KU cornerback Stewart profits from Perry’s insight
So impressed was cornerback Brandon Stewart about the opportunity to continue his football career at Kansas University, that he committed to KU while on a visit to California last December.
A few days into his first spring with the Jayhawks, Stewart, a 6-foot, 171-pound junior-to-be from Trinity Valley Community College, could not help but wonder if he had made a mistake.
The reason? The intense coaching style of first-year KU cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry, whose constant critiquing at high volume and relentless pace can take some getting used to.
“The first few days, it was really hard and I was like, ‘What’s going on,’ and questioning myself,” admitted Stewart, who figures to have the inside track on one of the starting cornerback spots this fall. “But then you gotta get used to it because you realize he has your best interest and the best interest of this football team on his mind.”
That’s exactly the way Perry sees it, and the former TCU assistant is not afraid to explain the manner in which he believes things should go.
“I’m not gonna change,” admitted Perry in a matter-of-fact tone. “I’ve been this way for 25 years, I’m not mature enough to change. This is what you’re gonna get. It’s worked for me. It’s worked for the teams and kids I’ve coached. So you either buy in or you’re gonna be standing next to me during games.”
It did not take Stewart and the rest of the KU defensive backs long to learn that and the veteran-by-comparison Stewart played a pretty big role in helping his new teammates get it.
“You can’t listen to the way he says it,” Stewart explained. “Just listen to what he says. That’s what will get you through practice every day. We all know he’s aggressive and demanding and he’ll yell, but we’ve been playing football since we were 10. This is nothing new.”
Handling Perry’s coaching style is not solely about dealing with the volume and intensity of it all. Stewart explained that there are a lot of technical things to be gained in the details that sift through the bite.
“The dude knows what he’s talking about,” Stewart said. “And you can lock up any receiver based on what he says.”
Being mature enough to embrace that reality is one thing. Not letting it get to him at times is another. So Stewart does his best to listen, take the criticism, give it all he’s got each rep and use the sometimes haunting sounds of Perry’s voice as motivation. Still, there are moments when he’d rather not hear Perry’s bark.
“Oh yeah, before I go to bed, man,” Stewart said with a chuckle. “I’ll be having nightmares about coach Perry. But I just try to do what he says.”
That last part is the key to the whole thing working. That style of coaching — from all of the KU assistants, not just Perry — is something KU coach David Beaty believes will help KU rebuild from the Big 12 basement into a bowl contender in time, and the key to it all is finding the right players who are mentally tough enough to understand that, scream as they may, these coaches care about them.
“That’s what I told ’em,” Perry said. “It’s just the way we are. That stuff doesn’t have anything to do with athletic ability. You can come to work every day with a smile on your face and murder in your heart. That’s what we’re trying to get ’em to play like.”