When the University of Akron hired Otis Mounds Jr. to replace Terrell Buckley as cornerbacks coach, his players likely had little idea that a celebrity would coach them.
Everyone who’s seen the Oliver Stone move Any Given Sunday has seen the former Auburn defensive back on screen. They just don’t recognize him.
Yes, the celebrity status is blown up a bit. Although he’s in the film, he’ll forever be mistaken for actor-rapper LL Cool J, who currently stars in NCIS: Los Angeles on CBS (WOIO Channel 19).
“It was by chance in that business,” Mounds said. “I just showed up for and the producers kind of looked at me and looked at him and noticed that we kind of had the same build and the same height and skin complexion, so it just kind of worked out.
“It helped out that I was a former running back in my early days.”
It helps to be able to provide authenticity and Mounds comes across as someone who is pragmatic and rooted in reality.
He’s not a screamer on the field. Thus far, the one striking thing about him is the remarkable calm he shows on the field, acting as teacher, adviser and mentor to his players.
“To me, I think the biggest challenge is just getting the kids to trust me,” Mounds said. “Anytime you’ve got a new guy coming in after a former NFL hall of famer, like Terrell Buckley, obviously kids may look down, but I think I’ve got their attention at this point.”
And how has he done that? Being a father of three helps to show them how to connect life’s dots.
“Just by showing them that it’s about more than football,” Mounds said about how he coaches.
Having played in the Southeastern Conference, arguably college football’s toughest conference, where the Auburn team he played on for coach Terry Bowden produced an undefeated season, earns him respect.
But there’s more to the resume.
Mounds steadily built his credentials. In addition to playing in one of the country’s top Division I football programs, he played professionally in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.
He worked his way from high school coaching to Holmes Community College in Goodman, Miss., from where he came in February.
However, it’s that familiarity with Bowden that might ultimately serve him best. The expectations aren’t unknown.
“I know what he’s looking for as a former player of his, that sense of urgency,” Mounds said. “That part of it I have down. My experiences, where I’ve been as far as the places I’ve coached, I think I bring a sense of urgency as far as the technical part of the game.”
It’s plainly apparent that interest in the UA football program continues to grow. Observers to Saturday’s practice could see at least 300 people in the stands at InfoCision Stadium as roughly 90 high school juniors participated in the Zips’ junior day, the most since Bowden and his staff arrived.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.