An Unexpected Ride on the Fast-Paced College Coaching Carousel

It’s 2 a.m. in the quiet lobby of the Holiday Inn Express off U.S. Highway 75 in Dallas. No one should be up at this hour, but four newly hired coaches are up busily planning their recruiting strategy.

It’s early December, only two months away from National Signing Day. The day when hundreds of the top high school athletes will make their college decisions final.

Former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and some of the first additions to his new coaching staff have no time to spare. Morris was just announced as the 19th head coach of the SMU Mustangs, a team that finished dead last in Division I in 2014.

Joe Craddock, a former graduate assistant with Morris at Clemson, is one of the four men sacrificing sleep on their first day on the job.

“I woke up the next morning at 7 a.m. and was at the school by 8 a.m.,” Craddock said. “We didn’t slow down for the next two weeks.”

Over the next two weeks, Morris, Craddock and the rest of the SMU coaching staff will visit dozens of schools and athletes in and around the Dallas area.

On the job training is a must in this business, as this is Craddock’s first time hitting the recruiting trail as a full-time member of a college coaching staff.

“It was a grind, it was unique, but I had a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
Craddock’s journey to this moment was indirect and unexpected.

His love for football was honed at one of Alabama’s top private school football programs, Briarwood Christian in Birmingham. There, the 5-foot-11 quarterback passed for 6,677 yards, rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 100 touchdowns as a three-year starter.

Craddock led the Lions to the AHSAA Semifinals all three years and brought home the program’s third state championship to end his senior season in 2003.

“Even after we won the state championship, we cried our eyes out,” he said. “We were so close as a unit and we knew that was our final game together.”

Jay Mathews, Craddock’s offensive coordinator at Briarwood, recounts the first time he knew the young quarterback would make a great coach.

“His first drive of his first varsity game he threw a touchdown,” he said. “We had practiced the play all summer and normally throw to one of two receivers. When Joe dropped back and hit a different receiver for the touchdown I asked him how he knew to throw the arrow route. ‘I saw the safeties roll strong side and knew the backside flats were uncovered,’ Craddock said. At that point, I knew he would be special.”

Craddock’s success as a quarterback was just beginning. He signed with Middle Tennessee State only months after the conclusion of his senior season.

He led the Blue Raiders to their third bowl game in program history and accounted for 4011 passing yards and 27 touchdowns during his time in Murfreesboro.

Craddock was the trigger man for one of the nation’s most exciting fast-paced offenses under Blue Raiders’ head coach under Rick Stockstill.

“Joe was a good player for us. He was not the most talented, but he became a really good player because of his work ethic and dedication to the game from a learning standpoint,” Stockstill said. “Those characteristics usually transfer to the coaching profession.”

After a short stint playing professionally in Italy, he returned home to coach at his high school alma mater. Craddock led the Lions to a 25-4 record and the state championship game in two seasons as offensive coordinator.

Following the 2012 season, he was offered a job as an offensive player development coach by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

“When I got the call from Coach Swinney I didn’t know much about Clemson and Coach Morris,” he said. “I was excited to get my first college job. I thought I knew a little bit about football heading up there, but the amount of knowledge I gained just in that first year was unbelievable.”

Over the next three years, Craddock would be promoted to an on-field graduate assistant role and his relationship with offensive coordinator Chad Morris grew.

“I loved having Joe on our staff. I watched him in high school and followed his career at MTSU. He worked my camp one summer and impressed me greatly with his work ethic,” Swinney said. “I hired him to be a graduate assistant for me and he did a great job for three years. He grew each year and greatly impacted our program during his time here. Chad Morris, just like myself, realized that he was a special young coach.”

As their relationship flourished, so did Morris’ coaching reputation, and by 2011 he would become the highest paid assistant in the country earning $1.3 million per year.

During their years at Clemson, Morris’ offenses were known for their fast-paced attack, consistently leading the country in plays per game.

After a 10-3 finish to the 2014 season, Morris was named the head coach at SMU bringing Craddock with him to be his first offensive coordinator.

“I essentially got my Master’s or PhD in football during my time at Clemson,” Craddock said.

Despite an indirect journey to Dallas, Craddock is the third-youngest offensive coordinator and one of the most inexperienced in major college football, but that doesn’t phase him.

“Coach Morris and I know what Coach Swinney brought to Clemson and we are ready to bring that to Dallas,” he said. “We want to bring a family mentality. We will be a true family and live it everyday.”

Craddock and Morris join a long list of successful high school coaches to make the jump to college and he still considers his high school coach, Fred Yancey, his biggest mentor.

“He is everything you want to be as a man,” he said. “Coach Yancey told me one time that we wouldn’t know if we had a winning season at Briarwood until 10 years down the road. I’ll never forget that.”

It’s now mid February, three weeks after National Signing Day. Deep in the heart of Dallas, a first-time head coach and offensive coordinator are once again working long hours. Though the journey was indirect and unexpected, Craddock wouldn’t have it any other way.

What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

Paul Graham writing in his January 2015 essay:

Few people know so early or so certainly what they want to work on. But talking to my father reminded me of a heuristic the rest of us can use. If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for.

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. When I was in college I used to write papers for my friends. It was quite interesting to write a paper for a class I wasn’t taking. Plus they were always so relieved.

What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul, as usual, hits the nail on the head in this essay.

I love the way that he tells the story of his father. His father was a mathematician and loved every minute of it.

Math certainly isn’t my strong suit, but you get his point.

What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you? — I would even take this a step further. What seems like work to other people that you would even do for free?

Granted, you should never short sell yourself or your skills, but if you would do it for free, it’s an amazing feeling to be compensated for your work.

I brush shoulders with over 36,000 students every single day on campus. There is a crisis, an education crisis. I don’t know exact numbers, but I would be willing to bet that a large number of these individuals have no clue what they want to do for a living.

I’m not saying you have to have your entire life figured out at 18, but you should have an idea.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a career choice, encourage them to ask this simple question — What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Do that.

That for me is writing. Like Paul, I love writing papers. I would do it for free. Of course, I’m not going to write papers for the rest of my life.

Public relations and corporate communications give me a medium to write copy and interface with clients in a professional manner. That’s what I love.

There are way too many people in the world today that hate their careers. Pick something you love, put all you’ve got into it and you will be rewarded.

Gary Vaynerchuk explains this idea in a way that only he can. Just a warning, Gary can be a little vulgar when he gets worked up.



Why do you do what you do?

This is a question I believe we don’t ask ourselves enough.

Ultimately, as Christians, our faith provides an answer to this vague question.

God should be the center of our lives and no matter our calling, no matter our task. He should be the one that drives it all.

In essence, He is the answer to our “why?”.

Martin Luther King Jr. describes what I believe to be the best answer to “why?” in his sermon, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”:

When I was in Montgomery, Alabama, I went to a shoe shop quite often, known as the Gordon Shoe Shop. And there was a fellow in there that used to shine my shoes, and it was just an experience to witness this fellow shining my shoes. He would get that rag, you know, and he could bring music out of it. And I said to myself, “This fellow has a Ph.D. in shoe shining.”

What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill
Be a scrub in the valley—but be
The best little scrub on the side of the hill,
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway just be a trail
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or fail—
Be the best of whatever you are.

The answer to “why?” is in who we serve.

Dr. King’s favorite shoe shiner woke up every morning and set out to be the best shoe shiner he could be.

No matter who you are, God has blessed you immensely.

Maybe it’s with a great talent, maybe it’s with a great personalty, maybe it’s with a great mind.

Why waste it today?

Wake up every morning and strive to be the best you can be.

Let all the host of heaven and earth pause and say, “Here lived a great doctor”, “Here lived a great mother.”, “Here lived a great father.”, “Here lived a great teacher.”, “Here lived a great student.”, “Here lived a great friend.”

Dr. King reminds us that no matter our calling, we are God’s children and that is “why?”.

The Supervisor’s Prayer

Lord, when I am wrong, make me willing to change. When I am right, make me easy to live with. So strengthen me that the power of my example will far exceed the authority of my rank.

One of the biggest influences in my life, Dave Ramsey, mentioned this prayer in passing on his radio show several months ago.

Many view Dave simply as a personal financial coach. Although he has made a name for himself as a financial coach, he has made some waves over the past couple years as a leadership coach.

His book, EntreLeadership, teaches those in leadership positions how to be efficient and Godly examples for their team members.

Although I am not a supervisor, I do manage a team of volunteers on a weekly basis at our local church. Every week I have to check myself and make sure that I am being a Godly example to my team members in everything that I do.

Even if you aren’t in a leadership position people still view you as a leader. Whether you stand up for something you believe in or simply show Christ to someone today, you are a leader.

This prayer is for all of us. We are all leaders. No matter the scale, no matter the platform.

Using FaceTime Audio for Podcast Recording

Skype has long been a thorn in the side of podcasters who frequently feature remote guests or co-hosts.

Although there are many alternatives to the Microsoft-owned VOIP client, it is still regarded as the gold standard in podcasting circles.

Several podcasters have turned to Google Hangouts, but many feel that the platform still has packet loss issues that can greatly affect audio quality.

Stephen Hackett, host of The Prompt on 5by5, has done some extensive testing with Apple’s new FaceTime Audio product.

Although FaceTime Audio has been a feature in iOS for several months now, it recently was added to Mac OSX.

When I first heard about FaceTime Audio I was extremely interested. FaceTime Video has always provided amazing quality, in my testing, even over 3G and LTE networks.

Stephen and his co-hosts use a very fool-proof setup that he calls “double-ending”. This technique allows for the highest quality recording possible and isn’t reliant on the overall quality of the Skype call.

Although Stephen and his co-hosts use this technique, he still tested the recorded quality over FaceTime Audio.

His consensus is a bit underwhelming for those looking for a true alternative to Skype.

At this point, I think it’s best to think of FaceTime Audio as a good backup for Skype, but I won’t be moving to it anytime soon.

I wouldn’t write FaceTime Audio off just yet. Although it may not be up to Skype quality, it still offers some advantages including built-in integration with iOS right from the call screen.

Book Review: The Mobile Writer by Julio Ojeda-Zapata

I rarely post book reviews (by rarely I mean “have never”), but seeing as I am trying to revive my blog I decided that this would be something great to share.

Let me be clear, I am not a book nerd. I never have been, but a couple years ago I learned that I love to read. Granted, it took me a while to allow myself to admit that I was actually having fun reading a book, but once I got over that I was golden. Oh, and by a couple years ago, I really mean just over a year ago.

This review is profiling Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s The Mobile Writer, but just as a brief aside, you may be asking: what was the book that got me into reading? I am a bit ashamed to admit it, especially in mixed company, but it was Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks. There. I admitted it. It feels pretty good, until one of you decides to make fun of me for it. Anyway…

As an aspiring writer I have also come to the realization that good writers read about twice as much content as they write. Now, for a long-winded soul like me, that only means I have a ton of reading in my future. I am nowhere near reading twice as much as I write, but this book was a small step in that direction.

Julio Ojeda-Zapta is one of my favorite tech writers that many have never heard of. That is due mainly in part to the fact that he is one of the few tech writers that still writes for a print newspaper. That’s right, some people still get their technology news from dead trees. This was news to me as well (I kid, sort of). I first learned about him from Leo Laporte’s TWiT podcast where Julio has been a guest panelists several times.

Julio has written several technology books including iPad Means Business and Twitter Means Business. His latest book The Mobile Writer is currently only available on the Amazon Kindle store, but he has suggested that print and iBooks versions are coming as well. Although there is no real benefit to reading this as an e-book, I still recommend grabbing the book now from the Kindle Store. Just to clarify, by “no real benefit” I mean features like interactive content or embedded media. I actually really enjoyed reading this book on my iPad Air. Before the Air this wasn’t always the case, but with the reduced size and weight the experience is much better. Plus, this book is almost exclusively mobile-centric, as the title suggests. So it’s just a great experience reading it on a mobile device. Not to mention the e-book is much cheaper than the upcoming print version will be, I’m sure. You can download The Mobile Writer from the Kindle store for just $2.99 (hint, hint: this is a steal).

The Amazon description actually sums the book up fairly well.

Get real writing done with iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Chromebooks, and other mobile hardware (including Microsoft Surface). Learn how top journalists, authors and public-relations professionals write using an array of mobile gadgets. Get recommendations on the best mobile hardware, software (apps!), and accessories.

Julio dives deep into the ends-and-outs of the mobile writing space. That’s one of the things I love about his writing. He can be very exhaustive and informative at times, but I never got bored or overwhelmed.

I must admit, as an avid writer as well as an iPad user, I am very familiar with writing on mobile devices. I actually went into this book thinking that I wouldn’t learn anything. Although I was familiar with many of the topics covered in the book, I actually learned a thing or two.

Julio does an amazing job profiling apps for every single mobile platform that is popular today. He even makes some recommendations for writing apps under Windows and Mac which I found to be a nice surprise.

Although the app recommendations will probably prove very useful to someone new to this space, I loved the “user profiles” that are included. Most of these read like case studies of individuals that are prominent mobile writers. Julio does a fantastic job of profiling users from many different backgrounds.

My favorite user profile was of Patrick Rhone, an author and blogger. I have read several of Patrick’s pieces online before and even listened to his podcast, but I didn’t know about his interesting writing workflow. Not to spoil the book, but Patrick actually does most of his writing from an iPad or an iPhone without a keyboard. That’s right, without a keyboard. He claims that although he is a bit slower on the iOS virtual keyboard it makes him a better writer. Granted, I’m not sure I will ever be able to write a full-length article with just an iPhone, but more power to you Patrick! I still find this to be incredible.

Julio stresses that our mobile devices are some of the best writing environments imaginable and I totally agree. Although I am not going to be tossing my Mac anytime soon, I love writing on my iPad from time to time. Especially with the improvements with the new iPad Air, it’s hard not to sneak off to a coffee shop with just my iPad and my Bluetooth keyboard.

iOS is my platform of choice, but Julio covers other platforms like Android and Chromebooks in-depth.

I found this book to be an extremely quick read. I purchased it right before I came home for Christmas Break and after only two days of reading for an hour or so I finished it. This is a great book if you’re looking for some tech content to read on a road trip or even on the upcoming long weekend.

Final Verdict: 4.5 ♥s out of 5.

There was nothing not to love about this book. It’s cheap, an easy read, and very informative. If I had to pick one thing that I didn’t love it was the lack of media. Maybe I’m used to reading iBooks and other interactive books, but I would have loved some pictures to go along with the app profiles or setup pictures for the user profiles.

After all, this is a book. I’m still a kid, I guess, complaining about the lack of pictures.

For those interested, I am planning on detailing my writing workflow in a future post. Julio actually details my favorite writing app prevalently in the book.

Stay tuned for more book reviews in the future. No guarantees on timing though, I’m a very methodical reader (read: uncommitted).

Oh, by the way, I wrote this entire review on my iPad Air. Using a Bluetooth keyboard, of course.

The Hands of Worship

There I sat. In an unfamiliar church on a Sunday morning for the first time in years. The sanctuary smaller than expected. I was hugging the back wall, in the very last pew, like any good Baptist would do. With every step, the worn hardwood floors of that old balcony creaked.

My eyes scan the room as the service begins. New faces all around. As my eyes continued to wander, I noticed someone. Someone standing in front of the left side of the altar. I continued to observe for a minute and then I realized, she was translating the announcements in sign language. As I continued to watch I noticed the people sitting in the first two pews in front of her. All of them were attentively watching her sign instead of watching the speaker on the stage. Interesting, I thought. This was a first, but a lovely sight. Even those who were deaf could come to church and hear Gods Word.

The service continued and the band started to play. I occasionally peered over to the left side of the sanctuary. Partially because I was distracted, but partially because it was such a great sight. As worship began, I saw something I will never forget.

As we began to sing, almost simultaneously, every person in those front two pews began to raise their hands. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were doing, then it was apparent. They were signing the words to the song. Upon that realization, tears began to well up in my eyes. It was such a beautiful sight.

Fifteen or twenty people worshiping in their own way, worshiping our Lord in the only way they could. They couldn’t sing, but that didn’t matter.

I lose sight of the fact that we all serve the same God on a daily basis. How amazing is it that we can worship the Almighty God every single day?

So, in an unfamiliar church on a Sunday morning for the first time in years, I came in worried about myself. Worried about acceptance. Thinking about everything but Christ, and left with a blessing. A blessing not from a song, a sermon, or a musical performance, but from hands. The hands of worship.

Shade Trees

I once heard an old Southern Baptist preacher tell this story. For the life of me I cant remember his name, but I think about this almost every day.

If you don’t have the God-given blessing of being from the South, first I would like to sincerely apologize, you may not understand the intricate role a shade tree can play on a hot summers day.

Here in Alabama, the temperature can soar upwards of 100 degrees on a July or August afternoon. And let me tell you, this isn’t that dry heat they talk about out in Nevada or Arizona, no sir. This my friends is a heat where the humidity is so high that it might as well be raining outside. So, after a long day of working out in the yard or enjoying a picnic, its about time to seek shelter from the blazing hot sun. Many southerners will attest that the best and sometimes only option is a broad shade tree. Something like a large, time tested, and weathered oak tree.

See, heres the thing. Trees this size are old. If you were to cut it down and count the rings theres no telling how many you would find. We as refugees under its broad shade are just beneficiaries.

More than likely, someone had the forethought to plant the tree that you are sitting under a very long time ago. Way before you were even born or maybe even before your parents were born.

This practice isn’t just found in nature, its applicable to life as well. Listen here. No matter who you are, where you come from, or where you are going, someone did something for you long before you even realized what they were doing. Someone made a sacrifice for you. Someone invested countless hours into your life to make you who you are today.

Think for a second. If we all go back, Im sure someone will pop into our mind.

And just as the individual who planted that oak tree you’re sitting under today may never have the privilege to reap the benefits of their harvest and seek shelter under its shade. The same is true for the person who invested time into your life.

They may have passed on, moved away, or just have been distanced from you for some reason. They were an intricate part of your life, even if you didn’t know it. But they may never be able to sit under the shade tree that you planted.

Your life is the shade tree. Maybe your parents, grandparents, former teacher, or preacher is the one who first planted that tiny little seed.

And maybe, just maybe, your children, your neighbor, your Sunday school classmates, or that person you pass in the office everyday is the one that will reap the benefits of your shade.

This is why we live. To bless others. Don’t ever forget that, and today, take the time to thank that person that planted the seed that eventually grew to be you, if you can. If you cant, share that feeling with someone else. Maybe tell your story, or go plant a seed in someone else’s life.

Love on them. Invest time into their life and then sit back and watch. Maybe you’ll be able to sit under their shade one day.

Use the Day, Never Waste Another Moment

Use the day and never waste another moment. Time is something that we can never get back. In today’s society we measure wealth in money, possessions, or even in popularity. Sure, wealth can be all those things, but want me to tell you who the most successful people are? The most successful people are those that don’t waste the day. They capitalize on every God given moment.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve wasted away more days than I can count, but I’m going to make an effort to never waste another day.

The Paul Bear Bryant Prayer:

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am Exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever.
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not loss – good, not evil.
Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.

We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow. Don’t waste today.