Calvin Rubles was trying his hardest to learn on the practice field.
Kansas University cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy noticed the senior would glance away for a second during teaching sessions, trying to process all the information that was given to him.
“As a coach, you’re going to find what makes that kid be successful,” Shealy said. “It really challenges you.”
It turned out the solution was a classroom away.
Shealy noticed that during film sessions, Rubles seemed to be putting together all the information he had been taught. Shown visual material, Rubles was picking up concepts much quicker.
“I figure that film is a big key to learning,” Rubles said. “I think it’s something I think every player should use to better themselves, because it’s really powerful.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound cornerback hasn’t stopped pushing himself since.
In the spring and summer, he was one of the most frequent visitors to Shealy’s office for individual meetings to go over film and ask questions.
If he had weights during a day, he’d stop by. Sometimes, he’d call to set up a meeting time. Other times, he’d drop in when he had to be in the football office for another reason.
“When a player conveys that he has questions, and you can help that player understand the answer, you gain more confidence in that player,” Shealy said, “that you have a guy who is seeing the things and willing to ask an intelligent question.”
With help from the video, Rubles said he recognizes wide-receiver routes better. He’s also better able to predict what the wideouts are going to do on a given play.
Rubles was so eager to do extra in the summer that he obtained DVD copies of KU’s 2010 opponents from video coordinator Jeff Love.
The cornerback watched the DVDs in his room at home, then began to report to Shealy some of the tendencies he’d seen.
“You’re excited that he has a hunger about the year,” Shealy said. “He’s been great to work with.”
Shealy has already seen an evolution from Rubles in the fall.
He comes by less for individual meetings, but now is confident enough to bring up his questions in a group film session.
Rubles also appears more relaxed with his teammates.
“Even going back to offseason drills, working with him, sometimes he was just a tense kid,” Shealy said. “I think a lot of it was, he wanted to do good. ... I just needed to, as a coach, convey to him that, ‘Calvin, you are very talented. You don’t need to prove anything to me as an athlete. You just need to prove to yourself and to everybody that you’re going to be a great player.’”
Rubles also admits to being better suited for the new coaching style.
Last season, Rubles was corrected mostly on the field; this year, he gets most of his corrections in the film room.
“You’ve got to have a clear mind when you’re playing,” Rubles said. “If you think too much, bad things will happen.”
Shealy also has been able to connect with Rubles’ past.
In his previous coaching stops, Shealy’s recruiting area included Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas: Rubles’ alma mater.
Berkner’s football coach, Jim Ledford, is a friend of Shealy’s.
“I can sit back and talk to Calvin and say, ‘Now Calvin, I know your coach at Berkner didn’t do that,’” Shealy said. “So you’re kind of able to go back into his background and maybe pull out some things, because you know how he was taught and what was expected of him.
“What happens is, I think players feel some comfort level that you know who they are and where they come from. They feel more comfortable to let down their guard.”
Rubles, who recorded just six tackles in seven games a year ago, is expected to be the Jayhawks’ second starting cornerback alongside senior Chris Harris.
The dedication to film so far has helped him earn that spot at top of the depth chart.
“I think it’s made me a lot better,” Rubles said. “You’ve just got to keep going at it and play faster. It’s made me a lot better than I would be if I didn’t watch video.”