His high school coach, Nick Holt, joined The Finsiders to talk about what it was like to coach Tannehill and whether he knew he was destined to play in the NFL.
Due to Holt’s coaching philosophy and Big Spring’s offensive personnel, Tannehill didn’t have too many opportunities to throw in high school. The winged-T offense that he ran emphasized ball control by keeping it on the ground. Holt remembers, though, one of the first times he knew that Tannehill was a special passer. During one of Big Spring’s biggest games, Tannehill dropped back to pass and fired the ball to a receiver running a backside curl.
“It was on such a bullet that you knew there something special was there,” Holt said. “Here’s this kid, 6-foot-3-and-half, I’d seen him really run well, and then here he is throwing this bullet. And he’s almost a straight-A student. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out what this kid was potentially capable of.”
By now, everyone knows that Tannehill didn’t play quarterback for Texas A&M until midway through his junior season. His first action at receiver, however, did not come in College Station. While he was nursing a shoulder injury at Big Spring, Tannehill moved outside to try to help the team.
“He could play, but he couldn’t actually raise his arm up,” Holt said. “He was out busting his tail to try to to turn around the defensive backs. He got so much pride in it. Everything he does, he’s so meticulous.”
Tannehill isn’t the first Big Spring graduate to make it to the NFL. The short list also includes former Miami Hurricanes tight end Bubba Franks, who was a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Green Bay Packers. Though he’s since moved on from the school, Holt said that his experience coaching Tannehill could be used as an example for his current players. Tannehill, too, went through two-a-days in the Texas heat and performed in the same types conditioning drills that Holt puts his players through now.
“It’s a great sense of affirmation for our kids and our parents,” Holt said. “It’s an affirmation that the types of things we do, that kids can do, and what happened to Ryan could be possible.”
The blend of athleticism, size and intelligence that made Tannehill attractive to Jeff Ireland, Holt said, were things he saw in the young quarterback when he coached him.
“All these things on paper that you look for were things that I saw in him,” Holt said. “He was tall. He was strong. He really hadn’t lifted a lot, and in about a year and a half he was power-cleaning close to 300 pounds.”
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