When Derek Dooley leads the Vols on the field at the Georgia Dome on Friday, it will be against a long-time friend and mentor in NC State head coach Tom O’Brien.
The two go way back as O’Brien was an assistant coach on the Virginia staff when Dooley played wide receiver for the Cavaliers from 1987-90. That experience left a strong impression on Dooley as he transitioned into the coaching world himself.
“I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him when I was a player because I knew he was extremely intelligent, he was an outstanding coach schematically and he was a great motivator,” Dooley said. “He was a Marine, he was hard-nosed and tough. I just really admired him.”
Although O’Brien worked with the offensive line with the Cavaliers, Dooley was able to get a unique look at his coaching style through the words of his roommates.
“I roomed with all the offensive linemen so I had a level of respect for him as an outsider, but I also heard all the complaining from the big guys about him,” Dooley said. “Usually, that’s probably good when they are complaining a little bit that he was tough on them.”
Since joining O’Brien among the head coaching ranks, Dooley has had no hesitation to pick up the phone and call him to pick his brain about the game and utilize him as a resource for improvement.
“When I got back into coaching, he has been a real mentor for me,” Dooley said. “I leaned on him a lot when I was at Louisiana Tech because he has had tremendous consistency in all of his teams. That’s what I’ve admired most about him.”
By Nancy Morris