There are plenty of reasons I prefer college football to the NFL variety, but if I could only choose one, I’d point to this great story about Chris Ault.
The birthplace of the Pistol Offense is a carpeted, 10-foot-by-30-foot stretch in the front of the Nevada football locker room that has probably been walked over a million times in the past eight years. One morning in the spring of 2005, Wolf Pack head coach Chris Ault — coming off a 5-7 season — led his running backs coach Jim Mastro and three other Nevada assistants with him from their coaching offices down a flight of stairs at 6:30 a.m. to the ground floor of the Wolf Pack football building.
Ault had an idea, an idea that less than a decade later has had a profound influence not just on college football, but the NFL as well. What grew from a six-hour session that began that morning in Reno a few weeks before the start of spring ball has had an impact that has even helped spark the San Francisco 49ers and their young standout quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a Super Bowl run.
“I was disgusted with our run game,” Ault recalled to CBS on Wednesday morning. “I felt our football program needed an identity. Honestly, it was gonna be a feast or famine with this thing.”
Engineering an entirely new offensive formation/strategy out of necessity due to limited resources was just the first step. The second was finding gold in a raw kid – and adapting the strategy to his talents.
“He was a Wing-T QB in high school, and he threw it side arm,” Ault said. “He had that pitching throw. You could see he had decent speed. We had him in camp. I probably wouldn’t have offered him off film. We didn’t offer him out of camp. But we knew he probably could be a good free safety or wide receiver if he couldn’t play quarterback. He was such a great kid, very attentive. We didn’t know he was getting ready to put his cape on, and it’s now with a big K right in the middle of it.”
Can you imagine a coach in the NFL going out on a limb like that? Nah. Going out on a limb there means taking a chance that what Ault came up with in that six-hour session might work at the next level.
College ball doesn’t have the NFL’s parity. But it more than makes up for that with its diversity. Paul Johnson may be an ass of the first order, but I love that there’s a place in the world for the triple option. Long may all of it run.