Derek Peterson and I were recording this week's podcast when the Tre Neal news broke on Twitter. The name was familiar. I recognized it enough to believe he wasn't just a transfer but a pretty good one. If you want a real-time recording of my mental gears turning, go there.
It wasn't until after we were done recording that it fully snapped into place. I interviewed Neal, then a starting safety for the Knights, at the Peach Bowl.
And I came away pretty impressed. Some of his quotes made it into this story about UCF's culture, but now that Neal's a Husker I thought it was worth pulling up the complete transcript from that conversation.
Here it is in Q&A form. Husker fans will likely recognize some of these concepts from reading about them happening at Nebraska over the past few months.
This interview was conducted Dec. 30, 2017, in Atlanta.
What was the first team meeting at UCF like with Scott Frost as the new head coach?
"I try not to get too high, I try not to get too low. I tried to stay mellow through [Frost’s first speech]. I knew he was from Oregon, so I knew he knew what he was doing. I just didn’t know how fast all the guys would trust him. Me personally, I just tried to stay mellow and I wanted to see the results on the field, I wanted to see how they worked with us as coaches."
What about defensive coordinator Erik Chinander? What stood out about his earliest talks with the team?
"We weren't really allowed to wear a lot of sleeves, armbands, high socks, stuff like that [under previous head coach George O'Leary]. [Chinander] was like, ‘listen guys, I don’t care what you wear, I don’t care how long your hair is, I don’t care about any of that. As long as you guys give me 100-percent effort, 100-perent buy in, you can do whatever you want. But I need the effort and the buy in.'
"Once we actually bought in to what he was doing, it was crazy the difference that trust makes. They let you be kids. I think they give you a lot of leeway as far as handling yourself as a young adult. The leeway they gave us kind of built that trust really quickly."
Coach Chinander mentioned "No Fear of Failure" as a team mantra. Is that something you feel has resonated with the team?
"We don’t have no fear of failure. I think that’s some of the issues with society. Kids, even adults, they’re scared to mess up. How can you go 100 percent, give 100 percent effort if you’re afraid to mess up?"
So you prefer the freedom this staff allows for rather than the old-school, hard-line classic football coach mentality?
"[Nick] Saban is one of those hard-pressed guys [and he wins], but as far as the guys that we recruited I didn’t think it matched the personality. My parents are tough nosed. They want me to do things the right way. I’m a ‘yes sir, no sir’ kind of guy, but everybody’s not like that."