by Danny Brewer

The investment game can be tricky. Everyone wants a nice return on their money. Much like the Thoroughbred racing game, Stocks are judged by their past performances. That is exactly why the folks at Middle Tennessee State University have decided to double down in their football Stock market.

MTSU Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium

  Recently it was announced that former Blue Raider standout Brent Stockstill will join father Rick Stockstill’s staff as the wide receivers coach. Having spent the past two seasons on the staffs of Florida Atlantic and South Florida, the younger Stock has gotten his coaching feet wet. Assuming the role of wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Brent will once again toe the Floyd Stadium turf.

  Father and son combinations are nothing new to the college football world. Bobby Bowden, whom the elder Stock played quarterback for, enjoyed having three of his sons on staff and of course Lane Kiffen had father Monte as part of his coaching crew. Make no mistake however, blood was not the deciding factor in this hire, it was all about qualifications.

MTSU Football Coach Rick Stockstill (Photo courtesy of MTSU Sidelines)

  “We went through the interview process with several candidates trying to fill this slot,” says Rick Stockstill. “This was not a slam dunk by any means because we want to do what’s best for the program. Doctor (Sydney) McPhee (university president) and Chris Massaro (athletic director) were both involved in the decision making process. After analyzing it all, Brent was the most qualified.”

  Knowledge of the game, a competitive desire, and of course Middle Tennessee roots will help the younger Stockstill. As the all-time leader for the Blue Raiders in passing yards (12,495), touchdown passes (106), 300-yard passing games (19), 400-yard passing games (3), average passing yards per game (277.7), completions (1,055) and attempts (1,610) his playing credentials cannot be questioned. Of course, great players do not always make great coaches, but in leading the Blue Raiders to four straight bowl game appearances as their signal caller, it is obvious he has a winning mentality.

  “I think Brent’s leadership qualities are a major plus for our program,” says Stockstill of the kid that quarterbacked from 2013-2018. “He is an important piece to our puzzle and I think he can be a major recruiting asset. Most every high school coach in Tennessee will recognize his name and a lot of the players will remember him because it was not that long ago he was making it happen on the field.”  

MTSU’s Brent Stockstill

  The younger Stockstill’s glowing qualifications made him a logical choice, but the older Stockstill’s past performances also perhaps played a factor in the University’s decision making process. For sixteen seasons, the former Florida State honorable mention All-American has guided the Blue Raiders through the sometimes turbulent waters of  mid-major division 1 college football. Forced to play the pay-day games against heavyweights while knocking heads in competitive leagues, the Raiders have rocked their way into eight bowl games and seen their leader be named coach of the year six different times.

  As the years have rolled by since he first strode onto campus back in 2006, Rick Stockstill has learned to adapt to the ever changing climate of college athletics. Rule changes and a landscape that features far more bowl subdivision teams means things are not getting any easier.

  “I think the one-time transfer rule has really changed how you manage your roster”, says the MTSU head coach. “Players can go to a different school and play without having to sit out so that means you always have to be aware there may be players looking for greener grass. That means you can add experienced players or you may lose them. I think it really affects high school players because now as a coach instead of recruiting a kid out of high school, teams are looking at the transfer portal to fill needs.”

  A college head football coach has to wear many hats as these impressionable young men are forging their way into adulthood. One of the things that has helped the head Stock rise in the local market is a commitment to academics. With a full realization that “college” comes in front of the word football, Stockstill has engineered a meteoric rise in graduation rates and grade point average since assuming control of the Blue Raider program.

  “One of the first things we tell our players is you must learn to win off the field before you can learn to win on the field”, says Stockstill. “I have always placed a lot of emphasis on academics because you will live longer than you play football. The day will come when football is over and having an education is what will carry you through the rest of your life. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish academically with our football program.”

  Teaching his team to win off the field was perhaps never more important than during a Covid filled 2020 season. Forced to alter many of their normal methods, the university and Stockstill instituted many innovations in finding a way to play a nine game season. Although the Blue Raiders finished 3-6 overall, three losses were by three points or less. Most importantly however, the Blue Raider roster had zero hospitalizations due to the virus and of course no fatalities. A huge life lesson in dealing with adversity, the head coach was a shining example in leadership.

  “I am disappointed in our record because at the end of the day that is how you are judged,” says Stockstill. “We did finish by winning three of our last five games and if we had played just a little better the record would have been flipped. Not having spring practice or summer workouts really hurt us as we just had no continuity early. I am very proud of our players for how they handled all the changes and challenges of 2020.”

  Recognizing the need for improvement now that the calendar has turned to 2021, the hiring of the younger Stockstill is viewed as a major step for the program. Once hired, a new offensive coordinator is expected to breathe life into a what had become a somewhat predictable offense. Recruiting is in full force and behind the hard-working positive force that is now Stockstill squared, the Blue Raider program has a brighter horizon.

  “I am the forever optimist”, says the veteran football coach. “We were pretty close to having a good record in 2020 and now it is time to turn our focus on moving forward. We will have some new blood on the coaching staff and I am excited about what the future holds for us here at Middle Tennessee State.”  

Danny Brewer is a member of the College Football Writers Association, United States Basketball Writers Association, Turf Publicists of America, a voter in the National  Thoroughbred Racing Association national poll, and has covered Rutherford county high school sports since 1993. He can be contacted via e-mail – sportzbrew@comcast.net