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Q & A with Fuente

By Bryan Heater
On April 24, 2012

On December 8, 2011, The University of Memphis introduced Justin Fuente, as the 23rd head coach in the history of Tiger football. A former co-offensive coordinator at Texas Christian University, Fuente came to Memphis to lead the Tigers to the Promised Land.

A renowned "football guy," Fuente plans to leave the losing ways that many have become accustomed to recently in the dust. But, aside from him being Memphis' head football coach, who exactly is Justin Fuente and what is he bringing to the program?  

Daily Helmsman: How has your transition for you and your family been to Memphis?

Justin Fuente: Well, it has been great so far. We are fortunate that our girls are so young that they don't know if we are in Memphis, Chicago or Dallas because they are just four and six months old, so it has been easy on them. We sold our house and got moved here quickly, so it has been a very smooth transition.

 DH: What do you like to do outside of football?

JF: I enjoy spending time with my family, but the two things I enjoy selfishly are I love to play golf and fish. That's two things I've done basically all my life and I'm not great at either one of them, but I really enjoy them and try to find a way to incorporate those into family time.

DH: Memphis is world famous for its barbeque. Have you had a chance to try it?

JF: You have to remember I was here for two months without my wife, so every night I ate out. I gained a lot of weight and ate a lot of good barbeque. I'm a pork ribs guy so I've really enjoyed the best Memphis has to offer.

DH: You are quite a fireball on the practice field. What do you feel like your intensity brings to the team?

JF: There's a level of expectation that we have to work with and a level of practice and preparation intensity you have to have in this game. I'm not like that all the time because I'd drive everyone crazy if I was, but that's the level we have to bring to play and the only way to do that is to practice like that, too.

DH: Where did your football roots start?

JF: I always enjoyed football growing up, but I played basketball and baseball too. My love for football didn't take off until my 10th grade year. Bill Blankenship, who is now the head coach at Tulsa, was my high school coach and I was his first quarterback and he really taught me how to conduct myself and how to play the position. Dick Winder fostered my love for the game at Oklahoma and he was the complete opposite of Bill. Fiery, mean and crusty, and I think the mixture of those two is what really brought out my love for the game.

DH: What do you feel is the best selling point for recruits?

JF: There are a lot of things we can sell here. We have a city that has a lot of culture and a lot of things to do, and you have a chance to be part of a program that's going to build something special. The University and community are ready to support Memphis football financially and emotionally.

DH: How important do you think it is to keep local players here?

JF: I think it's important to keep the right ones here. We're not going to recruit every single kid in Memphis because not all of them fit our system. I want to bring the right kind of kids on this campus to set an example for The University and community on how we are going to do business. Recruiting in your own backyard is important, but we have to be selective too.

DH: What are the biggest obstacles keeping the program from competing for championships?

JF: Obviously, it's the level of expectations for our kids. They have to raise their level of expectations, work ethic, and accountability. Addressing the culture of the team is the biggest thing. There are a lot of external factors, but we have to focus on us first.

DH: What are the biggest challenges facing the team heading into the Big East?

JF: We have a whole season to play before we worry about that. We have a lot of challenges and I don't know if any are specific to the Big East. For us, we are emphasizing work ethic, accountability, and discipline. We have strides we have to make in the weight room. If we take care of those we'll be OK regardless of the league.

DH: To all students and citizens who have no clue who you are, what would you tell them?

JF: I would say I am your football coach and I take that charge very seriously. I am proud to be here and excited to build this program for the community and University the right way. I have the support of the Athletic Department and The University to build this thing the right way and I'm excited for everyone.

DH: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JF: Go Tigers.

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