Towson Football HC Rob Ambrose: Tigers’ No. 1 Priority Is Staying On Track Academically

Towson head football coach Rob Ambrose says that though his players have been adjusting to virtual classes, there have been struggles in getting used to their new reality.

On March 10, Harvard University announced that the rest of the spring semester would be held online. Shortly after, most universities and schools followed suit and moved the rest of the spring semester online. Since most students had become accustomed to their schedule of going to classes in person, online classes present some challenges.

Ambrose admitted that some of his players are having a hard time adjusting to virtual learning.

“For them to be successful, you have to be scheduled and manage your time well, to have all of that thrown in their face completely and expected to adjust on the fly,” Ambrose said on Glenn Clark Radio April 14. “Now you have virtual learning and distance teaching. Some of these guys have taken online classes before and are like, ‘I don’t want to do that. That’s not how I work. I need to be in a classroom, I need to be with a teacher,’ and they don’t have that option.”

Ambrose said his No. 1 priority is ensuring his players are adjusting well to their new learning environment.

“Whether the kids are good at it or aren’t good at it, we didn’t have any experience or knowledge in those analytics,” Ambrose said. “So our No. 1 thing every week is academics. We’ve already had a staff meeting Monday morning and then they’re with their players discussing their academic week — anything they need to get done and making sure that they’re all staying on schedule because we are clearly in unprecedented academic territory.”

Ambrose has been with the Tigers for 12 seasons, leading them to six winning seasons and two Colonial Athletic Association championships. But like all coaches around the country, Ambrose is facing some new realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like students, coaches have to adjust and make the best of the situation for the time being.

Coaches across the country are leading virtual meetings so at the very least their players can digest concepts, schemes and more. The Tigers are doing the same thing, and no one knows when they will be able to practice after spring ball was canceled.

“A couple of days a week we have video football,” Ambrose said. “We use the same Zoom, WebEx, all the technology everybody’s using and we’re going through spring football. We’re going through the scripts and the schemes and the technique on film … that we would have been doing on film in the classroom.”

Ambrose has also been inviting guests such as ESPN’s Don Orlovsky and former Towson running back Darius Victor, who played for the XFL’s New York Guardians, to speak at virtual meetings. Ambrose says virtual team meetings tend to limit team building, and guest speakers can help keep everyone on the same page.

“… The challenge of all of this is maintaining that accountability, responsibility and that much caring to people that you can’t be physically in the same room with,” Ambrose said.

With spring ball being canceled, Ambrose cautions that college football teams are already staring at an uphill battle with a quick turnaround possibly looming between the beginning of training and the first game.

“If we can get them back by July 1 and get them back into training, I think I think we can get that done,” Ambrose said. “I still say there’s going to be a massive concern about the amount of injuries that exist.”

“July 1 is our norm. … I’ve got guys who play as freshmen,” Ambrose added. So, if they come in and they’re in here by July, when they go to summer school, they learn a little bit about how to go to school. They learn how to train for camp, and they learn how to train to be successful in college. … Once you start cutting it inside of eight weeks, it’s starting to get a little more dangerous.”

Ambrose also touched on why NFL teams should take a chance on some of his former players, including …

Wide receiver Shane Leatherbury:

“Physically I watched him grow in a way that I’ve barely ever seen. … He was relentless. I have not seen much like the way he attacked his last two years, especially in the offseason. He’s got an incredible brain, understands the game, understands how to read defenses. He’s a contagiously fun teammate. Take speed, talent, gut, brain, and then put fun into it.”

Linebacker Keon Paye:

“Keon Paye has looked like an NFL football player since he was 17 years old. … He has everything you want. He’s got strength, the speed. He’ll hit you. He’s got great hands; he can play either side of the ball. He was recruited by us to play wideout then moved to safety and turned into a four-year starter at outside linebacker.”

Kicker Aidan O’Neill:

“His veins are cold. My favorite is [when] we were playing Rhode Island. We needed a 50-yarder to win it. He kicked it, made it, but the right guard jumped. We backed it up to the 55, and he would’ve made the second one from about 65.”

Tight end Chris Clark:

“He had a rough road, but he really started to figure it out. A couple injuries his senior year made him less screamingly excitable to the open eye of a fan. But for the guys on the field, when that kid is healthy, he’s one of the best in the country and he’s been getting healthier as time has progressed. … If he gets into camp, he’s going to surprise a lot of people.”

For more from Ambrose, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: ENP Photography