Ryan Day, Head Coach of The Ohio State University Football program, joins me on the podcast today.
We discussed Coach Day’s incredible career as a coach in the NFL and at The Ohio State University, a former college football player, his incredible spirit, and how to operate in a high-stakes world.
Coach Day is an inspiring, tough, and loving guy. Around him, you get the feeling that “everything’s going to be OK.” And that’s part of the reason why he’s been such a legendary and successful coach.
Coach Day is the type of man who runs toward the gunfire. He said,
If the game is on the line, I want to be in control.”
As you’ll soon see, you’d want him to be in control in a tough situation. But he’s much more than just a tough guy, he’s a loving guy, he’s a brilliant guy, and he respects and cares for everyone around him.
In this episode Michael and Coach Day talked about:
- His definition of betting on yourself
- Taking on massive responsibility
- His college days playing football
- His early days as a college coach
- Coaching in the NFL
- Leading during the pandemic
- Mental toughness and grit
- Doing things the right way
- Dispensing tough love, for the right reasons
- Playing football without fans in the stands
- How Ohio has embraced him and his family
- His advice for his 16-year-old self
- And much more!
Coach Ryan Day: I've always felt like if the game's on the line, I want to be in control. I want to be the one that does it. And I've always liked that, I've relished it. It's something that I think when I get out of coaching, I'm going to have a hard time getting rid of. It takes years off your life, but it's something I've just always loved. And I love when the stakes are high. Maybe it's a sickness, I don't know, but it's something I really enjoy doing.
Michael Redd: Hey everybody, this is Michael Redd. And welcome to the Betting On Yourself podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes, and other top performers, who rose to the top, took success into their own hands and bet on themselves. Today, I'm talking with Ryan Day, head coach of the Ohio State University Football program. In this episode, we talk about Coach Day's incredible career as a coach in the NFL, and at Ohio state university. A former college football player, his incredible spirit, and how to operate in a high stakes world.
Michael Redd: Coach Day is an inspiring, tough and loving guy. Around him, I get the feeling that everything is going to be okay. That's part of the reason why he's been such a legendary and successful coach. I truly cannot wait for you to hear this interview. Here's my conversation with Coach Ryan Day. Coach Ryan Day, thank you for joining the podcast today, honor to have you on the podcast. Now, all the listeners, you may not know this. There's a few things I discovered about Coach Day in the last couple of years. Number one, he is the golf ball, long and straight. He was my teammate a couple of years ago in a golf outing. And yeah, it was impressive to watch. And then number two, he was a B-Baller at one point in his career, in high school.
Coach Ryan Day: Certainly don't have as good as swing as you do, and not even close to. I love the game though. I love to play. Just not that good.
Michael Redd: Well, the jumper look good though, man.
Coach Ryan Day: I can shoot all right. They had enough room. Good critical shot though. I had to be open.
Michael Redd: No. You looked good man. We were the same class, same age, and it's been a pleasure knowing you over the last couple of years, and spending time with you and our families. And the podcast, as you know, is all about bettering yourself. And first question I'll ask you is, what has that meant to you in your life and your career?
Coach Ryan Day: Well, I guess for me, our culture here at Ohio State Football is fight. Fight to be the best version of yourself is what we say. But like the reason I use fight is, because I believe that has been real in my life. Is that you have to fight every day. You have to wake up and fight, and everyone's fighting different things, but it's hard work. And you have to put work into it. And I think we all have physical health. We all have mental health. And we put a lot of thought, and work, and blood, sweat, and tears into our physical health. But sometimes we don't put into the mental health.
Coach Ryan Day: And the thing that I found, I was on a golf cart a few years ago. And a really good golfer, we were sitting there driving, and he knew a little bit about football. We were talking about our daily lives. And I just talked about football, and I talked about recruiting, and how much comes with this job. And he said to me, "So when do you have time for yourself?" And I sat there, and it was one of those moments in your life. And I was like, "You know what? I don't have a lot of time for myself. When I have free time I'm with my family. And we have a pretty big family, and I'm pretty engaged with them." From then on, I really tried to find ways to have time to just ponder, and spend some time on my thoughts. And just think things through. And it's something I've been really focused on, and I think it has helped me. And that's... When you ask better bettering yourself, I'd say that, that's something I've really been thinking about and focused on recently.
Michael Redd: Is there a pivotal moment... Was that, that pivotal moment when you were in the golf cart, you said, "You know what I need? I need to do this."
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. Since I've been head coach at Ohio State. Yeah.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Coach Ryan Day: And there's been different points in my life, where you have to work on different things, but I'd say most recently that was probably it. Yeah.
Michael Redd: Your coaching background spans 20 years. And so how'd you get into coaching? Talk about that whole dynamic.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. I actually did an interview with our university magazine just recently, my wife and I, at the university of New Hampshire. And Chip Kelly and Shaun McDonald were my coaches there. Shaun McDonald was the head coach. Chip Kelly who coached in the NFL in Oregon. And I was the head coach at UCLA. He grew up in my hometown, and we all knew him growing up. And he was the office coordinator. He recruited me to go to the University of New Hampshire. And during that time is when I fell in love with football, it wasn't my first love at all. I loved basketball. That's just what I grew up doing. And it was so much fun. Basketball is easier. You might not agree with that, but it is this, it's just you can go out there, and shoot and have some fun. But in football you don't really play the game a lot.
Coach Ryan Day: You practice a lot. And it's just very physical and there's a lot that goes with that. And I learned to love football at the University of Hampshire when I was there. And then I learned to love coaching. And then I learned to love the game of football. And now it's become my life. Something that I never thought it would, but a lot of it had to do with my experience. And my coaches growing up had such a huge influence on me, making me love the sport. And I don't think I'd be here today without them paving the way for me in loving the sport, loving to compete. And so along the way, I also worked with some great coaches, and that really helped me as well.
Michael Redd: So then you traveled throughout the coaching ranks. I think you were at Boston College at one point. Then you are with the 49ers, and at the Eagles. And then you worked with great coaches, like Chip Kelly along the way. Coach Meyer, along the way. You become an offensive coordinator at Ohio State, assistant head coach. And then all of a sudden coach Meyer, retires, steps aside and hands the keys to you. Talk about that moment, and the responsibility and the weight of that moment.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. There was a lot that went on there. When all of that was happening, you wake up some days and you're like, "Is this really going on?" And not that I never thought that I would be in a situation like this, but it all happened so fast. And then when you sit back and you walk into the Woody, and you see Woody Hayes, and Jim Tressel, or old Bruce, Urban Meyer. And then you see a picture of yourself. You stop and think for a second, like, "Oh my goodness." And then quickly you think about what's at stake. And there's a lot that goes with that.
Coach Ryan Day: And so what I really tried to do was just stay in the moment. We say, when the moment, which means there's nothing you can do about yesterday, it's gone, you can learn from it. And certainly there's nothing you can do about tomorrow, because you're not there yet. So all that's wasted energy. All you can do is try to just maximize today. And when I feel myself get a little overwhelmed with everything that goes on with this job. I just try to dig back into my work, focus on that, because if you just keep stacking good days, tomorrow will be better.
Michael Redd: I heard you one time say, "I like the ball in my hands." And so describe that mindset, because taking the job at Ohio State, like you mentioned, is a massive, massive opportunity and responsibility. You've always wanted the ball in your hands though, on crunch time. And I think you've taken that mentality to coaching now, obviously. Talk about that mindset for the listeners.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. Boy, we could talk about this for a long time. I actually... When I was in the NFL, I have a little presentation I did with the quarterbacks. And the presentation is something I put together, and it was called the Roy Hobbs myth. There's a movie called The Natural. And in The Natural, they talk about how Roy Hobbs hits this glorifying home run to win the baseball game. And that's just an example of how Hollywood has glorified guys playing in clutch moments. But when you really do the studies on guys who have been the most clutch, at best they're at their career average. So whether it's Jordan or LeBron, I don't have all the numbers in front of me, but they're actually less than their career average. But all you can do is sync the level of your training, where some guys they can choke though. In big moments, they can let the moment get too big for them.
Coach Ryan Day: That's a roundabout way to answer your question, in that, I've always felt like if the game's on the line, I want to be in control. I want to be the one that does it. And I've always liked that, I've relished it. I remember growing up, we'd always try to find ways to make things really a part... I do that with my son right now. We did it yesterday. I said, "You have two free throws. If you miss them both, you got to run around the house five times." We make it a big deal, so that he'd feel what that pressure is. And I like that. It's something that, I think when I get out of coaching, I'm going to have a hard time getting rid of. It takes years off your life, but it's something I've just always loved. I love when the stakes are high. And maybe it's a sickness, I don't know. But it's something I really enjoy doing.
Michael Redd: It's not a sickness at all. It's a gift. I still struggle with it, being removed from the game. I like the pressure packed moments. And it's just our makeup and our build. And obviously challenging your son, who I've met a number of times, is that something you challenge the team with, on a consistent basis?
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. Football is funny because there's 120 guys on a team, which is such a huge number. And there's just so much going on, on a consistent basis. And we try to make things as competitive as possible. It's hard in football, because when you're really going, you're tackling, you're bringing people to the ground. The rules are different in a game than typically in practice. Because you don't want to get guys injured, because there's so much at stake. But we try to do it as much as we can. We try to make it as competitive as possible, and put guys in those situations. And they enjoy it. And I think they also know that at Ohio State, the stakes are high every day. And they feel that.
Michael Redd: Your approach to the NFL, and players in the NFL compared to college, what's the difference, what's the similarities to that?
Coach Ryan Day: As you know, in professional sport it's about making a paycheck. It's a job, and it doesn't mean there's not relationships there. But you don't get into that job to help people. You really get into that job to make money and win championships. And that's just the truth. When you get into college coaching, you get into college coaching to make a difference in people's lives. And that's one thing, this year with COVID, that I was really proud of, is that what a crazy year, but it reminded me of why I got into coaching, was to learn life lessons about myself. But also with these guys, help them with life lessons. And I think this year, the amount of adversity that we faced. And the amount of things that our guys overcame, we're going to have better husbands, we're going to have better fathers.
Coach Ryan Day: We just are. These guys are going to do well in life. And that's what this thing is really all about, coaching. And I have to find myself sometimes catching myself, make myself realize that, that's what this is about. If you say you love your players, then you've got to love your players. Thayer Munford asked me in a meal actually today, he says, "Coach, what is your goal?" That caught me off guard, usually the guys don't ask me that. And we talked about that. And I talked about, at Ohio State, my goal really is that when it's all said and done, people can say that we did things first-class. And that I love my players, and has nothing to do with wins and losses. But the wins, and I said this to him, and it really made me think if it's true.
Coach Ryan Day: The only reason I really want to win, is to have an opportunity to do it again next year. And to love the players, and try to help them. And I think, as much as the people of Ohio love to see us win, they also want to see a program that they're proud of and the team that they're proud of. And so again, I just think that, that's what this thing's all about. And that's what college is all about. If you want to go just make a bunch of money and try to win championships, that's the NFL. And a lot of people do it, and there's nothing wrong with that. But this is about recruiting young men who to go to a school, and then shape their lives. And try to help them become the best version of them. And I love that.
Michael Redd: From the time I've known you've talked nothing about loving your players. How challenging was it to lead during this pandemic? You're playing Clemson in the semi-final last year at one point, obviously you exact revenge this year on Clemson. But throughout that timeframe, there was a pandemic and social unrest. And then you have all of those happening in America. How did you lead in this time, and how'd you keep the guys motivated during this time?
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah, it was hard. The hardest thing was being up in front of them, and not knowing what was coming next.
Michael Redd: Right.
Coach Ryan Day: In our world, we're in so much routine. There was no routine. And I think the thing that our guys appreciated was that we told them that it wasn't good. We told them that we don't know what's coming next. We told them that it isn't okay. Because I think everybody wants this. "Oh, it's going to be okay. Everything's going to be great." Well, no, it's not. This is serious stuff, the games are canceled and people are losing their lives. And like you said, there's unrest all over the country right now. Like things aren't good, but we were really honest about it. We talked them through it, "I don't know what's coming tomorrow guys. But whenever it does, we're going to tackle it the best we can."
Coach Ryan Day: And the thing that I shared with our guys when things were really bad was what I believe in life, which is the key to really managing your life as a whole, is that when things are going really, really good, you got to enjoy them. You got to hug your family, go get all you can get and just roll. But when things go bad, you just got to hang on. You just got to manage those times where things get bad. Because eventually if you do, you're going to come back out of it, and things are going to go good again. Because life is a bunch of ups and downs. And we did, we hung on, we just took it one day at a time. And eventually it started to creep back up, all the way till we beat Clemson. That was a very magical night for us, it really was. For so many reasons. And I don't know if this year would have been worth it if we didn't win that game, but it was worth it because we won.
Michael Redd: I talked to you after you lost the Clemson last year, and you weren't too happy. And the team... I'll say this, the mental toughness, the grit to be a voice at last summer social unrest with George Floyd. To come back and be prepared for the season, to have an incredible season all the way to the championship. Just amazing. And it speaks to the leadership at Ohio State, obviously, with Christina now, and now Jean, and obviously yourself. I'm proud to say I'm a Buckeye because of the men.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah, thanks. It was hard. But Christina and Jean were unbelievable. Christina was going through all that stuff before she was even the president here. Her first day hadn't started yet, and she was already in the middle of it. And thank God for Jean and everything he did. And it gave our guys a chance to play, and play safely. I'm really proud of the fact that we followed very strict protocols to keep our guys safe, and it wasn't perfect. It was hard. It was frustrating. It was all the above. But we did things the right way. And I'm proud of that.
Michael Redd: One of the things that you've done to build on what Urban built at Ohio State, is culture. And one of the things I think you hang your hat on is tough love. Talk about that whole concept of tough love.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. It's our motto in our building. So our culture is fight, and our motto is tough love. And tough love is just that, you have to be tough. It's not tough love like, maybe you and I growing up, it's a little different. The way I look at it is-
Michael Redd: Right.
Coach Ryan Day: Because the game of football is tough, life is tough. Everything about it is tough. And anybody who tells you otherwise is setting you up for disappointment. So you have to understand that, but we can also love you. And we're going to love you. And love comes in different ways, shapes and forms. And sometimes that means holding you accountable. Sometimes it means putting our arm around you. Sometimes it means you make a mistake, and we show you that this is the right way to do it. We give you another chance. Sometimes it's not giving them another chance. It's all those things that come with being part of a group of 120, college age, young men, who are athletes. But I believe you can. I believe you can compete for national championships, and do things that way, and still have a family that's about love.
Coach Ryan Day: And some of us grew up with different forms of love, with different families. And some had better situations than others. And I think it's part of our job to show young men what love is. We just recently hired more females into our building. It's really important, because I want the guys on our program to see that, first off, how do you handle yourself around females and learn to respect females. And when they see grown men, when they see these grown women in our building, they learn to respect them. And a lot of them do, but it's really good. And I think it's healthy for our guys to see that. So tough love is something that we believe in strongly. It's our motto.
Coach Ryan Day: And I think the guys appreciate that. I know the parents do, during recruiting. I think they like that. They grab onto that, and they appreciate it. They don't want it to be easy. They don't want their kids to just be able to walk all over you, as much as sometimes it seems like they do. They want him to get challenged. And we do that, you know coach Mick and all of our guys here. We're going to [inaudible 00:18:25], but the harder you coach them, the harder you have to love them. You can coach them as hard as you want, if you love them that hard.
Michael Redd: Wow.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. If you don't really want to coach very hard, then you don't really have to love them that hard.
Michael Redd: Wow.
Coach Ryan Day: But that's, I think a really important thing.
Michael Redd: Wow.
Coach Ryan Day: Now you definitely love them. And I know Coach Mick and the whole squad over there. And I just enjoy the culture over there, and the culture has sustained any adversity that the program has gone through. Extraordinary players, but more than that, extraordinary young men. Talk about the season that was. Coming off of hard worker against Alabama, but had an extraordinary year winning the Big 10, again. Just building on what we did last year, talk about the journey that was this past year.
Coach Ryan Day: It started right off... That Clemson game, we got right into match rules and it was hardcore. That score was up on the big screen during match drills. We were playing videos. It was a big deal. And then after our second practice of spring, we got shut down. And then it became a challenge to see what our team was all about without the coaches around, at home. And then we got to the summer, and then they canceled the season. And our guys kept fighting, and it was amazing to see them use their voices. It's something that I've always believed strongly in it. They deserve a voice. And I thought it was well done. It wasn't like they were just going out there and being reckless.
Coach Ryan Day: It was well thought out, Justin Fields, Jonathan Cooper on ESPN. Good Morning America. Just really, really classy way to say that they want an opportunity to play Josh Meyers. It was really good when the season that turned back on again, it was hard to just turn it back on. I use the example of, I grew up in New Hampshire, and when a big snow storm was coming in the middle of the week, you weren't expecting to go to school on the next day, I'll say it was Thursday. Well, if that snow storm didn't come, but we had to go to work that Thursday. There was nobody working. The teachers weren't into it, the kids weren't into it, it was a wasted day. And a little bit of that was going on, the season was canceled. And then all of a sudden you had to turn it back on again.
Coach Ryan Day: And there was an adjustment phase there. And I think that had a lot to do with how we weren't really finishing games. I thought we came out and played pretty early on in the game, but we were early finishing teams in the second half. Our young guys hadn't really been developed, because they didn't have, really a pre-season or a spring practice. But as the season went on, we built a little bit more, a little bit more, we got stronger. Because of all the adversity we hit, we got tougher. And once we finally got to that Clemson game, then it was just something that we just couldn't believe that we had an opportunity to play them again a year later. And it was a great night. And it was just one of those things that you can't really explain. The kids just played really, really well. They played super hard, and proud of that. And we just got to build on that as we move forward, as we head into this spring.
Michael Redd: As you look at the Ohio Stadium, and how hard was it not playing with fans this year, in the building?
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah, that was hard. That was not fun.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Coach Ryan Day: And I felt mostly for the players. I remember the first game, Sevyn banks at a scoop and score for a touchdown against Nebraska. The house would've been coming down. Nothing, no instant gratification, no temporary war for something. That's part of the deal now. When these guys put all this work, they want to feel the crowd. They want to hear the crowd. And they weren't getting that. But I think, maybe as the season went on, they started to get used to it a little bit. But I know they're excited to get back in front of people, they're all show offs.
Michael Redd: How surprised are you and Christina, by the fact that Ohio has embraced you the way it has? We have the best fans in the world. Talk about that experience of being embraced by the Buckeye community.
Coach Ryan Day: It's been great. I know that there's a lot of pride, and a lot of tradition, and a lot of history that goes with this job. And what it means to so many people. Growing up in New England, you wore a Boston Red Sox hat, because that's who you were. And that was the rivalry against the Yankees. And you put that hat on, even to this day, when you go walk around in New England, that's who you are. You're a Red Sox. But it also means a lot more than that. It's the same thing, immediately I noticed with the Buckeyes, when they put that block on that's who they are. And I got that right away, and now that I've been here for a while, I really get it.
Coach Ryan Day: And I appreciate what that means to so many people in this state. And that's really... It's a huge motivator for me, but I also understand the expectations, which are ridiculous. I get it. That's the hardest part of the job. If someone asks me what's the hardest part, it's the expectations. For somebody who is very, very competitive, it always lingers in the back of your mind, but you can't worry about that. You just got to keep moving forward.
Coach Ryan Day: But I do think the people of Ohio do appreciate the fact that things are done in a first-class manner. And our players are doing such a great job in the classroom. They do things the right way. Is everything perfect? No, but we try to do everything we can to uphold that tradition of excellence, of honor, of integrity. And it's not win at all costs. As much as we all want to win, it's not what Ohio State is all about. And [inaudible 00:24:09], and I wear it proudly. And we'll take it one day at a time, and just try to continue to build this thing on all those people that came before us.
Michael Redd: New faces, older faces coming back this year. How excited are you about the upcoming year?
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah, excited. Every year is different. The dynamics are different. Really fortunate to get Chris Olave to come back, Haskell Garrett. Jeremy Ruckert, really talented in a lot of areas. The new quarterback, that will be fun to watch. The idea there is that I'm tired of having quarterbacks play for one year, or maybe a year and a half, and leave to go to the NFL. So really would like to get somebody for, maybe two, three years.
Michael Redd: We just happen to get the best at Ohio State every year, so I guess that's the way it is.
Coach Ryan Day: It comes with the territory here at Ohio State. If you have success here, you're probably going to have an opportunity to be a first round draft pick. And that's great, but it's not great for the Buckeyes.
Michael Redd: Right.
Coach Ryan Day: To have some guys for a few years. And so anyways, the good news would be, with finding a young quarterback, is hopefully they're in the program for two to three years. And no matter how it all shakes out, you have some experience there. And that's the idea. And so we're going to keep building on that. The tough part is you're going to have to live with some growing pains along the way, but I get that. And I think that whoever it is, or however it shakes out, they're going to be in good hands because they have good leaders around them. They have good pieces around them.
Coach Ryan Day: I think on offense, the offensive line, the receivers we got a really good tight end of Jeremy Ruckert. We've really got a bunch of guys at run running back now. We have some good guys surrounding them, so they don't have to do anything extraordinary. They just have to be themselves. And then on defense, I'm really fired up about what's going on there. I think our D-line really looks good right now. We have to find some linebackers, and I think we're doing a great job with our secondary right now. They're going to get better. They missed a lot of reps this past year. So they were a little bit behind going into the spring here. But I like how we're coaching them. I like what we're doing. So it's exciting. And then on special teams we got a fresh look there with the kicker and the punter. So we have Jesse, who's come in from Australia. So, that's going to be interesting. And then we have Jake as our young place kicker. So some new faces in there, but that's college football.
Michael Redd: Now, I speak for Buckeye all of nation. We're excited and just extremely proud of you. A final question from me is, if you had to give any advice to your 16 year old self, what would it be?
Coach Ryan Day: I would say take a deep breath, just slow down. I think, maybe when I was that age, everything was going so fast. And I was just going 100 miles an hour, and everything was a fight or a competition, or an argument, or everything... Just going. And that's not always the best. Taking the deep breath, calming down, and just thinking things all the way through is probably decent advice. I don't know if a 60 year old can say that, but probably what I would say.
Michael Redd: Well, Ryan, it's a joy to call you a friend, man. And to watch you do your thing, week in and week out. And then obviously you and your wife are philanthropic, done a lot of work around the community, around the state. Joy to meet you, man, and know you bro, and miss you on the golf course. And I'm sure we'll do that at some point soon too.
Coach Ryan Day: Yeah. Same to you and your family, man. You guys are are awesome for the City of Columbus. So many people respect you guys for what you guys have done. And no, it's an honor to be on here. Anything you ever need brother.
Michael Redd: Thank you, brother.
Coach Ryan Day: Okay.
Michael Redd: Glad you had yourself a fun day. Coach Day is the type of man who runs towards the gunfire. He said, "If the game is on the line, I want to be in control." And trust me, you want him to be in control in a tough situation, but he's much more than just a tough guy. He's a loving guy. He's a brilliant guy. And he respects and cares for everyone around him. You are an inspiration Coach Day. Thank you for coming on the show. You can follow Coach Day on Twitter, @ryandaytime. Thanks for listening, and until next time, I'm Michael Redd, and remember betting on yourself is the secret to your success.
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