Seniors Ben Banogu, LJ Collier, Ridwan Issahaku, and Ty Summers, along with junior Lucas Niang, met with the media Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s bowl game.
“I was blessed to have a coach like Coach Patterson.”
“They made me who I am.”
“He’s preparing guys.”
“Coach P always gets us right.”
The words spoken by Ben Banogu, LJ Collier, Ty Summers, Ridwan Issahaku, and Lucas Niang echo what we all have known for two decades – that Coach Gary Patterson is as good as it gets when it comes to preparing players for success on and off the field. But to hear it spoken by guys who have been in the program for years resonates differently, knowing that they – degree in hand – have bright futures ahead. Futures, that they credit to the coaching and personal development they experienced at TCU.
And it’s not just the players themselves that understand how good Patterson is, even his opponent, Cal coach Justin Wilcox, took time to wax poetic on what Patterson has done at TCU. “We’re excited to play against TCU, one of the premier programs in the country under Coach [Gary] Patterson. We have a ton of respect for them. We’re looking forward to a really hard-fought, tough game come Wednesday. I think it’s — in this day and age, to do what he’s done for the length of time and win as much as he’s won is really impressive. Always had a lot of respect for him and how his teams play. You know you’re always going to get a really well-coached team and a really tough and physical team and it’s been year in and year out. So I think you don’t see that as much anymore with the dynamics of college football. And for somebody to do it that long at that level is very, very impressive.”
One thing that has been evident about Coach P since he first arrived in Fort Worth is how much he truly cares for his players, how he looks at his football program as a family. He has talked about “growing his kids up”, about making sure his players have what they need as opposed to what they want, and spoken at length, with pride, about their accomplishments well past their playing days. Even listening to him introduce the guys that took the mic was a treat. On Ben Banogu: “Not only a great player but a great person. You’ll like talking to him.” He mentioned Niang’s “great family” and spoke of him being “a guy that we got from a long way off that came here, and we’re better because of him.” Ridwan Issahaku and Ty Summers were guys that were credited with earning their degrees, being willing to switch positions, and being team-first guys and all-conference players. And of course LJ, whom he has always seemed to have a special place in his heart for, coming up from a small 1A school and becoming one of the best d-ends in the Big 12. “Five guys that I think not only are good players but also very good people.”
As each player reflected on a season that started with so much promise and ended with a litany of injuries that would make an ER doctor blush, they credited Patterson for keeping the program together and ensuring they would fight until the end. Collier for one, was surprised by what they faced, but not how they responded. “We just came together. We talked about it during the summer. We didn’t know we were going to have so many injuries. Next man up. Just got to go out there and play hard. That shows the recruiting and just how well we’re coached and how well we play.”
Even as the injuries mounted and the players coming in were less and less familiar, the team leader’s never stopped believing in each other or their coach. “There were times where we had freshmen, true freshmen, coming in at linebacker and they were giving us checks. Coach P’s (Patterson) philosophy is next man up. We just lived by it,” Banogu said. Ridwan Issahaku credits Patterson for helping his team stay the course despite early adversity. “It got better and better. A lot of young guys, a lot of new faces. Really kudos to Coach Patterson’s job. Glad we’re here.”
The mentality of the team never changed, according to Ty Summers, not in how they played, how they practiced, or what their goals were. “All of the come-from-behind victories that we’ve had because I feel like ever since I’ve been at TCU, we’ve had at least — one year I think we had five of them. Just the type of teams we’ve had since I’ve been here that have always just rallied, came together, stuck our cleats in the ground and fought back.” It’s how TCU Football is built, and that, too, starts at the top. “ We’re always known for having a bunch of hard-nosed guys that just want to play football. So we also have the mentality of next man up. So whenever there’s constant injuries like we’ve suffered this year, which happens. It happens all the time. It’s football. We know that our second or third-string guys, we’re always putting them in position ready to play. Coach P (Patterson) says the ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, all the same, same level of intensity, attention to detail.”
What works throughout the season seems amplified during bowl prep, according to LJ Collier. The Frogs are downright scary with a month to prepare for an opponent. “That’s why when we make it to bowl games, that’s why we’re scary because we get so much time to prep for our one opponent and really dissect everything, watch film, and just try different things at practice.”
And for those that continue to say that this game won’t mean much to TCU – there has never been a Horned Frogs Football team that didn’t want to win every game they played, and tomorrow is no different. Just ask Ben Banogu. “Sometimes you fight through a lot of things throughout the season, and you can’t let that kind of bring you down or don’t let that help stall the season. I think we did a great job of fighting back and just showing what kind of men we are. I think a lot of times teams kind of just — if they’re not doing well, they kind of throw that season away. But for the seniors and for the young guys that haven’t gotten a chance play in a bowl game, we wanted this more than anything.”
Source: Frogs of War