Posted January 15th, 2017
SAN MARCOS — When Tom Herman got his first chance to call plays, he had less hair on his head.
For reasons that have been lost through time, the offensive coaches at Texas State kept their heads shaved throughout the 2005 season. So in between scheming game plans and running practices, Bobcats coaches — including Herman, then the team’s first-year offensive coordinator — found time for their haircuts.
“He looked OK. He looked all right with it shaven,” recalled Kent Laster, who was both Herman’s barber and tight ends coach.
Bobcats coach David Bailiff had actually wanted to hire Major Applewhite, not Herman, to run his offense before that 2005 season. But negotiations were scrapped when Applewhite said both San Jose State and Syracuse were offering significantly more money than Texas State. Bailiff’s defensive coordinator, Craig Naivar, recommended Herman, whom he worked with at Sam Houston State. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis recommended Herman as well.
So Bailiff, coming off a 5-6 season, put his faith in Herman, the 30-year-old former Bearkats receivers coach with no play-calling experience.
“I told David, ‘Listen, he is like Major expect he didn’t play football here,’” Davis told the American-Statesman.
Herman needed to revamp a playbook for an offense that scored 25.7 points a game in 2004. His offensive staff took tours to TCU and LSU, and Herman relied on his co-workers’ knowledge of other offensive sets.
Herman, though, was once a graduate assistant at Texas, so the Longhorns and Davis also were vital resources.
“Our offenses were very, very similar from terminology to formations,” said Seguin football coach Travis Bush, who coached Texas State’s receivers that season. “That ’05 Texas team to the ’05 Texas State team were almost identical.”
Texas, of course, went on to win the 2005 national championship. Texas State didn’t fare that badly that season, either.
The Bobcats scored 37.9 points per game, and they put up 31 points against Texas A&M. Led by quarterback Barrick Nealy, Texas State went 11-3 and made the national semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs. The 11 wins were the most since 1982 for a school that was known as Southwest Texas State just two years earlier. Texas State escalated to the FBS level seven years later.
“That ’05 team is what pushed our athletic department and our campus into overdrive to start what we started,” Texas State athletic director Larry Teis said.
Herman spent two seasons in San Marcos before joining Bailiff’s staff at Rice. He left an impression, though. Laster, now the offensive coordinator at Frisco Heritage High, insists he’s been touting Herman’s potential for the better part of a decade.
“I’ve been talking about Tom for almost 10 years, that he was going to be the next guy,” Laster said. “He just needed the opportunity.”
Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a seven-part series about new Texas coach Tom Herman. American-Statesman staff writers Brian Davis and Danny Davis visited each of his previous coaching stops to learn about his journey from becoming a UT graduate assistant in 1999 to the head coach on Nov. 26, 2016.