Two things are a given when LSU football coach Les Miles tackles a public speaking engagement.
Plenty of people will be there to listen and you never know what Miles might say.
Miles’ lecture that helped open the Louisiana High School Coaches Association Coaches Clinic on Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza was listed as “Building Toughness.” But it was as much about building relationships as it was football.
After speaking, Miles addressed a few questions regarding his program. He said a news release regarding the transfer of quarterback-receiver Rob Bolden was coming. The LSU coach also spoke positively about adding baseball player Jared Foster, a former football walk-on, as a back-up quarterback.
Nearly an hour earlier Miles opened by telling LHSCA coaches on hand that speaking to them is a perfect way to start a season. Miles then launched into a series of stories and anecdotes before reviewing drills that LSU uses to build toughness.
It started with Miles offering thoughts on Louisiana, its coaches and coaching in general.
“I’ve been here 10 years and I can tell you very pridefully I’m a Louisianian,” Miles said.
Miles cited his sons as examples of the role coaches play in student-athletes’ lives. Miles’ oldest son, Manny, is a senior-to-be at University High, while Ben enters his sophomore season at Catholic High.
“We went out to eat,” Miles said. “They talk about their coaches and what they require of them. I just want you to know that my sons, and the players that you coach, so want to please you.
“It is unbelievable. I’m Daddy, I’m not a coach. I’m sitting there listening to how well my sons have been coached. I appreciate the men that ask them to do hard things.”
Miles also noted how working a Michigan football camp helped put him on the road to coaching years earlier.
“I remember the first time I took that high school player and showed him how to go in a stance and then make the steps. They look back at me and it’s ‘Wow, that’s what I want,’” Miles recalled. “I want you to know something, it fired me up. It made me want to pursue coaching.”
After about 20 minutes Miles transitioned into the football stuff. He showed video clips from LSU practices and games.
Miles discussed what the Tigers seek when they run their “Big Cat” drill for linemen and blockers. There were segments on the goalline tacking drill, with Miles noting the importance of leg drive.
Next came a segment on the Tiger attack drill, noting “You want to teach your players to do hard drills and not to have injuries.”
As he reviewed one piece of game footage Miles says he wonders what might have happened if a certain play was executed that way in the Tigers’ game against Alabama. “I have certain plays that haunt me,” the LSU coach noted candidly.
“I’ll wake up at 4:30 in the morning thinking about it.”
As he goes through game films he mentions several ex-high school stars now on LSU’s roster, like offensive lineman La’el Collins (Redemptorist), Jermauria Rasco (Evangel), Terrence Magee (Franklinton). He also mentions two ex-LSU players who were NFL draft picks in the spring, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (Newman) and Jarvis Landry (Lutcher).
“You must have smart players and you must have tough players,” Miles emphasized. “At some point in time it’s all going to come down to that question of who’s tougher and it’s ‘Yeah, we are.’ ”
It was all part of a bonding process that high school coaches in the room responded to. When Miles finished speaking he obliged those in the crowd who wanted pictures taken with him.
“We (high school and college coaches) have very similar tasks in the fact that you’re teaching a series of very quality habits that require hard work and preparation and commitment to a group of men under the guise of getting a degree and playing for a championship,” Miles said. “Along the way you develop young men into being quality people.
“We’ll participate in everything this association will include us in and we will be in high schools in this state routinely. This is the lifeblood of LSU’s program.”