Iron Man: After all these years, former Utah head coach Ron McBride still loves coaching football
The Blaze gig has been a good one for him because it doesn't entail all the exhausting rigors — constant recruiting, 18-hour work days, off-the-field commitments — that college coaching requires. And he really enjoys working with James and the other members of the Blaze coaching staff.
But after coming within a win of reaching the AFL championship game last year, the Blaze have stumbled through a disappointing season in 2013. With Friday's loss at Philadelphia, they're 5-11 and have long since been eliminated from playoff contention.
"They handle all the personnel decisions. I just have to coach those guys I coach," he said of his Blaze duties. "So as far as that goes, it's a good deal for me. The coaching staff are all really good guys to work with; they know the game; they know what they have to do; so that's all a plus.
"But the way it's going for us right now, it's obviously very frustrating. It seems like we're recycling the mistakes we make and just keep making them over and over again.
"They went out and got a lot of new players this year with the idea that we would upgrade the team from the previous year, and obviously it didn't work out for us," he said. "Some of the guys who were leaders for us are not there anymore.
"It's a long season — it's six months long — so it takes a lot out of you. I'll just get through this year and we'll see how I feel next year. When the year ends, I'll see what the ownership is doing and then if they feel like I'm being productive for them and I can see what they're doing, then I'll keep coaching."
And if anyone ever doubted whether McBride's still got what it takes from a coaching perspective, here's a ringing endorsement from one of his more recent prized pupils, Blaze O-lineman Shannon Tevaga.
“My strength coming out of college was run blocking," Tevaga, a four-year starter and three-time all-conference selection at UCLA, told Mike Dijulio, the Blaze's director of communications. "When I came to the Arena League, my pass blocking wasn’t as good as my run blocking.
“I had three O-line coaches in college but I’m still learning from Coach Mac. It’s made a tremendous difference from previous times. My pass blocking has grown amazingly. Coach Mac has so much knowledge of the game and it’s a blessing.”
Coaching for the Blaze is just one of many ventures that keeps McBride awfully busy for a guy any age, much less 73 years young.
He has worked as a pitchman for Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse restaurants and will soon begin serving as a spokesman for a group of Salt Lake-area doctors.
He also spends time at various football camps, with another one for youth coaches scheduled July 27 at Alta High School. He'll be joined there by legendary former BYU coach LaVell Edwards and numerous other current coaches from BYU, Utah and Utah State.
In early August, he'll go to the University of Wisconsin and spend a couple weeks as a guest coach during two-a-days for the Badgers' first-year head coach, Gary Andersen, one of McBride's former players.
McBride and Edwards, his longtime coaching rival-turned-buddy, participate in numerous charitable functions and speaking engagements together. And on Aug. 23, they'll begin another weekly series of radio shows on 1280 AM, moderated by the station's Scott Garrard.
"He's such a great guy," McBride said with such sincere respect and admiration for Edwards. "We've done a lot of stuff together for different causes and charities over the years. He never turned down one and I never turned down one, either. There's not one I can remember that he ever said no to."
If all of that's not enough, the ol' guy — Mac, not LaVell — works out every day, swimming laps for more than a mile in the saltwater pool at the Lifestyles gym.
And if time allows, he accompanies his wife, Vickie, on her visits to see their seven grandchildren — three in Utah, two in Arizona and two more in Southern California.
After almost 50 years in the coaching biz — including 13 years as Utah's head coach, six seasons at Weber State and assistant coaching jobs at Utah, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky, San Jose State, Long Beach State and UC Riverside along the way — you'd think McBride might've had his fill of blocking sleds and schemes.
But it's all he's ever done, and all he ever really wanted to do. And though the Blaze have struggled through a disappointing season, Dijulio says the offensive line, under McBride's guidance, has been the strongest and most consistent part of the team.
"I like coaching the O-line guys," McBride said. "They're good athletes from good programs and have got good experience. "They're playing good and I'm happy with them. I've got good players, too, and they've been very productive wherever they've been. They're tough guys and they take pride in their work.
"In arena football, it's all about pass protection and they've got to play together as a unit. Everybody's got to be on the same page," McBride said. "I'm trying to make it fun for them, and those guys have all got goals for themselves, too."
Goals like maybe still coaching football more than 40-something years from now?
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