by Danny Brewer
There have been a couple of consistent things for Middle Tennessee State football over the past decade or so. One has been marked in the left-hand column, the other, the head coach.
Since December of 2005, Rick Stockstill has been the leader of the Blue Raider football program. A firmness for fundamentals and excitement for the game has guided the former Florida State quarterback as he has taken the MTSU program from Football Bowl Sub-division infancy to a perennial bowl participant. Four straight post-season appearances and eight trips overall to the bowling alley in thirteen seasons is a solid statement. And now as he prepares to begin his fourteenth season at the Blue Raider helm, Stockstill will stick to those same rock-solid principals.
“This is my 37 th year overall in coaching but I still get just as I excited as I did in my first,” says Stockstill. “I love the competitiveness, I love the players, I love the grind. I am still having fun and love what I do. When you quit enjoying it that means it is time to hang it up.”
Stockstill has made things fun for a lot of players over the years and that connection is one of the things that has contributed to his success. In this day and age of job-hopping in search of the bigger and better deal, he has been a great example of dedication for the young men he mentors. As the sixth longest-tenured coach in college football’s FBS division, Stock has been a rock for MTSU.
“Every year we expect to be good because Stockstill has a system in place that we know works,” says Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris Massaro. “He has created a winning culture here because he cares about the players and the players know he is as solid as they come when it comes to commitment. We want MTSU to always be in the conversation when it comes to conference championships and with him as our leader, we feel like we always can be talked about and in contention every year.”
Since 2016, the Blue Raiders have won more games in league play (16) than any other Conference USA team and are coming off an East division championship in 2018. The 2019 season will, of course, present challenges as record-setting quarterback Brent Stockstill is gone, but the winning expectations are still in place. Finding a way has always been a strength of this six-time coach of the year and he sees this season as much the same.
“You have to play to your strengths and understand what you have in order to be successful,” says Stockstill. “When you get in those critical situations you have to think about your players and not the plays. Every year is different and figuring out what you do best and putting your players in positions to be successful is the key to winning.”
With the college football’s leading active receiver in Ty Lee (213 receptions) returning along with award-winning safeties Reed Blankenship and Jovante Moffatt, Stock has some returning star power. As the August 31 season opener at Michigan looms, the veteran coach is trying to shape his team’s identity.
“We want our identity to be one of toughness with a physical approach,” says Stockstill. “We want to be a hard-nosed team of competitiveness that never quits. As a coach to try and put your players in spots where they understand and take the lead. It starts with the workouts in the winter, carries on through Spring practice and then moves through the summer into pre-season work.”
As the rock of MTSU football prepares this latest edition of Blue Raiders for battle, a reflection on his past 13 seasons in Murfreesboro provides another solid synopsis.
“I feel very fortunate to be here at MTSU,” says Stockstill. “I owe a lot to Chris Massaro and (MTSU President) Dr. McPhee. They have given me this opportunity and I am just trying to make the most of it.”
Middle Tennessee State will host old-time rival Tennessee State in their home opener on September 7.
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