Jim McElwain’s path to the head coaching position at Florida was as winding as the roads through the Rocky Mountains. A Montana native, he played and coached at Eastern Washington, then spent five seasons at Montana State before joining John L. Smith’s staff at Louisville and later at Michigan State. From there he spent a year apiece with the Oakland Raiders and Fresno State, and then landed the offensive coordinator job on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. Of course, from there he took the Colorado State head coaching job that led him back to the South, where he was introduced as Florida’s head coach on Saturday morning.
That path is exactly why Jeremy Foley tabbed him to be Will Muschamp’s replacement. It provided him the eclectic, well-rounded experience that shaped him into the coach he is today.
“Well, here is who I am. I’m the dog they dropped off down at the Humane Society,” McElwain said. “He has a little bit of about every breed in him. Whatever the situation is, you try to bring that breed out that helps success.”
“I’m from Montana, I spent 15 years in I-AA football, which is awesome because you wear every hat in the building at one time. I was everything from a PA announcer to a popcorn salesman to also a teacher and educator at a university as part of the PE department there. There’s a lot of great things you learn,” McElwain said. “When you don’t have resources, what you do is you actually go study as much as you can and really try to put it in your own terms, your own words.”
Like his new SEC bunkmates Gus Malzahn at Auburn and Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, McElwain got to where he is because of his background, not in spite of it.
McElwain was asked about the much-publicized buyout process that appeared at one time could chain him to a job he clearly wanted to leave. The schools worked out a deal, but the narrative now stands that, between what Florida paid Will Muschamp to leave and to get McElwain out of his Colorado State contract in addition to his salary, the Gators can’t afford for its new coach to produce anything but instant championships. McElwain welcomed the pressure.
Here is the beauty. Pressure is awesome. That’s why we do this. The one thing I love is pressure,” he said. “Now, I never look at it as feeling the pressure. I always look at it as applying the pressure. I’m excited about that part of it.
“You know what, if there’s no pressure, why wake up in the morning, right? That’s really what drives me anyway.”
A few questions later, McElwain was asked if he had a name for his offense. Gainesville, after all, is a place that has never quite moved on from Steve Spurrier and his fun-and-gun. Winning is nice, but Florida expects to do it while scoring a lot of points with a trademark offense.
McElwain deadpanned: “How about Humane Society?”