August 4, 2018 9:32:58 PM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Through the years, Michael Nebrich has not been able to forget the quotes.
Nebrich played quarterback for Joe Moorhead for four years at two different schools, for his final season as a UConn assistant and his first three as Fordham's head coach. He has seen Moorhead as an assistant proving himself to a new head coach, he's seen Moorhead trying to establish himself as a head coach and he's seen Moorhead build his program to a higher level. In each instance, Moorhead has peppered his players with quotes, giving his players something to think about through the words of someone else.
"Don't tell me how rough the waters are, just bring the ship to port," was one. "Excuses are the nails that build a house of failure," was another.
"He'll throw stuff out there that you have to sit back and say, 'What the heck did he just say?' but you think about it an hour later and you say, 'All right, that was pretty good,'" Nebrich said.
This is just one window into what it is like to play for Moorhead, which Mississippi State's football players will come to know all about in the coming weeks as MSU opened preseason practice Friday. Nebrich spoke to The Dispatch to provide a glimpse of what it's like to play for Moorhead -- what's in store for the Bulldogs in the weeks and months to come.
"He's one of those kind of corny guys sometimes, but he's one of those guys you can't help but love," Nebrich said.
Moorhead is up to that old trick once again. The lobby of the Leo W. Seal Football Building has two televisions mounted on the wall that cycle among displaying the day's schedule, special teams depth charts and a quote of the day. MSU has asked those quotes not be shared, but Moorhead shared several quotes through his Twitter account over the spring and summer. The quotes came from inspirations as far apart as golfer Jack Nicklaus and Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist and author who died in 470 BC; from former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach to former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Abraham Lincoln.
Nebrich was treated to these life lessons in his time under Moorhead, but he didn't stick with the coach for that reason alone. He followed Moorhead because of his ability to bond quickly with players.
The two only had one year together at UConn, and it came under adverse circumstances: Moorhead recruited Nebrich to UConn under Randy Edsall, who left to take the Maryland job before Nebrich got to campus. Nebrich honored his commitment to UConn and Moorhead as Edsall's replacement, Paul Pasqualoni, retained him. When Moorhead left for the opportunity to be the head coach at his alma mater, suddenly, Nebrich's fit at UConn wasn't as perfect; Nebrich followed Moorhead to Fordham.
Thus, Nebrich has seen Moorhead in his first year with a new team. Nebrich believes Moorhead started building his relationship with his players from his first day in town, when he asked everyone but the players to leave the room for his first address.
"He's the kind of guy that loves his players so much, I'm sure he used that meeting to tell his players that," Nebrich said. "Joe set the tone there. That's exactly what he used that meeting for: he set the tone for what he expects from his players and, honestly, what his players can expect from him. Hearing that he put a meeting on like that with just himself, that doesn't surprise me at all: that is typical Joe Moorhead."
Therein lies the true reality of playing for Moorhead. MSU's players will see differences relative to the circumstances, such as more priority on deep passing with him than there was with predecessor Dan Mullen, among other things. But the true hallmark of playing for Moorhead is a close relationship with the head coach, and one that's tailored to the individual.
"He's not a player's coach in a sense that he's nice to everybody and he treats everybody the same way; he's great at what he does because he treats every single person as an individual and he knows how to coach them," Nebrich said. "With our relationship, we could be out on the field screaming at each other in front of the team and be buddy-buddy the next moment, but there are a lot of players out there that you can't yell at on the field.
"That's the one thing I'll say about Joe: if anybody asks me what I think about Joe Moorhead, the first thing I'll say is he's a great family guy. He loves his players, he loves his family and he treats every single player that he has as one of his sons. That's one thing that really blew me away in recruiting: he's a guy you want to go out there and play for because he knows how to treat you."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson