As a college coach, Matt Rhule wasn’t afraid to mix it up

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New Panthers coach Matt Rhule won’t have the benefit of a normal offseason in his first as an NFL head coach.

But based on the way one of his former and current players talk about his approach to practice, he won’t lack for energy.

Via Jourdan Rodrigue of, new Panthers linebacker Tahir Whitehead described Rhule’s enthusiasm as contagious.

“I can’t harp on it enough, he’s a players’ coach,” Whitehead said. “He loves to have fun, he loves to keep guys engaged and he’s innovative in the way he keeps guys engaged.”

One day, that included suiting up. Rhule was the offensive coordinator at Temple when Whitehead played there, and surprised players by showing up wearing pads.

“I can recall one practice, we were about to get ready for warm-ups. And out of nowhere, he comes out with a helmet and shoulder pads on,” Whitehead said. “I remember looking at him like, ‘Dang, this guy is crazy!’ I forget which player he was going up against but I would say he was about twice Matt’s size! And Matt didn’t care. He was like ‘look, come on. We gotta show you guys how to get going . . . We’re going to push the issue.’

“He went out there and just started hitting guys! Got in the middle of the circle, bull-in-the-ring style, and just started going around and butting everybody up. I was like, ‘OK. This is the type of guy you want on your team.’”

Now that he’s 45, it’s doubtful Rhule’s going to square up with any of his players whenever the Panthers convene for any degree of offseason. But that kind of approach is going to be necessary as he enters his rookie year — at a time in which rebuilding a roster isn’t even the main concern.

6 responses to “As a college coach, Matt Rhule wasn’t afraid to mix it up

  1. Last I checked, Championship teams don’t hire players to coach players. They hire coaches to lead the team to victory. Not feeling this guy…could be wrong, have been many times, but just don’t see him mounting to much once his circus plays are found out by the rest of the teams and know how to prepare for him. We shall see, but he’s never produced a championship team anywhere in his career. Fun guys don’t win, structured guys win.

  2. Every former college coach comes in and says the same thing. Most leave the NFL to go back to college with their tails between their legs.

  3. Rhule turned around two really bad programs in short order. And coaching at Baylor couldn’t have been easy but he never showed any stress. I think he could be a great hire. That said, the NFL is a totally different world than college because recruiting isn’t a thing and everybody including the players sees it as a business. He’s going to have to be way more than just a rah-rah guy.

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