The Elusive Quest for Perfection
Monday evening with a temperature low of 70 degrees, the players' turned in as they heard the whistle signaling practice was over. As the players' run off the field, clumps of turf shot up from over 100 uniformed men lining in. Defensive Coordinator Rich Nagy confidently steps off the field from a typical day of defensive practice.
During the preseason Nagy amped up the physicality of his defense, they ran harder, critiqued technique and were steady going against their offense. Preseason Nagy's team grew more of an appetite for the game. It is Nagy's ability to see his players' strengths and weaknesses, which provides strength to WMU's defense.
"At the end of the day you have to trust the players you're putting on the field, and they have to trust you as a coach, that you're going to put them in the right spot and be successful," said Nagy.
Defensive end Freddie Bishop, a senior adds, "Coach Nagy brought a new defense, were moving into the 3-4 defense now. It's a really aggressive defense and it's very versatile. It's the perfect defense for our personnel."
After being with Western Michigan for three years, Nagy has proven his eye for talent. He is able to assess a player's natural talent and strongest skills and make them even stronger. Nagy's most recent act was a position change for linebacker Paul Hazel.
"Coach Nagy has helped me a lot. It took a lot of time, and playing defensive end was way different from linebacker. He's opened my vision to the field and opened my vision to the game in general. He opened me up and put me in the best position possible," said Hazel. As Nagy's defensive players point out his knack of ability to see their strengths, Nagy credits his plays to his playmakers.
"When you work with somebody everyday, you start to see the things they're good at, and the things they're not so good at. You're always trying to turn their strengths to make them stronger, and take the weaknesses and try and help turn them into strengths," said Nagy.
Defensive tackle Travonte Boles, a junior, appreciates Nagy's strength of finding his players' best fit, and says he really puts emphasis on why and what they are changing.
"I've never had a coach to really express the importance of the "whys" the reasons why we do certain things, or why we run this play or why where in this type of personnel defense. In the old days it just used to be, were doing this with no explanation for it. Now its more of why so you kind of understand fully everybody's job," said Boles.
Nagy knows his players strengths, but the true test of a great football team is the camaraderie that comes with joining a select few people. By helping his kids' understand his changes on the field, he isn't just making them better athletes, but he is also strengthening the unity of his team. Boles accredits the changes he has seen so early in the season.
"This season has been different for our entire defense, the way we watch film, the way we have our walk troughs, our defensive meetings. Our preparation in itself is something that Coach Nagy takes pride in," says Boles.
Bishop has also seen the changes made early on this season and see's the camaraderie as notable.
"He wants you to know everybody's position, that way everybody is held accountable to each player. You do this so the man next to you can fulfill his job as well. Therefore, it brings a sense of accountability to you and it brings a sense of team because we all are working together. I have to do my job, or the man next to me, my teammate, won't be able to do his," said Bishop.
As the 2012 football season quickly goes by, Nagy emphasizes that his players' have to work on finishing, and strives for a complete game. He emphasizes more on how he expects this change.
"The biggest thing is discipline. If we are disciplined with what we do on the field and really have a passion for what we do, will be successful. I talk to the kids about the same things off the field, if you understand what you want and your discipline as far as going to get it and you have a passion for it, you will achieve your goals," said Nagy.
As seniors Hazel and Bishop reflect on their last year, they elaborate more on what they are doing this season with Coach Nagy to keep focused.
"Dedication. I dedicate myself to this. Me and Paul, it's our last year and I feel like my last year I want to go out strong, every thing I do I do with football in mind," said Bishop.
"I don't want to finish the year and have any regrets. I want to finish knowing that I put my best foot forward and I have no regrets of how I left the field," said Hazel.
Although just recently appointed, Nagy has left an impression on WMU's defense that has just begun to shake things up. His football philosophy is simple, to attack the offense. His plays are aggressive, physical and well disguised. Sounds simple, but in a world that has little room for emotional sentiment, moreover, it is how Coach Nagy creates the opportunity and encourages his kids' talents, while instilling in them their value that plays to the strong sentiment of this game."You can draw up any type of defense in the world and it could be the best defense. But the reality is the things you draw on the board are real people, and they're people that have to execute it and have to do it," continues Nagy, "The quest for perfection is if your chasing and competing, while you are chasing perfection, then things will work themselves out. That's the thing we're trying to instill in them is that you want to chase perfection, knowing that it's never going to be obtainable. But the closer you get to it, the better you're going to be."