No matter where you went and who you talked to at this week's AFCA Convention, one thing was evident: coaching was about teaching young men. Much more than scheme, coaching is about getting involved in a player's life and investing your time to help him develop as a player, student and, ultimately, as a human being.
And on the official closing day of this year's convention, one player became a shining demonstration of what a fully developed student-athlete looks like.
Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel's development on the field is undeniable. Joeckel is projected to be one of the first names off the board in April's NFL Draft, which is why he's cutting his college career a year short. But it was what he did off the field that showed the true development Joeckel has made in College Station.
In announcing his decision to turn pro today, Joeckel wrote a goodbye letter to his teammates, coaches and fans at Texas A&M. Here are a few excerpts:
...My teammates - This year, we were closer than ever. We had the season we did because we all had each other's backs and nobody doubted that. To Jake, Patrick, Cedric, Jarvis and the rest of the guys in that room, I am proud to be a Maroon Goon and thankful to call you my good friends and teammates. I'm also thankful to have had the opportunity to block for Johnny this year. I'm positive he's in good hands with the guys returning to the line next year.
...My coaches - I have been blessed to play for great coaches. Thank you for pushing me to improve in every practice and for leading us so successfully through our first year in the SEC.
...the Mays Business School - I am proud I am part of this great school and I have every intention to finish my degree in the near future. Thank you for equipping me to make this very difficult business decision.
Clearly, this is a kid that put his work in not just on the field, but with his teammates and in every classroom on campus as well. Credit must be given to Kevin Sumlin and his staff, but also to Mike Sherman and his staff, as well.
I'm sure both staffs knew what a special kid they had the past three years and, if not, I know a few thousand others coaches that would.