The Texas Tech coaching staff, complete with six former Red Raiders, has returned home.
Sept. 12, 2013
by Britton Drown
LUBBOCK, Texas - The flashbacks arrived in a flood.
It wasn't the instant, or even the first several days after he returned to the Texas Tech campus. They took some time. But when those memories finally hit co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith, they came in an unexpected rush.
Step-by-step, he paced through the south end zone locker room deep inside Jones AT&T Stadium as the team rehearsed its entrance days before the season-opener. In that moment, he could feel games coming back to him.
"I haven't been in there since we played Oklahoma State my senior year," he said recalling his final home game in 2004.
Smith recorded four tackles that day as Texas Tech defeated the Cowboys 31-15 and secured an eventual bid to the Holiday Bowl.
"When I walked in there," Smith continued. "I looked at Kliff [Kingsbury] and the players. Everybody kind of had the same look on their face. We were back home."
A place where he and a staff that includes six fellow Red Raiders return this season under first year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Tommy McVay has seen this transformation before. The talented young quarterback all those years ago was something special. Athletic. Intelligent. The type of prospect that could truly make an impact on the Texas Tech program.
It was a simple inclination pushing McVay to lure Kingsbury from New Braunfels, Texas to Lubbock for the first time as a member of Spike Dykes' coaching staff in 1998. Now, as he reclines in a chair inside the Football Training Facility on a warm September afternoon almost 16 years later, McVay has yet another inclination about the young, now first-year head coach.
"You had a feeling he would reunite the fan base," McVay said. "And he has certainly done that. With the addition of the other players he brought back in here to coach, it has just been a plus. I don't think you could find a better situation."
As the calendar flips to autumn and Texas Tech enters its 2013 season, McVay enters his 17th season with the Texas Tech football program and 16th as the director of Texas Tech football operations. For him, the transformation within the Football Training Facility under the youthful eye of head coach Kliff Kingsbury is something special.
He was there as Kingsbury gave life to the first ever `Air Raid' offense as the quarterback of the most prolific offense to ever hit college football. In the process, he set 39 school records, 13 Big 12 records while recording more than 12,000 passing yards and total offense including 1,000 pass completions.
Not only was he the most productive quarterback Texas Tech had ever seen, but Kingsbury possessed qualities many, including McVay, knew would lead to a career in football well beyond his playing days.
"He was a coach on the field when he was here," McVay said. "He has handled it great. You can tell he spent a lot of time thinking about getting this opportunity."
Now, Kingsbury is set for his first season as the Red Raider head coach. It marks not only his official homecoming, but that of his Red Raider laden coaching staff.
That staff includes co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie who returns for his fourth season with the Red Raiders. Meanwhile, returning to Lubbock for their first season with the Red Raiders are Kevin Curtis (Class of 2002), Trey Haverty (Class of 2004), Eric Morris (Class of 2008) and Mike Smith (Class of 2004).
"I think it means a lot to them," Kingsbury said. "I think this place is special to them. When you are part of this place on the level we were, it stays with you. All of these guys reached out to me, they all had great jobs and were coveted employees where they were. They wanted to come back here, and they know what we can make this place."
For Haverty, Texas Tech has always been a place he envisioned returning to coach. The young special teams and safeties coach returns to the Red Raider sidelines after spending the previous four seasons at TCU. There, he coached the receivers in 2012, and oversaw the development of the safeties in 2011.
"I always knew that if we got the opportunity, we would want to come back," Haverty said.
And so when he received the offer from Kingsbury to return to the South Plains as a member of one of the most energetic coaching staffs in the country, he didn't hesitate at the opportunity.
"Not at all." Haverty said. "We wanted to be back here."
During his playing career, Haverty emerged as one of the top wide receivers in the country earning All-America honors from the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated. Haverty is perhaps most remembered for his performance at the 2004 Holiday Bowl where he hauled in eight passes for 147 yards leading the Red Raiders to a victory over No. 4 California in San Diego.
Now, he is back, and looks to bring that success to Lubbock and Texas Tech once again - this time as a member of the coaching staff.
"We are here to win championships," Haverty said. "And that's it."
For McVay, someone who has seen this coaching staff come full circle in the college football industry, the Texas Tech coaching staff is a unique picture to the world of college football.
One that paints the true colors of loyalty among players and alumni.
"Whenever you are going to be a head coach, you want to surround yourself with good people," McVay said. "Kliff knew them all, and he can trust them. That is very important as a head coach to be able to have the loyalty that these guys bring to him."
Not only does it display loyalty to the university in which they turned in remarkable playing careers, but to the players they now coach on the very field they competed on.
"There is no greater unifying force than loyalty." McVay said. "I think that is probably the biggest thing that will help us grow every day."