Former Miami coach Shannon feels comfortable at Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Wearing a white windbreaker emblazoned with an orange and blue Gators logo, former Miami player and coach Randy Shannon seemed a little out of place Thursday.
Then he started talking.
And he sounded more comfortable than anyone could have imagined in a place that would have been considered enemy territory back in the day.
Shannon, who admittedly hated the Gators during his college career, believes he fits in nicely alongside new coach Jim McElwain and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
Shannon spent the last two years at Arkansas, but left for a better opportunity in Gainesville.
''There's a lot of programs in the country, but there's only a few programs in the country like Florida,'' Shannon said.
Shannon's official title at Florida: associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
''These title deals, I mean, are you kidding me?'' McElwain said. ''Really? You're a ball coach. Your title is you're invested in young men. Your title is it's about how we can help them be better for the rest of their lives. That's your title. I don't get into titles. I never have.
''He's obviously the associate, assistant head coach or whatever the word is. Chief bottle washer? I don't know. In charge of tackling.''
He might also be McElwain's most important hire. Not only does Shannon have strong ties to recruiting-rich South Florida - a place in which the Gators have found more misses than hits recently - he also has four years of head-coaching experience in a major conference.
''He's a true confidant from a standpoint of we can sit and discuss a lot of different things about sitting in my chair,'' McElwain said. ''I'm a guy that believes in input, believes in listening and taking it all in, and then fitting what's best for the organization. ... That's how I've seen the guys that sit in this chair that have been successful.
''They always have certain people that have certain qualities to help them be and make decisions that are important not just to affect a position group, not just to affect a football team but to affect a total organization and everything we do. I feel very fortunate to have been able to get a guy like Randy on board.''
Shannon brings plenty of defensive acumen, too, having won a national title at Miami as a starting linebacker (1987) and as a coordinator (2001). In 17 years at Miami, Shannon coached 14 defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
He dropped several of those names during his 20-minute question-and-answer session Thursday, including Warren Sapp, Ed Reed and Sean Taylor.
Shannon referenced his past repeatedly, but declined to delve into his Miami tenure. He was fired following the 2010 season, ending his four years with a 28-22 record.
''If you have a bad game or make a bad call as a coordinator or lose a game, we have this rule: Don't let something that happened 10 seconds ago screw up something you have ahead of you,'' he said. ''When you keep looking back in life, you're going to miss out on a lot of opportunities. ... Find a way to wash it and move forward.''
Shannon spent the 2012 season as TCU's linebackers coach before joining Bret Bielema's staff at Arkansas. Asked why he left the Razorbacks for the Gators, Shannon said he didn't want to ''get comfortable with a situation.''
''Sometimes as a person you don't ever want to stay the same and just get comfortable with a situation,'' he said. ''Being at Florida, you can never get comfortable because you always have to live on edge. You have to have that mind that you're going to win a championship, not just coming in second or saying, `Hey, we got nine or 10 wins.' You always want to be that guy and you always want the challenge.''
Shannon made it clear he would like to be a head coach again. He said he has turned down head-coaching jobs since his Miami departure, saying it ''wasn't the right fit at that particular time.''
''I'm not a guy that's going to rush into anything,'' he said. ''I'm a guy that's going to take my time and acknowledge what I've got to get done. But wherever I'm working at, that's got my total focus. Right now, my total focus is being at Florida and trying to get to a point where we can make Florida one of the teams in America that people are going to look at like they've done in the past and we can get it done.''