The Texas Longhorns introduced new head football coach Charlie Strong during a Monday morning press conference and while Strong was clearly less than comfortable with his prepared opening statement, he quickly hit his stride and spoke for close to 40 minutes, coming back repeatedly to the need for toughness in the program.
"Your team has to be built on toughness," he said at one point. "And that starts in the weight room."
Strong did, however, begin his statements by jokingly saying that he hoped the cold weather that he brought with him would keep the media away, a clear reference to his reticence to spend time with aspects unrelated to football.
Later, when asked a tough question about not appearing to be the first choice for the Longhorns in the coaching search, Strong was good natured instead of disrespected.
"I could have been the 15th choice and would still be so happy to be the head football coach here," Strong said with a smile.
More relevant to the future was his message for players -- "Get your degree, win games, and leave a better person."
That will happen without Strong feeling pressure from former head coach Mack Brown potentially looking over his shoulder. While Strong made sure to tell Brown that he's always welcome around the program, he was adamant that it's his program now. And Strong said that Brown told him to be himself.
Strong isn't feeling the pressure of being in the spotlight at Texas, either. By surrounding himself with the right people, the right assistants and support staff, he said that there's no reason to feel pressure when you're prepared.
By the end of his first meeting with the media in Austin, it was easy to feel like the talk about Strong being unpolished and surly with the media is rather overblown -- when he wants to be engaging, he can be, and his sincerity and straight forward nature both hurt and benefit him depending on the circumstances.
In other words, Strong is as good with the media as he wants to be. If he wants to engage members of the media and boosters, he can do so -- he wouldn't be a strong recruiter otherwise. He's passionate about his job, seems to truly believe in helping players grow as they come through his program, and understands the toughness that it takes to be successful at the highest levels of college football, as evidenced by the two national titles he helped bring to Florida as the Gators defensive coordinator.
So, to the extent that he's unwilling to deal with certain requirements of his job, it will be up to athletic director Steve Patterson to shield him from it and for the Longhorn Network to adjust their expectations accordingly, something that shouldn't be a problem because the shows involving the head football coach are a value add for fans, not programming that moves the needle for major providers who want to have live events on the channel.
Is Strong worried about those responsibilities?
"I'll be able to handle it," he said. "I'm not worried about the responsibilities."
"I was told I'm a football coach first," he had said earlier in the press conference.
Asked about recruiting highly-touted prospects, Strong went into a discussion about how he's not worried about landing four-star prospects or five-star prospects, because recruiting rankings get bounced around by the services based on which schools offer and show interest, citing the case of Teddy Bridgewater dropping from a five-star prospect to a four-star prospect after committing to Louisville. Instead of concerning himself with rankings, Strong is worried about finding the right football players and developing them into tough athletes.
Doing that will start out in Texas, as Strong promised that he and his staff will recruit with fire and passion, devoted to making Austin the state capital of football in the state of Texas. Cherry picking players from Florida will come second to closing down the borders of the state and making sure that Texas high school coaches and players know that Texas is their program.
"I want the best players," Strong said. "Wherever they are, I want to go get 'em. But we have to control this state."
Strong was not willing to talk about which members of the Louisville staff will come with him to Texas, as he's not yet met with the current Longhorns coaching staff on Monday or Tuesday as he begins the vetting process and decides which current coaches on the stay he may retain.
Obviously, the most important hire will be the new offensive coordinator. Asked about his preferences for an offense, Strong said that he wants an up-tempo attack that can be aggressive, but noted that it still comes down to being physically tough and able to run the football, something that the program has to work to develop.
Strong promised that his team will be hard-nosed and fun to watch, that fans will like what they see.
In 237 days, the Longhorns will take the field for the first time under Strong and provide some perspective on those promises, which include the understanding that "it's all about wining championships."