Question and Answer with Mike Stock
Mike Stock has been a football coach for 45 years at all levels and with tremendous success. Though best known as a Special Teams guru, Mike has also coached wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, and was a head coach at Eastern Michigan University. Mike coached at eight different Universities and six professional football teams. He was voted Special Teams Coach of the Year in 1997 while he was with the Kansas City Chiefs and came in second in 2007 while with the Green Bay Packers.
Stock was the wide receiver coach at Notre Dame under legendary coach Ara Parseghian and in 1973 the Fighting Irish beat Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crinson Tide squad to win the National Championship 24-23. Mike was also coaching with Ara when they upset Darrell Royal’s Texas Longhorns and ended the ‘Horns 30 game win streak.
Mike also coached in the Super Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals against Bill Walsh’s 49ers and his special teams accounted for all the Bengals points.
Tony: Mike, who were the 3 biggest influences in your coaching career?
Mike: The first was Ted Osborne; he was an assistant coach when I was in high school and later when he was a head high school coach, he hired me as his assistant. He brought toughness to the program and really taught kids how to be hard-nosed. He was a Bear Bryant disciple. The second was Ara Parseghian. Ara was the best football coach ever. I played for Ara at Northwestern and he was so organized and demanded effort every day. Later he hired me at Notre Dame. And the third was Marty Shottenhiemer who hired me at Kansas City. Marty was a guy who really knew and emphasized all three phases of the game.
Tony: What is your philosophy of winning football games?
Mike: The first thing is you have good players. So in college that means recruiting. Establishing relationships with high school coaches is critical to this process. That takes time. Secondly you must be team oriented. You can’t have selfish players or coaches, guys that have their own agenda. When we were at Notre Dame with Ara everyone co-operated and was on the same page. Thirdly, you have got to keep it simple so you can get your best players on the field and they can execute their assignments. By keeping it simple a great recruit can come in and contribute right away. Also your team will get good mastery of fundamentals.
Tony: As a head coach, you were at a “have not” at Eastern Michigan, no one has won at E.M.U.., what was your approach there?
Mike: First of all you must be sure that the school understands what it is going to take to turn the program around and that the administration is willing to take the steps needed to get the job done. Basically know what you’re getting into. Then you’ve got to win the high school coaches over. They have got to buy into your program and support it. Then you must make a clear choice “to do it the right way”.
Tony: What do you mean by “doing it the right way”?
Mike: You always have the opportunity to cut a corner or bend a rule but I felt it was most important to run the program with integrity. Guys who take short cuts are just using the program as a stepping stone. The other thing I think is important in a turn – around situation is to win the students over. Give them a reason to stay on campus over the weekend.
Tony: You said Ara was the greatest coach you’d been around, why?
Mike: Ara could win with just tough, average guys. He believed in spreading the ball around and involving all the skill players in the offense. In 1973 we went strictly to the Wing T Offense. It fit Ara’s personality and fit our personnel. Tubby Raymond helped us with it and made Ara throw out all his old I formation plays and run strictly the Wing T. It worked like a charm, we won the National Championship that year running a handful of plays but running them exceptionally well. We could read in the press box what the defense was doing and call the appropriate play. For example in the Championship game against Alabama, they were double rolling their secondary to our motion so on that big pass Clements hit to seal the game, we called the counter bootleg pass and told the TE to move away from the safety and it worked perfectly. Ara also really liked having a Quarterback that could run. We didn’t run much option but Clements could run if he had the chance on the boots and waggles.
Tony: Was Ara involved in defense as well?
Mike: He was involved in all phases. When we played Texas in the Cottton Bowl the second time, Ara involved the entire staff in coming up with a defense for the Wishbone.
Tony: You played that mirror defense right?
Mike: What we did was this – first we covered their guards with our tackles and told them to drive their guards into the backfield. This caused them a lot of problems. Second we had our D.E.s attack their veer tackle and blow up the mesh point. These two things effectively ended their All American Steve Wooster’s day because the dive was dead. Then we mirrored our safeties on their two halfbacks and had them take pitch, the linebackers scraped to quarterback. We also covered both the guards and center in a Bears look as a change of pace. We won 31-6 and ended their 30 game win streak.
Tony: You coached in the Super Bowl with the Bengals, what was Sam Wyche like?
Mike: Sam was an offensive genius. He was the first to really use the no-huddle offense. If we saw the defense try to substitute we would automatically line up and go on the first sound and run our four vertical pass and we’d either get a completion or they would get flagged. Boomer was a great QB. We beat the Bills and the next year, guess what – they were using it.
Tony: You are known for special teams, what is your special team’s philosophy?
Mike: Attack, attack and attack. Attack the opposing team’s special teams. Give them no free plays, always cause them stress. Don’t give up any big plays and always secure the ball. Make sure your returners have great hands and won’t put the ball on the ground. The first thing I look for in a punt returner is a guy who can catch the ball; that is the most important thing.
Tony: What’s your advice to young coaches?
Mike: Whatever comes your way do it. Embrace the job you have. Become a well rounded coach: go to clinics, visit spring practices, listen and learn what other guys are doing. Learn about the kicking game and finally study the game of football.
Tony: Thanks for your time and your insight.