Recently Maryland head coach DJ Durkin spent some time with Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel and relayed this story. Stanford head coach David Shaw and head strength coach Shannon Turley credit Durkin, during his time at Stanford, for creating the “Wolf Pack Mantra” there.
Durkin: It started out at Stanford. I believe in being brutally honest with people, with your players especially. I tell our guys right now: We go into a meeting, go through the roster, good or bad? This guy is kicking butt, doing great, we think this guy can really help us. I think this guy’s a phony, a fraud, total piece of garbage.
O.K., we all just said that. You walk out of this meeting. Go meet your players and tell them that. “The staff thinks you are a fraud piece of junk.” Tell them that. So the pack versus prey was—I was then in charge of special teams—it was a way to separate. Everyone started as prey, and we started moving guys one by one [to the pack] who were doing what we asked and dominating practice. It was the whole wolf pack motto: The strength of the pack is the wolf; the strength of the wolf is the pack.
We started moving guys over, and you couldn’t play in a game if you were part of the prey. That was your rite of passage. The start of the spring, we had some guys go over, and then we went into fall camp. By game one, if you were a prey member, you would not appear in a game.
Thamel: I’ve heard there is a Richard Sherman pack-versus-prey story that gets retold a lot at Stanford.
Durkin: Richard Sherman was a receiver when we first got him. He was kind of a little bit of a prima donna, thought special teams were [beneath him]. Richard will tell you—he was a gunner on our punt team and giving crappy effort. Early in the whole deal, we just didn’t play a very good game. And so I was standing guys up in the meeting, like, watching a play, go and explain to everybody else why you just decided you’re going to dog it on this play. Go ahead, tell them.
Richard’s up, and he had too much pride. He wouldn’t say. He had a pack shirt on, and he’s standing up. He wouldn’t say it, so we’re like, “You know what, take your shirt off and get your stuff, get out of here.” He took his shirt off and left the room. We threw him off special teams. Richard came back to me a week or two later and was totally apologetic, wanted to be back on it. So we let him earn his way back on it at practice. About a year later, he started playing corner.
Not every player on your team is the best athlete; but with proper preparation, they can be the best at their role on any given play. Develop the wolf pack mantra on your team and it will pay dividends.
The CampusRush article has other good information for coaches as well.