Smart people solve complicated situations by simplifying them into step-by-step segments, and the first step is often the most important.
What do you see when you look at this picture? Warning: Derek Dooley thinks your answer says a lot about you.
Derek Dooley understands that.
I don’t know if Derek Dooley is a good football coach, but I know he’s a smart person. He’s easily one of the smarter people I’ve dealt with in more than a decade in this business. Truth be told, he’s at his best when relating football to real-life situations, and the game would be more interesting and more fun if more coaches handled more situations that way.
My point: Dooley knows a freshly painted Pontiac isn’t a Porsche.
Solutions start at step one, and nearly every UT football function starts the same way: players walking from the locker room to the practice field. If they’re headed to the indoor field, the outdoor field, the weight room, the coaches’ offices or the training tables, they’re walking through the locker room door to get there.
Players can’t miss Dooley’s latest catch phrase on their way out of the locker room.
It’s written on the door.
“OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE.”
Wait ... what?
Derek Dooley gazes up toward the Nashville sky. GVX247 assumes he's looking for opportunity.
“You don’t get it, do you?” the coach said to me after Tuesday morning’s practice at Haslam Field.
“Guess not,” I replied.
“I guess you’re a negative person,” Dooley said. “It’s alright. Most people are.”
“I’m a sportswriter,” I replied. “We’re all negative.”
Apparently this epidemic extends well beyond sports media. Apparently I’m in the vast majority of people — “90 percent,” Dooley estimated — who don’t see the sunny side of a situation unless it smacks them in the face.
I saw “OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE.”
Dooley sees “OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE.”
It pains me to print this, but Dooley was right.
Tennessee starting tailback Tauren Poole gazes up toward the Athens, Ga., sky. GVX247 thinks the Volunteers would have fared better against Georgia that day if they'd been looking for NOW HERE, as opposed to NOWHERE.
Upon further review, Rays of Bob Ross sunshine turn one pessimistic word into one optimistic catch phrase.
And some of you thought Dooley was a Derek Downer.
“It’s all how you look at things,” Dooley said. “Any time in life, in football, when things happen to you, you have a choice on how you view it. Some people look at things in a real negative way, alright? ‘The sky is falling. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this. It’s too hard.' Those are the people that look at that phrase and say, ‘Opportunity is nowhere.’
“But the people that have the right attitude and the right outlook — that no matter what happens in a game, no matter what happens on the field, no matter what happens to you in life, they view it as an opportunity to do great things — see, ‘Opportunity is now here.'
“So, of course, that’s what it's for.”
There’s no telling how many people saw the picture of UT’s locker room door Monday, but it was a lot. And a vast majority of them laughed. I laughed.
Dooley turned the tables Tuesday.
The joke was on us.
GVX247 isn't sure what UT quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw is saying to Tyler Bray here, but we like to think he was asking his starter to see that "OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE."
“It was not a mistake,” he said. “It’s designed to make you think. That’s the whole point. Ninety percent of the people look at that, and what do they say? ‘Opportunity is nowhere.’ What we want our people to do is think the way 10 percent of the people do — that this is a great opportunity to do special things. Naturally, you’re going to look at it in a negative way. That’s what most people do when adversity hits. They stick their head down, and they become negative.
“That’s why it reads the way it reads.”
Dooley, as he tends to do, kept going.
“It’s a play on, ‘How do you look at tough things that happen to you?’ — alright?” he said. “You can look at them as a negative — I mean, that’s how most people do it; ‘Ugh, the sky is falling, it’s the end of the world’ — or we say, ‘This is a great opportunity, man.’”
Dooley, as he tends to do, kept going.
“Any time I go up to somebody and I need something from them, my first line is, ‘I’ve got a great opportunity for you,’” he said. “It might be, ‘I’ve got a great opportunity for you. I need to you clean the toilet. Come on! It’ll be great!’ Or it might be, ‘I’ve got a great opportunity for you. I need you to do some work out here on the field. Ya know, you get to get out in the sun, you get to ride around on the tractor. It’s awesome, man!’
“Opportunity. It’s all about opportunity.”
Dooley’s ambitious goal, as he said, is to build a football program from the 10 percent of the population who sees what he sees: “OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE.”
While we can't say for sure, GVX247 has identified this as the most likely moment where Dooley first told Vols defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox that "OPPORTUNITY IS NOW HERE."
Unfortunately for Dooley, it seems the vast majority of Vols NOW HERE see NOWHERE.
The coach recently collected a group of veteran players to start his experiment.
“I wrote on a grease board, ‘Opportunity is ... N-O-W-H-E-R-E,’” Dooley said. “I made a point to have all the letters look the same and close — I didn’t have a door, alright? They walked in one at a time, and I’d say, ‘Hey, (Tauren) Poole, what does that say?’
“He looked (and said), ‘Opportunity’s nowhere.’”
But Dooley’s supposedly an optimist, right?
“OK. Next guy. What does that say? — ‘Uh ... opportunity’s nowhere, coach.’” he said.
“OK. Sit down. Next guy, what does that say? — ‘Opportunity’s nowhere, coach,’” he said.
An optimist would say you have three outs in an inning, right?
“I think we had one guy (who) walked in and said, ‘Opportunity is now here,’” the coach continued. “I said, ‘Thank you, son.’”
“Which player?” GVX247 asked.
“I’m not telling,” Dooley replied.
Dooley discussed the topic after players were made available to media following Tuesday’s practice, but GVX247 adamantly supports something we call the "Media Bump Rule.”
In other words, I found some players outside the complex and asked them whether they were “TEAM NOWHERE” or “TEAM NOW HERE.”
Without getting too specific, “TEAM NOWHERE” had more than six players and “TEAM NOW HERE” had less than one.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox proudly boasted that he was on “TEAM NOW HERE.”
“I was ahead of the game,” he said.
Persistent interrogation ultimately flipped the sheepish switch, though.
“Coach Dooley told me,” Wilcox said. “I cheated.”
Good luck with this “opportunity,” Dooley.
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247