10 questions with Duane Akina
When did you know you wanted to become a football coach? I would probably say when I came back from the University of Washington and went back home to Hawaii. I was just working in some odd jobs and I missed the competitiveness of football and being around people that had a common goal.
What is your favorite part about being a football coach? I think my favorite part is the interaction with the players, watching them develop over the years. Not only as people, but also as players, seeing them go through tough times and working their way through them and seeing them be successful in the long run whether it's in the football arena or outside in the working world.
What is your favorite part about coaching at The University of Texas? I think the tremendous tradition here. Also, I like the real family atmosphere that Coach Brown has created here amongst players, staff and the player's family. It is also a place where there are a lot of outstanding players and everybody wants to play and continue to build a great team atmosphere I think it is a real credit to the job that Coach Brown has done here.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? In my life, I would say my family. They have been the glue starting with my wife Donna and then my five children. You find that they're all unique in their own ways and even my professional decisions have been driven around my kids. Early on there were some people that probably thought I was crazy for not taking some of the jobs I could have taken while I was at the University of Hawaii and Arizona. Professionally they made a tremendous amount of sense, but it just wasn't the fit at the right time for my family.
Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching career? The biggest influence in my coaching career was my t-ball coach, who was also my father and, at that time, taught me all of the real principles that you learn about teamwork, being unselfish, sharing, all of those little things. In terms of other coaches that I played for, I would say my high school basketball coach, Bud Scott, who was a fundamentally driven kind of guy. From there, I would say Don James, who taught me about structure, being on time, importance of defense, kicking game. My position coach, Ray Door, was an outstanding coach, a very good teacher and very organized. I still use a lot of his principles in my teachings. I would then say Dick Tomey on how you build teams, how you get people from all over to work together as a common cause. Then, Mack Brown, in terms of how you continue to build winners in a very high-pressure place. He shows how important it is to make sure we in the people service business, care about people.
What has been your proudest moment in coaching? It may have been at this last Thorpe Award. It still catches me off guard. It was really a thoughtful move by Michael, because I know the hoops he had to jump through. I think he really does feel like I made a difference for him to be successful. (Note: Former Longhorn and current Oakland Raider Michael Huff presented Duane Akina with his own Thorpe Award at the 2006 Jim Thorpe Award ceremonies.)
What player(s) that you've coached do you believe got the most out of their ability? I've had numerous guys like Michael Huff, Chris McAllister, Nathan Vasher and Aaron Ross. I say constantly that a lot of people can coach guys like that, but when I walk through and look at a player that has a chance to be a great player like those guys, I feel a sense of urgency to help them develop into great players. There have been numerous players here that have been major players in some great football teams that reached their potential, and that's my job. Phillip Geiger is a tremendous example. When he left here I felt like he was as good of a football player as he could be. I take it personally when I don't feel like I get everything from a player whether it's on or off the field. I think parents and high school coaches are really entrusting those kids in your hands when they come here.
Players are often asked about their pregame routines. Do you have anything special you regularly do just before a game? I like to lie down, close my eyes, turn off the lights and see if I can take a nap before I walk out there. In fact, when I was the offensive coordinator at Arizona, we were playing USC, a big game, and I fell asleep in my office. My son, Kainoa, who usually held my cords, would always come up and knock on the door before we would go. Well, he didn't get back from his Pop Warner game so I slept through pregame. I go out there and our guys are well on their way. We end up beating them 38-7 and I still remember our quarterback saying, 'Coach, maybe you should sleep though pregame more often.'
What do you think you would be doing if you had never gotten into coaching? I've never thought about it because, at that time prior to doing it, I was really wandering. I hadn't found my niche, but once I did I knew it was it. I never really thought about doing anything else. I hear coaches say I can't wait until this day so I can retire. I've got no aspirations of retiring. I would be bored to death because I really think I'm so lucky to be coaching.
Do you have any special talents outside of football or what is your favorite thing to do away from football? Our little league coaches' pitch team went pretty deep into the state championship playoffs this year. I'm pretty proud of that. I'm a pretty good pitcher for any coaches' pitch team, so if they ever need me for that I am up and running.