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With only two years of coaching experience, former Alabama State wide receiver Reggie Barlow is head coach at his alma mater.
AP photo by David Bundy
With only two years of coaching experience, former Alabama State wide receiver Reggie Barlow is head coach at his alma mater.

Not fretting over inexperience
Alabama State's young Barlow
ready to lead his alma mater

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Reggie Barlow knows the subject will come up, because it almost always does.

With only two years of coaching experience, Alabama State's new football coach understands there are skeptics who wonder if he's ready for the top job at his alma mater.

His response: Experience doesn't always translate into wins, or inexperience into losses. He cites his own former NFL coaches who have gotten head coaching jobs at young ages, like Jon Gruden (Oakland, Tampa) and first-year bosses Lane Kiffin (Raiders) and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers).

"I've seen guys who have coached a long time in bigtime Division I ball and finally get their head coaching opportunity and they're not successful," said Barlow, who spent eight years as a return man and receiver in the NFL. "What does experience get you? It doesn't always mean you're going to be good."

And inexperience? "Doesn't mean you're always going to be bad."

Dressed comfortably in jeans and a Minnesota Vikings golf shirt on a recent afternoon, the 34-year-old Barlow hardly seems daunted by the challenges he faces with the Hornets.

He wasn't officially promoted until May 4 after Charlie Coe left for an assistant coaching position with the Raiders. Barlow served as interim coach for the final two weeks of spring practice.

The 1995 ASU graduate spent the last two years as quarterbacks coach, working with current Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson. He was moving to receivers coach this season with Coe taking over the quarterbacks.

Instead, he got a huge promotion. University officials were so sold on him that they didn't even interview anyone else.

"You're learning every year when you're in the pros," said athletic director Ron Dickerson, a former ASU and Temple coach. "To say he doesn't have experience per se, I somewhat disagree. You've seen some of the great coaches end up as head coaches either in the pros or the colleges, who didn't even play football.

"In Reggie's case, time will tell. I really feel confident that he'll do a great job."

Barlow isn't exactly starting from scratch. The Hornets return eight starters on offense and seven on defense and Coe won two division titles in four years.

"You're talking about a system that was already in place," said Barlow, who still holds ASU career marks for receptions and receiving yards. "I just had to critique it, get it to my liking, build up what he had already set up. That's what I've been able to do so far."

He finished his NFL career ranked among the Top 10 in career punt return average, playing for three teams. He was part of the Buccaneers' Super Bowl championship team in 2001.

"Part of what made me successful as a high school and college player and to be able to make it in the NFL was three unwavering things: Hard work, dedication and attention to detail," Barlow said. "Being a head coach, you've got to know X's and O's but there's so much other stuff that you have to have. I draw on those three characteristics that I've lived by my whole life."

He also can lean on coaches he has worked and played for, from ASU's Houston Markham to Gruden. But those names started with a junior high school basketball coach named Leon Moore, who had a "great personality and cared about kids."

"At the time I was like, 'Man, I want to be like him,' " Barlow said. "At that point I realized I had it in me that I could coach, but it wasn't until college where I was like, 'I definitely want to be a coach.' "

In the NFL, he started keeping notes when his coaches were talking, everything from catch phrases to their emphasis on taking care of the small details.

"I just started collecting that stuff when I got into the NFL, because I knew I'd want to use it when I became a coach," Barlow said.

He still keeps that notebook at home, having stopped carrying it back and forth to the office because "I would hate to lose that." He jotted a few of his favorite entries into a thinner notebook he keeps in his computer bag.

  • New offensive coordinator Maurice Harris has been impressed with Barlow's preparation.

    "Off the bat, I noticed that he had a plan, offensively, defensively, special teams," Harris said. "He also made us not just tell him our plan, but show him on paper what we want to do, what we want to accomplish. That tells you right off the bat that he's organized and that he has a vision for this program. I think he's getting off to a very good start."

    Reggie Barlow at a glance

  • Age:34

  • College playing experience:Wide receiver at Alabama State in 1992-95. Holds the school’s all-time records with 133 receptions for 2,596 yards.

  • Pro draft:Picked in the fourth round of the 1996 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

  • Pro experience:Played five seasons with Jacksonville, one with the Oakland Raiders, and two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Owns the Jaguars’ career records for most punt returns (79), most punt return yards (967) and average per return (12.2), as well as single-season records for most punt returns (55 in 1998), most punt return yards (555 in 1998) and average per return (12.9 in 1998).

  • Coaching experience:Alabama State assistant coach (2005-07). Named ASU’s head football coach May 4, 2007.

    - The Associated Press

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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