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May 7, 2012Life is good for former Utah head coach Ron McBride.
After retiring as the head coach of Weber State, McBride waited only 97 days before taking yet another football job - this time with the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League. McBride, who coaches the Blaze offensive linemen and fullbacks, didn't wait long for boredom to set in.
The week after retiring at Weber, McBride coached the offensive linemen at the Camino Del Sol college all-star game in Tucson. McBride's tenure with the Blaze began with a chance meeting with Blaze head coach Ron James.
"I was on a radio show with Coach James. So we got talking after the radio show was over. I heard that they were looking for a D-line coach, and I had a guy that worked for me that might be a fit. Coach James said they were looking for an older guy, someone with some experience. I said I'd be interested, and he said, 'If you're interested, the job's yours,'" McBride explained.
After meeting for a few hours the following week, McBride signed a contract and got to work. Although the arena game has a faster pace than traditional football, McBride maintains that the basic technique is similar for his linemen.
"There are about three protections that you have. The protections are not that difficult. The idea is to make sure your technique is correct, and to make sure you're not going to get pushed back to make sure the quarterback has a clean pocket," he said.
McBride isn't the only connection with the Utes on the Blaze. Quarterback Tommy Grady has been a star for the Blaze, racking up 2456 yards and 62 touchdowns in eight games this season. The former Ute quarterback has impressed McBride with his play thus far.
"Grady is good," he said. "As long as the line is protecting him, the guy's really good. Everything in this game from the offensive standpoint is on that quarterback."
Although he hasn't coached at Utah since 2002, McBride still has a lot of influence on a once struggling program that he turned around, especially with the current Utah coaching staff. Head coach Kyle Whittingham worked as a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator under McBride. Sharrieff Shah, Jay Hill, Chad Kauha'aha'a and Morgan Scalley all played for McBride at Utah as well.
"A lot of the assistant coaches are guys that played for me. They have a big belief in Utah football and they carried that flag. I think it's important that they believe in Utah football and they believe in what Coach Whittingham is doing. They believe in the system," he said.
The fact that Whittingham was at Utah was due in large part to McBride listening to his assistants and giving the then up-and-coming defensive coach his shot.
"I had hired Fred [Whittingham] as defensive coordinator and he talked about Kyle, but I was not going to hire a relative because that never works. Then Tim Davis, who played for me and was my offensive line coach, was the one who convinced me that I should hire Kyle because he worked with him at Idaho State. Really Tim was the one that got Kyle the job," he said.
It can be argued that the family atmosphere that exists at Utah is an extension of the culture that McBride built during his 13 year tenure at the university. McBride is revered by ex players for his ability to forge strong connections with his players. For McBride, being close to the players was an integral part of his coaching philosophy.
"I learned at a very young age that you're responsible for your players. So when I became a head coach, very much my responsibility was to them. I was responsible for their education, for their thought process, where they do things, how they do things, and trying to mold them into better people and realize the importance of their future. That's a big key is what they do for their future, what happens to them," he explained.
McBride is proud of his role in setting the stage for the Utah program's growth and success - including its invitation to the Pac-12. According to McBride, it was only a matter of time before the Utes took their place as a permanent member of college football's elite. "The attitude was there, the players were there and the youth was there. Everything was in place," he said.