Every team has its slogan. Something that the players, coaches and fans can rally behind. Something that inspires them and gives the program an identity. It may only be two short and simple words, but the phrase “It’s personal,” is beginning to define Arizona’s new and improved football program.
“It’s all about building personal relationships, and it's all about being personal,” head coach Jedd Fisch said. “That’s everything we're going to do, it's personal … everybody has a different interpretation of what ‘it's personal’ is for them. But for me, it's the relationship that we have and it's the culture we're going to build here … the culture of consistency is critical.”
Arizona held a virtual press conference on Thursday, Jan. 14, that included almost every newly hired assistant coach, including Fisch. The staff has only been together for three and a half weeks but the motto of “it’s personal,” continued to be voiced in almost every question given to the coaching staff on Thursday.
“It's personal. It’s really personal,” defensive backs coach Chuck Cecil said. “I love the fact that [Fisch] is bringing that as a team thing. It is personal and it should be personal.”
It’s easy to effortlessly repeat the words without any context. But what does “it’s personal,” actually mean? How do you take those words and apply them to football? Fisch made it clear that creating personal connections with the people around them is one of the most important aspects of the motto, which is why he has made it a goal for him and his staff to contact every single high school program in the state of Arizona within the next 48 hours. He also hopes to transform those introductory phone calls with those high school coaches into “weekly dialogues.”
“It's very simple to send a letter,” Fisch said. “It's very simple to put out a graphic, it's very simple to throw out a tweet. But if we're going to share our message of it being personal, then it's also very important to be able to personally contact each coach … It's our goal to reach out to as many as we humanly possibly can by phone and then start opening up a weekly dialogue with our coaches, over Zoom, and be able to invite every high school coach, every Wednesday evening, with a little talk from Tucson. What we're going to do is reach every Arizona high school coach and make them see our commitment.”
Carrying out the motto goes well beyond a bunch of phone calls. Fisch has also been very active on social media, particularly on Twitter, where he tweets from his personal account to engage with fans and future recruits in an era where social media is as important as it’s ever been.
“It's 2021, so social media is a huge aspect of our way to communicate,” Fisch said. “It's a critical part of the messaging that we're trying to get across and I don't want to miss out on that opportunity by disregarding the importance of Twitter or Instagram or any of the social media outlets.”
It, of course, isn’t all business with Fisch, who has taken the opportunity to have a little fun with his followers. Fisch has tweeted out several graphics that include everything from a fake lottery ticket, with defensive numbers on it hinting at the hiring of defensive coordinator Don Brown, to an image of his face photoshopped onto the body of Batman with his newly hired linebacker coach Keith Dudzinski’s face photoshopped onto Robin.
“In my mind, it's a way for us to have some fun together,” Fisch said. “I don't need to call up a guy and break a news story, might as well throw it out there and see who can figure it out.”
Fisch’s new form of branding has already made several impacts on the recruiting trail. Not only has the new staff attracted some fresh talent from other schools, but the group has also reeled back several Arizona players who had prematurely decided to leave the team following the dismissal of Kevin Sumlin. That list includes wide receivers Jamarye Joiner, Boobie Curry, Ma’jon Wright and Stanley Berryhill III.
“It was very, very important for us to get in contact with those young men,” wide receivers coach Kevin Cummings said. “This past year has been the craziest year of their life. Dealing with COVID-19 and then obviously a disappointing season, right? It's been a very, very stressful situation for those guys so it was important for us to get in contact with those guys. Let them know what we think is going on. Let them know that we are going to be there for them every single day. Day in and day out, whether it's football, our life, we are going to be there for them … . Once those conversations happened, I think the guys all felt really good about the energy going on and felt good about coming back and being part of this program.”
Convincing any player, let alone half of its wide receiving core, to come back to a program that is currently riding a 12-game losing streak and ending its 2020 season 0-5 is not an easy task. Fisch’s main recruiting pitch? His new coaching staff that is loaded with experience.
“The biggest message I gave those guys was ‘Why leave? What's the value of leaving?,’” Fisch said. “You've got coaches that are coming in that have a ton of experience coaching wide receivers. You've got coaches coming in that are coming in from the NFL, where all these guys want to be and want to go.”
Not only do Fisch and Cummings have experience coaching wide receivers, but so does quarterbacks coach Jimmie Dougherty and offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll.
“If there's one physician that is probably the most flooded with experience, it would be the wide receiver room,” Fisch said. “So if you're a receiver, in my opinion, this is the place you'd want to be.”
Follow Jacob Mennuti on Twitter