From the Assistant's Point of View: Sam Perryman Q&A
By ODU Athletics
Old Dominion University Football cornerbacks coach Sam Perryman completed his second year with the Monarchs in 2016. Perryman played at Lehigh and has coached in the college ranks for 13 years. ODUSports.com recently sat down with Perryman to discuss his coaching career, the ODU cornerbacks and more.
Q: How and why did you get into coaching?
SP: Basically I graduated and started working a job for a finance company and I hated life. I would come home everyday and be miserable. It's weird because the year after I finished playing, I didn't even watch football. I guess I was trying to pull myself away from it, get it out of my system. That next year I was still living in Bethlehem, but I didn't go to practices or any Lehigh games, it was awful. One of my roommates was a student coach at Lehigh so he told me to talk to my head coach Pete Lembo. I told Coach Lembo I was interested in coaching and he got me in contact with some guys. I got an interview with Muhlenberg College and that was that.
Q: Did you have any thoughts of wanting to be a coach when you played?
SP: I don't remember ever thinking about coaching while I was playing. When I look back and think back, I feel like there were times when I could see and think about stuff faster and better than I could do it. So I thought if I could tell somebody else what to do it might work out.
Q: You also ran track your senior year at Lehigh. How were you able to handle football and track?
SP: I ran track all my life. I started running track in second grade and pretty much did the summer track circuit, Junior Nationals. I was always a track guy but when I got to Lehigh they didn't let us do both. I think it was one of those things that it didn't really make that big of a difference. Football ended my senior year and I just went into track, so the timing part was fine, it wasn't a big burden. Usually my grades were better in the fall anyway, in the spring I had too much spare time.
Q: What was your first year of coaching like at Muhlenberg?
SP: It was fun. I think it was eye opening, it was really scary. That was the first time I realized that as a coach there is literally nothing you can do once the game has started. You can tell them all you want, show them all the film, but once they get onto the field there is absolutely nothing you can do. I think the scary part was figuring out I could do it. It didn't take long before I fell in love with it and knew I wanted to do this.
Q: After Muhlenberg you took on a completely different animal at Penn State, working in strength and conditioning.
SP: The thing about Penn State is that it is really big. Everything is big. There were so many people involved in everything. What I did at Muhlenberg, there were maybe 10 people doing just that at Penn State. Muhlenberg had about 1,100 students, then you go to Penn State where it's about 50,000. It was just big, that was my first thought.
Q: You worked at pretty much all levels of football, FBS, FCS, Division II and III. How has that helped you in your career?
SP: I think it's helped because it's broadened my scope of what players can and can't do. I think the one thing it shows is that football doesn't really change. From Division III to FBS, it's all 11 guys on a side, same size field, same ball, they just move a little faster, are a little bigger. I think it just broadened my horizons and made me a better coach. When you get to the higher levels it's a little easier to rely on athletes, where at some other places you have to do a little more teaching of the techniques and the movement parts of it.
Q: You spent a year at Lock Haven University (Division II in Pennsylvania). They endured a 52-game losing streak that was snapped when you were there. What was that experience like?
SP: That year was awesome in the fact that really was a place where kids loved football. When you got kids out there, basically the whole team was walk-ons. Anyone can say they love football when they're winning and doing well but you got kids out there, they hadn't won a game, nobody on the team had ever won a college game. It just showed that even through all of that, for those kids to show up and work as hard as they did it just showed what football can bring to people's lives. And not just winning, what football can mean.
Q: After your time at Lock Haven, you spent two years at Lenoir-Rhyne. Your first year you went to the title game, talk about getting to the Division II final and what those two years were like?
SP: That was a lot of fun. We actually lost our first game of the season, we fumbled the ball seven times and lost by two points in the opener and then we won 13-straight. There is nothing like playoff football. Nothing like playing a game on a Saturday against somebody you really have no connection with and then win the game. Your first thought is to check and see who we play next. Then you get the film in and start working on that team. That was the most fun part of it, the brand newness every week. The national championship game was awesome. The kids had a great time that whole week. The Division II committee did a great job. It was an awesome experience. I wish the game had gone a little better, but the one cool thing was I was coaching wide outs, and coaching receivers in a triple option offense isn't usually that rewarding. You're basically a skinny offensive lineman, but one of my wide outs scored two touchdowns in the national championship game, so that was pretty cool.
Q: You've coached both wide receivers and cornerbacks. How does that help you as a coach?
SP: I think it makes you more marketable as a coach. I think it helps you as a coach that you know some of the things they're looking for on the other side of the ball. The year I coached receivers at Bucknell, basically everything I taught them was, if I was playing corner, this is how I'd beat myself. It just helps you become a better coach because you have an idea what the other side of the ball is looking for.
Q: What is your recruiting philosophy?
SP: The number one thing in recruiting for me is honesty. Being honest and up front with kids about who we are and what we are and what we stand for as a program. What they bring to the table, what we like and what we don't like. I think being honest with them about that so nothing comes as a surprise to them. After that you go out and try to find the best kids.
Q: How do you balance between the job and your family?
SP: It's tough at times. Coach Wilder does an awesome job of making sure we have time with our families. So time wise we're not nearly as stressed as a lot of other coaches. He values that so he gives us that time to be with our families. Technology has made it different, now when I'm on the road I can face time my daughter and wife, it's not nearly as bad as it would have been years ago.
Q: What has Brandon Addison, a walk-on transfer from Division II Alderson Broaddus, done to make himself into an all-conference player?
SP: I think the main thing is he worked super hard, and not just out on the field, but in here watching film, and in the classroom. Doing well in the classroom is important because if you're not doing well there it's always in the back of your mind. He's been dedicated to it, he has a lot of confidence in himself and it has paid off.
Q: How do you see the development in your young corners?
SP: They're doing well, there has been improvement across the board. Every guy has gotten better, which is awesome. The big thing is when you lose a huge personality, with Aaron Young graduating, there's a lot of space to fill in meetings and whenever we're together as a group. Their personalities are starting to show more, we're a tight knit group. There has been a lot of competition which is fantastic so I'm excited about the future of that position.
Q: At corner, when you guys get beat, everyone in the stadium is aware. How do you coach your guys?
SP: The first thing to get them to understand is our mistakes are amplified over anyone else on the field. Our big mistakes are touchdowns. A lot of it is for one, getting them to learn to balance. If you're a corner you have to be able to remember what happened, but not dwell on it. I think my personality helps because I'm generally pretty calm and low key. Keeping them calm in those situations is a big thing because everybody in the stadium knows he just messed up. The last thing he needs is me yelling that he just messed up.
Q: What has playing and winning the Popeyes Bahamas bowl done for the program?
SP: It was a justification of the hard work by the players. It showed them the work we put in was worth it. Going back to the year before when we lost to Florida Atlantic and didn't go to a bowl and all that pain it was all worth it in that moment. It was awesome, and a learning experience also with them. Everything was great in going to another country, playing in a bowl game, playing a national TV game. On the recruiting trail, in the same way, it just raises your profile. People notice us a little more now, looking at us more as a legitimate FBS team.
Q: You're a pretty calm guy on the sidelines and on the practice field. How does your coaching style work for you?
SP: A lot of it is based on the position I coach. Coaching corners I like to present myself to the way I want them to play, with calmness. A quiet urgency, just to always be calm and relaxed and enjoy the moment. I think it works because there is already so much pressure at the position. On any given play the scoreboard can change. I tell them to be calm and in the moment and not to let the moment get to you.