With more than a week to dissect the proceedings, here are a few assorted takeaways from my experience on radio row at the ACC Football Kickoff…
- The experience at Pinehurst was incredible. The ACC generally does a phenomenal job with this event, but this was the first time I visited Pinehurst. It was at another level. I didn’t get to play golf, which would be a thrill, but given the positive reviews the rest of the attendees seemed to give the event, I think I’ll have another chance to do so pretty soon.
- The media chose Clemson as its preseason favorite to win the conference title. That wasn’t a riveting development, as many expected it. What was shocking was the consensus that seemed to develop around the Tigers among the media. 53 percent of attendees picked Dabo Swinney’s team as the favorite, and the margin by which the Tigers trounced the competition was significant—including Florida State. When I asked him about it, Swinney deflected, but it was clear the level of expectations bestowed upon Clemson last week.
- Coaches generally say the same stuff to everybody at these kinds of events, especially when the interviewer identifies in some way with an opposing team. Such is my lot as a radio host, so some of the coaches tend to be very guarded when I talk to them. A few tend to be more candid, and the most surprising of them this year was Bobby Petrino. The Louisville coach, who has deservedly garnered a certain reputation with the media, cracked jokes and was generally affable during the most surprisingly enjoyable interview of the week for me. His eyes lit up when I asked him to compare his quarterbacks, and he sounded confident his team would surprise those that expect a step back in 2015.
- Another honest coach was Boston College’s Steve Addazio. I always enjoy his candor, and he flat out told me his team would struggle this season: “I’m excited about our future, but the near term is going to be hard.” This came after I picked the Eagles to be a bowl team in spite of their youth this season. It’s hard to fathom how I’m more bullish on a team than its coach, but that’s why Addazio is a great interview.
- Speaking of BC, lineman Harris Williams was my first live interview of the event, and he might have given me the most cerebral interview of my brief career. Within the first three minutes, he alluded to classic art, saying he sees this season for his team like a great artist sees a blank canvas. Williams is a computer science major who says he likes to code in his spare time. As someone who turned a hobby into a job, I support that lifestyle.
- I asked Jimbo Fisher more questions than I’ve ever asked anybody, and I feel supremely confident in saying that. In approximately six minutes of radio, I went through a whopping 14 questions. That’s an average of about 27 seconds per question and answer. In case you were wondering, he talks fast.
- One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is getting to kick it with players and talk about life with them. Syracuse’s Zaire Franklin and Terrel Hunt had a fun back-and-forth about who was better playing NBA 2K15 and whose strategy for picking teams was better. Franklin, a Philadelphia 76ers fan, said he plays with the Washington Wizards. Hunt blasted Franklin for not being a true Philly native and said he likes to pick random teams (as do I) because great players can win with anybody. Their good-natured razzing was good for our airwaves.
- The Clemson contingent had a fun banter with me, as well. D.J. Reader came first, and he ragged on Eric Mac Lain for having an inferior beard to Ryan Norton and being afraid that his girlfriend would shave it off when he was asleep. Mac Lain, who was one of the unquestioned stars of the event, routinely took my microphone to respond to Reader. He gave Reader a hard time about his haircut and was just generally fun to talk with. Clemson should be proud of the way both players handled themselves and represented the school at Pinehurst.
- Clemson fans have generally marked Scott Shafer an enemy ever since his expletive-filled tirade toward Swinney was caught by cameras two seasons ago. Contrary to popular misconception, Shafer was very good-natured with us and seemed genuinely excited about being on our station. He said he has a good relationship with Swinney and that they joke about what happened that day from time to time. He also says he has learned to tone down his emotion as a head coach because of how many eyes are trained on him at all times. That was a very insightful interview.
- My favorite saying of the week came from Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo: “See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see nothing.” It’s a statement about focusing on the task at hand that applies directly to kicking. Aguayo told me it is a catch phrase in Tallahassee that Fisher has championed over his time there. I like it because it speaks to leadership and can help people understand the importance of handling whatever is in front of you in life.