|Alum first to lead Spiders football program since 1965|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 19 January 2008 15:03|
On Saturday, all that work earned him a homecoming.
The 47-year-old London was introduced as the new head coach of the Spiders just eight days after Dave Clawson resigned to become the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. London becomes the first former Richmond player to guide the team since Ed Merrick from 1951-65.
``This has always been a job that, had it come open, it would have been the right job,'' London said. He got it on his second try, having interviewed four years ago when Clawson was hired, and said he believes things worked out as they did for a reason.
And the timing was pretty good.
The Spiders advanced to the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA, in 2007, and return nine starters on offense, eight on defense.
During the interview process, the one-time city of Richmond police detective was asked by school president Edward Ayers about the pressure of high expectations.
``Pressure was when I was a Richmond city detective and had to serve a search warrant,'' London said he told Ayers as the room erupted in laughter. ``That's pressure.''
Besides, he said later, he's worked for years to be ready for this opportunity.
``I've been trained for this, I've been in leadership positions all my career and I'm happy about the opportunity to finally get a chance to do it,'' he said.
London was preparing to lead Virginia's defense against Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl when Richmond lost to Appalachian State on television, and he watched. In the game, Richmond fell behind 28-7, rallied to tie it at 35 and ultimately lost, 55-35.
``They showed they had enough character, enough toughness, enough grittiness to hang in there,'' he said during a crowded news conference. ``I was impressed by that. And then when they said most of those guys were coming back, I was even more impressed.''
London was to be introduced later during a timeout at the Spiders home basketball game, and said he would begin meeting with assistant coaches and players on Monday.
Perhaps his most highly regarded former player, Virginia defensive end Chris Long, said London ``will be the first guy to tell you that there is more to life than football. ... He relates to players well and he knows when it is time to talk to you as a human being, as a person, and when to talk to you as a football player.''
Richmond's assistants, who continued recruiting and working after Clawson left to solidify commitments, were recognized by athletic director Jim Miller, who said the coaching change had not cost Richmond any commitments.
London said the style he will employ with the Spiders would operate on an ``'If it ain't broke don't fix it' approach,'' and that was welcome news to several players.
``That was my favorite line,'' said quarterback Eric Ward, who led an offense that set school records for points and touchdowns this season as the Spiders finished 11-3.
``In a situation like this, you'd like to keep it similar,'' Ward said.
Mary - all strong academic schools - will serve him well as he begins looking for players that fit Richmond's stringent standards.
``We want to educate these guys, and we also want to win games,'' he said.
London was surprised to learn that he'll be the first black coach of a major program at Richmond, but said he hopes that he'll quickly come to be viewed ``not by what color I am or anything like that. I just want to be a good football coach.''