He talked about how, today, boys are in a dire battle on three fronts — the ball field, the bedroom and the billfold. The idea is being “The Man.” Dean said, every day, through a set of core values that are very similar to those of the Boy Scouts — especially the part about prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices — he and his Racer staff try to convey the importance of being “A Man.” 

You know what gets Dean Hood fired up? Sure, he loves it when his players do great things and his teams win games, but that doesn’t set his heart on fire. You know what does? Having players he has coached over the years text you to tell you how they are doing things to benefit their families and their kids. They’re stepping up in the game of life, just as they did on the field when they made that big play on the goal line to turn the ball over on downs on defense. 

That’s the true essence of coaching. That’s what I heard guys like the late Jim Shelton talk about when I covered Marshall County football for The Tribune-Courier in Benton in the 1990s. That’s what I heard from my uncle, the late James Counce, when we would talk about stuff outside his programs at Henry County and Dyersburg, and now with his son, also named James, who is carrying on the family tradition at Henry County. 

I see a lot in the current Racers squad that I have seen over the years at Marshall and with my family. This was brought out a few days before Dean made his speech at the about the 50-yard line of Stewart Stadium when the Racer Football Alumni Association made a donation to the team.

You know what the entire team did? Every single player sat with their mouths shut and had their eyes on Dean as he explained to them how these guys were doing this because they wanted to, not because they had to. Every player then got up and either shook hands or, in numerous cases, hugged those alums. That has stuck with me folks and it went perfectly with his Scouts speech.

They are not seeking to be “The Man.” “The Man” men probably would’ve blown it off. That is why this program, I feel, is going to do a lot of great things in the coming years. Remember, this is the bunch that had every reason to throw in the towel last season, yet found a way to dig deep and win their final three games of the season and end with a winning record. 

After hearing Dean talk that day at the Scouts meeting, and seeing how those players received the alums, it is clear to me that the off-the-field battle is being won. Eventually, that stuff converts into winning big on the field too.