Ron Zook recalls playing days at Miami
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 16:09
Ron Zook won a college football national coach of the year award. He has led a team to a Rose Bowl. He has coached a top ten NFL defense. Oh, and by the way, when he played defensive back for Miami University from 1973-1975, he preferred to win. To be exact, 32 times in three seasons, including a three peat of Tangerine Bowl victories in Orlando over the likes of the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina.
“Our team knew Orlando pretty well by the time we graduated,” Zook said.
The word “team” was Zook’s focus in an interview this past week about his time in Oxford. Zook talked about the emphasis his coaches Bill Mallory (1973) and Dick Crum (1974-75) had on victories and team accomplishments instead of individual praise.
“We by no means had the most talented roster,” Zook said. “But what we did have was a group of high-character guys whom cared about nothing other than winning.”
And win they did. From the stretch of 1973 to 1975 the Redskins only had one blemish on their record, a 14-13 loss at Michigan State University in September of 1975.
Armed with a three-headed monster in the backfield consisting of 1,000-yard rushers Rob Carpenter and Sherman Smith, along with the former Northwestern head coach and late Randy Walker, the 1975 Miami squad steamrolled Mid-American Conference (MAC) competition.
“Everyone loved Randy,” Zook said. “He was an Ohio guy also, and he was just one of those people that everyone was friends with. That is the type of character we had on the team.”
Zook’s final game as a senior co-captain put an exclamation mark on the best three year run in Miami football history. The Redskins pounded South Carolina 20-7 in the Tangerine Bowl to complete the three peat in Orlando.
“I came in as a walk-on and earned a scholarship my second quarter on campus,” Zook said. “It did not take much for me to fall in love with the campus, I visited and loved it.”
Trading in a slew of small Midwestern football scholarships for a chance to be a part of history at Miami may not have been Zook’s vision, but looking into the record books that result is now as clear as a blue Oxford sky.
“As I recruited at Florida and Illinois, and many places before those two, I always spoke of that chemistry and “team” mentality we had at Miami,” Zook said.
Zook has been touted as a recruiting guru, most notably bringing top talent to a dormant University of Illinois program unlike any previous coach in school history. Let us also not forget to mention the 22 starters he recruited to Florida that played on Urban Meyer’s 2007 national title team.
Currently Zook works as an analyst for CBS, and he has come to enjoy the opportunity to take in the entire realm of the college game.
“College football has become America’s new pastime so to speak,” Zook said. “To be able to study everything rather than just one team or one conference has been fun.”
As for football pastimes at Miami, I think Bruce Springsteen said it best for Zook and the boys in Red and White of 1973, 1974 and 1975. “Glory Days.”