No haymakers thrown this time around, nothing that the quote connoisseurs among us would consider "borderline erotic," but even a toned-down version of Bielema still knows how to infuse talk of Eros into college football like no other. My favorite quotes are boldfaced below.
COMMISSIONER SANKEY: Next up is Bret Bielema.
BIELEMA: Thank you, Commish. It's been a tremendous ride to get here and come back for our fourth year. I know today has been you guys' third straight day of coaches coming up here and talking, so you've probably heard a song and dance from a lot of different guys.
The thing I think about as I get ready for these days, I've never been in the morning session. One thing I like to do is watch the Commissioner's opening comments, and I try to watch at least the general session, this session, with all the other coaches to hear questions that I might get to prepare myself for things that I might have come up on my radar. Something I learned from my predecessor back at Wisconsin, Coach Alvarez, to learn a little bit from those that come before you.
I was watching that. As I listened to Commish give his opening comments, I know he gave a speech that kind of -- and for me personally, it showed me a path that he wants us to go in.
And the part about coming to this conference that I never realized or been a part of, I remember my first year getting ready to play a game, I had an issue arise that I wasn't happy about, wasn't very excited about and thought I was in the right and I said some things to the media that kind of drew a line between me and another SEC school.
Before I got back to my office, I had a call from the Commissioner. Commissioner Slive was on the phone, who basically got after me as hard as any man has ever gotten after me, other than my father, in my life about what I just done and why I did it and why we don't do that in the SEC. We're about building a brand and label that's second to none.
And it really opened my eyes to the extent of why I came here, why I came to the SEC. The reason I came here was a lot of different things I was doing with my own university I left. But more importantly, I wanted to come to the conference that if you're able to stand at the title, if you're able to stand at a conference championship and realize that you've just won an SEC title, you really would be standing at the top of college football. I believe that.
Before I came here, I believe it now four years later more than ever -- I know we talked about a little slogan, it just means more. It means more to me now as a head coach in Arkansas to see the growth that we've had over the last four years and reflect how it's happened. Not just in our program but in our community, in our state, in our nation, really.
You know, I get a chance to travel this country all of the time, and when you come across an Arkansas fan, they let you know it. They let you know in a variety of different ways, yelling Pig Sooie or Woo Pig, a bump, interference that cuts you off of traffic, whatever it is, you know who they are, why they are there and what they love.
The part that jumped out to me is how do we get to where they are in the season. My first year we went 0-8 in the SEC, probably the most embarrassing point in my coaching career to realize I couldn't win an SEC football game. I didn't doubt if I could or not, I just wondered why I didn't and how it didn't happen.
The next year to go 2-6 and realized at the end of the year we could play with anybody in this league. And last year, to me, it's 3-9, 7-6, 8-5, but in the inner picture, I'm trying to get the eight wins and the right addition to make it to Atlanta. So we went 0-8, 2-6 and last year to go 5-3, I look at the three losses and realize we lost in overtime to A&M, lost a heartbreaker on a game-winning field goal against Mississippi State and led Alabama at half and couldn't close it out. I realized we're getting really close to where we want to be.
It's because the players in the program and coaches we brought in make a huge difference. These three guys with me today all have unique stories, backgrounds and all of the things that you can kind of just pooh-pooh and put aside. I'm going tell you they're the reason we brought change.
I look at Jeremy Sprinkle. When he got there, he was 6'6", 205 founds. If he turned sideways, you couldn't see him. He was skinny as skinny gets. Now he's a 6'6", 250-pound man that's ready to make his mark in tight end play in the SEC and in our team and in our conference and in this country. He can be a Mackey Award winner. He's got that much talent.
I remember the crossroad his sophomore year when he wasn't doing what I wanted him to do in the classroom, off the field, A to Z. So I did the simple thing: I called his dad and say can we have a meeting. We sat down with his dad and talked with dad about where he wanted to be, if he wanted to do it. From that point forward, he's been a different guy.
Deatrich Wise is a beautiful 6'6", 270-280 pound defensive end. When I got there, he just red-shirted. He was also thrown on the track team. He was also heavily involved in his fraternity, was doing a lot of different things. To me he had a lot of really good things going, but he didn't have a GPA. He didn't have a lot of things going in the right direction.
I sat him down and just simply: "Hey, do you want to be just involved in a lot of different things or do you want to be great at a few things?" We talked about taking a few things off his plate. We had conversations with his parents. We took track out of his life until he got a better GPA.
The result is he could probably be one of the most premier lineman. He already has a degree in his hands. Both he and Jeremy already graduated. They already have a diploma in hand going to their senior year.
Brooks Ellis is one of the first players I sat around with one on one in my arrival at Arkansas. He's from Fayetteville. He had all kinds of different offers, huge academic success story in high school. It continued in college. But the best part about Brooks, I knew he was from Fayetteville. I knew he wanted to be a Hog. He committed before I got there.
I sat in that home. He is sitting there with his mom and a dad. There was a grandma that talked about her husband who is Brooks' grandfather who played at the University of Arkansas, and the whole room got quiet when she talked about who he is and what he represented to the family.
Brooks made a lot of tackles, did a lot of good things. He probably at one point didn't think he would be as good of a player as he is today. A guy that's up for the most elite awards for linebacker play, a four-year starter, but he's also a pre-med student, did an internship in Belize, did so many different things that did not pertain to football that will give him success forever.
That's what I told our kids coming in today. You're here to represent Arkansas. We'll talk about the SEC. We will talk the Media Days and the season in front of us, but don't forget the stage that you're on. Don't forget the voice that you can convey.
Everybody is going to ask you to comment on today's world and the environment that we live in, different things going on, from Black Lives Matter to all of the things that happen across the nation, across the world. And if you're going to make a voice and you are going to make a stand, I said you're already doing that, man. You represent us in the best fashion possible. You kept your nose clean. You don't have to worry whether or not -- if I'm going suspend anybody for the first game. It doesn't come up in our program.
Not to say it won't. At some time it may rear its ugly head. In four years I never had to make a decision about the opening game if I'm going to start somebody or not. It is just something I believe in. If you do enough good things off the field and you represent what you want both on and off it, things are going to eventually go your way.
I'm excited. We have an opening schedule with LATech, a team that won 10 ball games a year ago [A game in which Arkansas is a 22-point favorite]. Our AD had a nice idea to throw TCU into the mix before we had taken on the SEC West. One hell of an idea. So I'm very excited about seeing Coach [Gary] Patterson. I see him once a year on a Nike trip. That's good enough for me. I don't really want to play him. That's what we're going to do.
Then they have a home game coming to us next year. You may have heard we had another that got cancelled. We had one that was going to hopefully work out against Michigan, but the powers to be got involved there. We're missing out on that.
But I'm very excited to have that kind of caliber in the nonconference before we jump in the SEC West to have a chance to play a schedule that is pretty awesome. We're the only team that I believe also faces both SEC East and West champion from a year ago. So it's going to be a tremendous challenge, tremendous opportunity, but one I know our kids will be ready for.
With that, I'll open up it for some really easy questions.
Q. You had a great quarterback in Brandon Allen last year, but across the league, there's a lot -- there's not as much experience in that position anymore. How does that affect the way you approach the season, and how do you think that it's going to affect the league overall?
BIELEMA: I think it's a great question. I think anybody that knows anything about the game, the guy that you have at that position is going to be a huge factor on what your program is overall, not just on offense.
So even though we had B.A. leave, we have a nice little convenient thing called his little brother who is going to take his spot. He was raised in the same home, same set of parents, everything the same. They are different cats. They have different personalities, different temperament.
For three years, Austin Allen sat there and watched his older brother, who he loves go through a lot of success but also a lot of failure. Early on in his career, I just talked to him, as this thing unfolds, you may even be in there the next play. It may not be this week. It may not be next week. It may not be this year, but when it happens, you'll be that much more prepared if you take advantage of it. I think there's a kid there that for three years wore a headset, got in a little bit in some games when he was older.
Now, think about it. When he's going in a game, his older brother just got knocked out of it. It's not a normal thing to do. Your mind will be in a variety of different places. For him to handle it I think is awesome. He's got a little bit different demeanor. He's a very aggressive person by nature. I think we'll have to calm him down rather than juice him up. He throws a tremendous long ball, a very, very intelligent player.
He went to the Manning Passing Academy, and Archie shot me a text a day or two later saying he's one of the more impressive players there and one of the guest QBs to show up there which I think got me excited. I think Archie knows a few things about Qs.
We'll see how it plays out. But on the same hand, in this league quarterback play is one play away from being a (indiscernible) quarterback, the way these D-linemen are built, the way they are put together. Things can change in a dramatic way.
Q. Coach, when you first came in, you talked about at one point about the culture change that it took to get things going. Talk about that a little bit as far as what it's taking out of the recruiting trail and as far as what you've done to build this program to get it to where it is now and the success you're starting to have.
BIELEMA: I think two things. First, we were -- when I came into the program, I asked for a grade sheet. I wanted a grade report on 120 players in the program. And it became very clear that we could make a huge amount of stride in a very short fashion in that department.
And I believe, I think, because I started at Wisconsin and it was an academic institution that molded me into that thinking right away, if you have a smart player off the field, you're probably going to have a smart player on the field.
I know the commish made a comment about the highest GPA, but in my three years at the University of Arkansas, we had 100 Academic All-SEC players. That's the most in this conference over everybody. The guys we compete against, there's a couple schools during that time in the SEC West that have had half that number. Now, they may have talented players, but that's got to be our niche. We have to be a little bit smarter, a little bit better, play a little longer and harder than the other guy.
We went from a ratio of X number of days every player had been arrested before I got there to I believe we went through an almost 18-month window without any player having any significant trouble, and I've only had a handful since we've been there.
I think there's a lot of it to there. What I love is now we're attracting a certain type of player. I'll have a young man come in. And he may be a national recruit. He's been to 20 different places. All of a sudden he starts mentioning us in the same name as some of these more elite programs that over 50 years have been doing it. And that gets me excited.
Plus just to have players graduate. I think my last few years at Wisconsin I had 1,000 APR percentage rate, which is about 1,000. I can't get better than that. I started out at 918, 920. We're up to 975, 980 now. I know we're moving in the right directions.
Q. Coach, we haven't had a chance to talk you to, the local guys, since the Michigan game got canceled. What were your thoughts and feelings about that when it got put off?
BIELEMA: You know, it was awesome when I first got here. The TCU game and the Michigan game had already been in the works. Jeff already started that process. I gave Jeff a jab earlier. He does an awesome job with this stuff. I was very excited. I grew up in a home where my older brother was a Michigan fan, so we were always fighting as it was. When I became a player at Michigan, I have a very special memory in my life about playing at Michigan. It was a day in my life that shaped me forever.
A different -- between playing them and then coaching against them and then as a head coach to coach them and beat them, my first year as a head coach, the only loss we had in a 12-1 season, the only loss was to Michigan, and it was based on a couple plays that I felt if I was a more experienced coach might have went the other direction. Who knows what would have happened that year.
I was excited about playing them. I know there's discussion about them renewing the Notre Dame game. Jeff didn't give me a deadline. I was in Europe with my wife. We were on a train headed to Paris. It's ironic for me to say that in every words. My wife said," Hey, there's something about -- on the Internet about a Big Ten team canceling with an SEC team." I said, "I don't know anything about it." She said, "Really? Your picture's right here." She's real quick.
And so I read the article and realize we've been canceled. And, you know, a lot goes into it. I get it. I understand how the SEC -- I'm sorry, the Michigan-Notre Dame thing sounds sexy to everybody else, but I think Michigan and Arkansas sounds sexy. I was very excited about Big Ten versus SEC. I made a comment in the spring I'd love to see an SEC challenge at the front end. My commish gave me a josh back, said that's called a bowl game.
But I would also say up front kids get into it. One of my driving factors is when I'm talking to our AD is you play some of those teams that maybe don't have great recognition to a fan's interest but they're really good. You're a team that may win 10, 11 games in a non-power five conference, you're a pretty good football team if you do it a lot or an FCS team that wins 10, 11, 12 ball games every year. You're a good football team. And then there's teams that can sneak up on you.
We'll do our best. There's some names being thrown out there already. I'm excited about it. I would love to give you a teaser, but probably get slapped. But I do think the commish and the SEC is doing a great job. The only thing is just canceling so late, man. That's what gets you going. You've been counting on this one. This is kind of your marquee game and you schedule around it, and then the rug gets pulled out from underneath you.
I got tremendous respect for Jim [Harbaugh]. I know there's a lot of people like to throw darts at Michigan, all that's going on right now. I love a guy that speaks his mind, as you can tell from knowing me. I love the way he coaches the game. I know several people that know him. I know his father and his brother are halfway decent. I understand they have to do what they have to do, but it was one of those -- it was tough to go away.
Q. You ranked number two in the SEC in total offense in scoring last year, but when you look at the personnel you lost and starters returning, can you guys come close to repeating those numbers this year?
BIELEMA: You know, obviously you're an Arkansas guy. One part I hope everyone begins to understand and appreciate is at the University of Arkansas and something I believed in, we did it in Wisconsin when we really got it rolling in there, we were losing anywhere from six to eight guys every year in the draft. Sometimes -- one year I lost 13 player, 14 players. Two years back-to-back we put more players in the NFL in the country.
Even though you don't know who they are right now, I can tell you who they are. There's going to be some guys. Everybody wants to concentrate on Austin Allen. You have a running back come in by the name of Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds who I think are going to have a huge impact on this season. Jack Kraus is a tight end out of Bentonville. Hasn't done much yet, but I think he will play some good football on a backup tight end position for us. Frank Ragnow who is coming into his own, was a good offensive lineman a year ago, I think he'll be a dominant offensive lineman defensively. Jeremiah Ledbetter I think will be a premier player for us this year as well as Josh Liddell, Dre Greenlaw.
At Arkansas we're not built very sexy, we're just kind of a work in progress. We need a lot of time in the bathroom to get ready and come out and look great. But when we do, we'll stop time. And at some point we'll get to where we want to be. And when we get there, it just means a little bit more.
Q. Could you kind of take us through what you were thinking on that last drive against Ole Miss, and is it still surreal to you eight months later, fourth and 25 and all of that?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I get where you're coming from. I do remember distinctly saying to myself, when we score -- and I said this I think a couple minutes -- you can ask my coaches -- before that drive: When we get the ball back, we're going to drive down, we're going to score, and going for two. So get that in your mind.
I was a coordinator. One thing Coach Alvarez really taught me when I was a coordinator with Coach Snyder, to me those were two All-American or Hall of Fame coaches for a reason of. They tried to minimize the surprise to you as a coach. As a head coach, you need to give them the decision before it's there.
I knew in that situation -- first I wanted to stop them on offense on the other end, but it didn't happen. I didn't tell my defensive coaches. I flipped to Channel B and said, Hey, if we give up a score here, we'll go down and go for two. And Dan said okay. He knew exactly where we were going, which is why he called that first play. And we had the facemask call, and then we scored on the second attempt.
The Hunter Heave, whatever you want to call it, with Hunter, it was a fourth -- what I got mad at, I was watching the film on Sunday, and half my guys took their headsets off. I said, What the hell? We got a play called here.
And one of the cool things was that play everybody thinks, you know -- we didn't obviously walk through it on Thursday and Friday. I get you. But we did it during fall camp. We had these sessions called Hoganese all year long. Our players, they kind of: Okay, Hoganese, Hoganese. We wear them out with Hoganese. They have one this afternoon at 4:30. They are going to learn a little bit about Arkansas football. I usually try to give a few things up front that are big picture, then they'll visit with the coordinators, then they'll talk to assistants and they'll go out and do some skills and drills.
I want to be a very smart football team on the field when the coaches aren't out there. And when we threw that play to Hunter, the other three receivers running streak, so if we hit them, we're shooting to the touchdown for the end zone. We tell B.A. the only way you throw the streak is if it's in the end zone.
None of it was there. So we chuck it down to Hunter. Hunter now knows he's going to be ten yards shy of the first down. He's going to run below the first-down mark or the first down chains. If he can't get ten yards, he's supposed to buy as much time as he can to get everybody to come to him and then they can lateral the ball.
He did that to a T. He had three or four Ole Miss guys on him. There's like 20 of them trying to tackle him from the out of bounds, including he was up there a little bit close. I thought he should have had a flag, but that's another conversation.
I said why did you throw it so far to the middle of the field? He said, Coach I wanted to throw it where the huddle was because I knew we would have more players there than we did, because all of the players would take off running to the ball and our linemen are a little bit slower. That's when I think divine intervention did happen. I'm a believer, I'm a believer, and Hunter's father is a pastor so I knew it had something to do it as well. He happened to heave it to the tallest guy in the field who was [Dan] Skipper, who tapped it to the fastest guy in the field who was Alex [Collins], and Alex is not the most well-versed Hoganese patron in our program.
He thought he had to score a touchdown. He didn't know he just needed to get a first down. So he crossed the first down marker, thank God, and he thought he needed to score, so he threw it to the guy with the best hands on the field who is Dominique Reed who fortunately just fell down. So a lot of things worked well for us, but that play did not just happen. It had a cause and a reason.
Q. How hard did you try to keep Sam Pittman from going to Georgia, and what is Georgia getting in that Jim Chaney-Sam Pittman combo?
BIELEMA: Well, I don't hire anything but coaches that I think are going to be great. I had a feeling that just out of what I had witnessed from their program and what they believed in and what we've been able to do offensively and how we're able to build it there might be a slight interest. Kirby, yeah, he actually called me a couple days before. First, he wanted to talk to my offensive coordinator and try to take Dan Enos, and I said, I appreciate it, but there's a thing called the SEC clause, you can't have him. Kind of stuck my tongue out, wiggled my nose and felt good about it. One of the first things I didn't do in the first half was I didn't put an SEC [non-compete] clause on Coach Pittman. When I first took over he had an opportunity to leave for Alabama. I was able to do some things financially with the athletic department to make that not happen, and I didn't put an SEC clause on him.
And everything ends up happening for a reason. So when they got Sam, obviously, it's something that they wanted. The good news, I was able to retain Dan, and I got a great backup, a great situation now. I was able to -- the thing that Sam was great in, we've been trying to continue those forward, but the areas that he might have been a little bit weak in, I wanted a great technician. I wanted somebody that really talked about bad level so I wanted an NFL coach. I was able to bring in Kurt Anderson who I was excited about. As far as what Georgia is getting, you got to try to figure that out on your own.
Q. Bret, now that the first round of satellite camps is over, what are your thoughts on their pros, cons, problems?
BIELEMA: These things started about six, seven years ago. I remember when I first came in the league I was talking with "Summy", and I knew he was a little bit concerned. He was really the only one being affected by it. He was in Texas, and there were schools from Oklahoma that were coming down into Texas putting on these camps, and I had began to try to treat Texas as in-state property for us. There were so many ties especially with Jerry Jones and Dallas and everything that we were really trying to highlight and I knew these camps were going on and I knew we couldn't do them, so we brought that up at SEC meetings four years ago. Everybody kind of said "Don't worry about it's not going to be a problem, don't worry about it."
The next year it got a little bit bigger and I brought a pamphlet of a couple schools putting on these type of things. Two things happened within the same year, going into my third year being here is Coach Franklin left Vanderbilt to go to Penn State, and he knew it was now -- and then he began to dabble in that regard and when Jim went to Michigan obviously it exploded by what he did. So I think it brings exposure to our program, which is great.
I believe right now personally in our program we have three commitments that I don't believe would have happened if we didn't have satellite camps. I can't comment on that specifically until we sign them on their signing date, but I do know that that has happened specifically in our program. We didn't do overabundance. We did, I believe five out of our state, and I attended every one of them. I thought it was great. Not only was the NCAA there, the SEC was there as well. So, there was a lot of supervision.
You take, for instance, the Minority Coaches Association in Atlanta got together and put on probably the best one I saw. The attention to detail, the way they talked everything out. They had an announcement going over the public speaker system every five minutes about what you can and cannot do. I really felt comfortable there as a head coach, and 20 feet away from me was Urban [Meyer]. There was coaches there from all different kinds of leagues.
And the one element I wish we could eliminate is to host them at high schools to make it a little tricky. A -- there's a middle man there that has direct passage to a high school athlete. The facilities, just because of common sense, are not as good. I was at one hosted at a high school and simply a big rain storm came in and there was no opportunity for us to continue drills because we got rained out. There was no indoor, there was no turf or field to go to, and the only ones that end up, you know, being penalized are the student-athletes that already paid money to get there.
There's some things we can modify and tweak within it. I think it's a good thing. It's kind of a colossal pain in the back end. It takes a lot of time that we're normally at home. Another conversation I had to have to tell my wife why I wasn't in the house. But that's what we do, and that's how we do it. But, for the most part, if we had to do it again as is the case everywhere, things need to be modified a little bit.
Q. Coach, I have a two-part question. In your opening statements you talked about how your team suffered close losses last year, particularly A&M. Past few years you've suffered two comeback losses to the Aggies. So, one, what do you believe is the way you can beat them especially in a pivotal early season matchup, and, two, you face them every year at AT&T Stadium -- what do you think the benefit of that, especially having Georgia and the former Arkansas alumnus and player there?
BIELEMA: Yea, well, to answer your first part, I have tremendous respect for Kevin [Sumlin], probably the guy in the business that I'm as close with as any other head coach, so tremendous respect. I think what we have to do as coaches and players is believe in ourselves to win that game in a four-quarter game. We play extremely well for a period of time and then kind of have allowed the game to get back into their hands and come forward. Two years ago, J-Will broke a run that we went up by, would have been 21, but we had an unfortunate tripping call called, which was a marvelous call for Steve Shaw and his staff. First tripping call I've ever seen in college football but it was a good call, and we deserved it. But it did kind of change the momentum of the game and brought it back. I hope there's a moratorium on complaining about ref'ing but that will just -- well, it's a two-part question. I'm going to give you a two-part answer. We got to play a four quarter game and get into that overtime.
Summy, last year, when we got done with the game and we're walking across to shake hands, he said, "I don't know what to say." I said, "Don't say anything, I might punch you." But it's just one of those -- it's a great rival. I think our kids really respect one another. There's a lot of crossover high school rivalry and some fun stuff. So I'm playing in Jerry's world, been a huge fan of Jerry Jones. I grew up a Cowboys fan. To kind of get to shake his hand and talk with him and Stephen and be involved in that is absolutely awesome. It's a pretty neutral game, though. We split everything. It's a home game for us. One game -- there's no advantage there. But for us to get to go to Dallas and play a game every year is absolutely huge in recruiting.
Q. Coach, the success on offense has been documented but in the SEC. It's about creating turnovers, creating those negative plays. What has been the message on finishing the job, getting off the field on third down and helping your offense stay in those positions to win?
BIELEMA: It's just simple facts. You look at a team that you obviously know a lot about it -- Alabama. There's not a team since I've been in the game in coaching that plays as good a defense year in and year out as good as they do, and it's a reason why they won as many championships. It doesn't matter what you do on offense. If you don't want to score a lot of points, it doesn't matter. And I go back to our game two years ago, we get beat by 50 my first year, and the next year we lose a 13-14 game right there in Fayetteville, the one that we turned the ball over on the six-inch line.
We had a miscue on the kicking game for a field goal and a miscue on a PAT. We left basically nine points on the field, and they only scored 14, but it was enough to win, and they went on to play in another national championship game, so I have been able to prove to our guys what that means.
We have nine out of 11 back on defense. I have a tremendous defensive coordinator, Robb Smith. I was able to hire Paul Rhoads, Vernon Hargreaves and Rory Segrest, my defensive staff. That's probably the best crew I've had on that side of the ball. I'm very, very excited to have Brooks Ellis, who's a pre med, as fourth-year linebacker. His football IQ is off the charts. He returns like a deer. He's a big kid, he's very, very mobile. We have three of our four starting defensive lineman that are all seniors so I think we're set up to play some good defense and excited about the opportunity.
Q. Bret, the two years before you got to Arkansas, you had like 11 players arrested and since then you only had 4. How do you change that? Does that start in recruiting for you in how carefully you recruit?
BIELEMA: You know, again, you guys are getting me to talk about this too much. I believe in karma and there's things that come back. I do believe -- I learned a very valuable lesson from Coach [Hayden] Frye -- he always said you recruit your own problems. When we were recruiting, I was going down to recruit in certain areas. I had Chicago, Minnesota, South Florida, and he would always remind me of that: "Bret, you recruit your own problem problems, you recruit your own problems." I've always taken that to heart but I have taken into account we still have a roster in the senior class are ones that I didn't recruit. They've been great, great. It's a methodology.
You know, I was watching the NFL Network the other day, and they're counting down the top 100 players and during the commercial break they played a thing that had the top ten jerseys in the NFL. I've been fortunate enough to coach two or three of those guys. J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson, Joe Thomas, some guys that are premier players, and I think a lot about -- like obviously, they're great players, but the branding that takes place with their names. I remember Joe Thomas didn't go watch the draft, he went fishing with his dad, but it was also because Under Armour was putting him on a huge contract for outdoor apparel. Obviously, J.J. Watt, you see him selling everything from, you know -- I don't even know. I see all his commercials and I kind of just giggle.
I was in Russell's wedding -- not in the wedding, I just sat and watched. I was the guy in the eighth row in the outside seat, but there's a certain amount of value. I mean there's paparazzi, and his branding of his name. I remember when I went to talk to Nike, Nike was trying to seal him up and I was with a bunch of Nike guys, and they were asking me questions about him and who he is. I said, "You know what, the one thing about, I can swear that I know about Russell Wilson, I'm pretty sure he's going to be a great player for a long time, but I know this -- there's never going to be a day when you wake up and you're afraid to read a headline about him."
Sebastian Tretola who hadn't signed anything yet, but that kid came in to us a year ago or two years ago, who flunked out of Nevada, took three JCs to get eligible, wasn't exactly a stellar physique walking in, and he's walking out now as a 320 starting offensive lineman, or trying to be a starting offensive lineman in the league and he's chasing his dream and making a lot of money because of the value he put on his name. The more we continue to create that in our league and across the country, and more good influences our guys can do, I think the world will be a better place.
This transcript, courtesy of ASAP Sports, was lightly edited for clarity