Q & A with Tommy Thigpen
As often happens with Thigpen, though, we learned much more.
Thigpen is a go-to guy on technology. The Auburn staff looks to him for guidance on how to manage their social-networking responsibilities and find new ways to connect with recruits.
Here we go.
- On the confluence of recruiting and technology: "The technology part of recruiting puts you together. You can find out about people before you meet people. When you're first meeting someone, you want to already have some things in common. You want to have that outline of what you want to say. The internet has done that for me."
- On the biggest benefit from that enterprise: "You ask somebody: Why did you choose a place? I'm talking about the 18-year-old kids. They'll tell you "it felt right." Most people say that feeling has a lot to do with people knowing your name and feeling like they have a lot in common. That's where I come in. I know people's names, the mama's name, the uncle's name, the school teacher's name."
- On if technology can give schools an advantage: "Recruiting used to be a popularity contest. I don't think there were relationships involved. If I was coaching at a school like Southern Miss and Florida State came along and offered a scholarship, that's a wrap. Today, that's harder to do. Technology has changed that. The kid have talked to these coaches. The relationship is built. When the big schools jump in and that relationship already is built, it's a lot harder to break."
- On difficulties associated with The New Recruiting: "These guys -- especially young, African-American males -- they judge you on a lot of things. It's important that you're up on to date on all the latest fads. The internet is your best friend in that world. I can pull up Facebook and find out what he likes in music, what his hobbies are, his religious background. I look at his pictures. I find out who is closest friends are. How close is he to his mama? It's limitless. You have to keep up."
- On why his high-school teaching career ended (after one year): ``There was too much work for not enough money. Teachers have it rough. I never knew why tests were always on Friday. It was to give the teachers a break. You could have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. I had a passion for teaching. I didn't have a passion for grading. If I had someone to grade my papers, I'd have been fine. It took too long. It took away from the task."
- On if Auburn "pushes the envelope" with its recruiting tactics: "There aren't any gimmicks. At the end of the day, it's still about relationships. Kids don't come because of one weekend. We get them to Auburn two times, three times, maybe four times. We try to make every experience better than the last time they were here. That's what sells you.
``If I'm Big Time Recruit A and I had a great time, I'm socially networking with another big recruit. Have you visited Auburn yet? This is why you should visit Auburn. It's easy for us to say it. When they hear it from their peers, other players they respect, the word travels. That's how we get out there."
- On why he considers Mack Brown, who coached Thigpen and gave him his first college job, the most important mentor in his life: "He taught me how to talk to people. My parents made me go to Carolina because they liked how Mack talked. Mack was on the cutting edge back then because the norm was to have one minority on a staff of nine. Two was unheard of. At Carolina, we had four and sometimes five on staff.
``The African-American players, we had role models to look up to. Parents knew their kids would have someone to identify with. If you have one minority, all the (minority players) have to go to that one guy. He might not click with all those guys. Mack had it set up with four or five black coaches. Then a guy like Carl Torbush was great with everybody. It was one of the reasons I wanted to get into coaching -- it was the guys he brought in. They made me a better person. My mentors were all coaches."
Photo credit: University of North Carolina
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