- Nov 2, 2011
Very Good interview....
Outstanding article with plenty of important tidbits Matthew! Thank you very much for sharing the article with us. I greatly appreciate it.Let’s travel back in time to December 13th, 2018. Manny Diaz has just been introduced as the Head Coach at Temple University. Less than 90 miles away, Miami commit DT Jason Blissett considers the ramifications of this coaching staff shakeup.
“I was actually really disappointed because I know Coach Diaz was credited with a lot of the success Miami had defensively. Also, he was a big part in my recruitment and just getting to know him and meet him and just see how he runs things - I was happy for him because it is a head coaching job and of course, you have to take that, but at the same time I was really disappointed to see him leave Miami because I wanted to play for him.”
Only a few hours after Manny Diaz was introduced as the Head Coach at Temple, Blissett hopped on a plane to Miami for his official visit. The obvious missing piece on this visit was coach Diaz.
“I was still welcomed and loved by the entire coaching staff and the players. Even though he wasn’t there, I still felt at home and still felt a lot of the love from a lot of the guys. It kind of filled the void but at the same time, I would have liked for him to be there. I’m just glad he’s back now.”
With Coach Diaz gone and the program in a downward spiral, other teams pounced on the opportunity to flip Blissett.
“There were a couple of schools that tried to come with coach Diaz leaving. It was all ‘Oh, Miami’s gonna fall apart - it’s not going to be what you think it is, come jump in our ship.’”
As we know now, none of those teams were successful in flipping Blissett. There was one obvious factor as to why.
“What made me decide to stay committed was that coach Simpson was there. That was the main part. coach Simpson had called me either that night or the next morning. He just told me that there is a lot of turnover in college programs and it was a head coaching job. Me, I’m an understanding person. I get it - you have a family you look after. Everybody has dreams and aspirations, so I wasn’t really that upset with coach Diaz. I understood it. I had 100% faith in coach Simpson and what he was going to do with me.”
On December 19, 2018, less than one week after coach Diaz left for Temple, Jason Blissett sent a NLI to the coaching staff down in Miami. Eight days later on December 27th, Miami played Wisconsin in the Pinstripe bowl with Blissett in attendance. Miami played arguably their worst game of the season and was defeated 35-3. Even this was not enough to make Blissett question his decision.
“Teams have their ups and downs. Teams have good games. Teams have bad games. No one is perfect. Wisconsin played a great game. I watched the game, they played great football. We made a lot of mistakes on our end that we are going to correct this year.”
Three days later on December 30th, Mark Richt retired, leaving the Miami head coaching job vacant. This is the time when Blissett seriously reexamined his decision to sign with Miami.
“When coach Richt announced that he was retiring that took me by surprise because I didn’t know anything from anybody and I hadn’t heard from anybody that whole day. I was really nervous what was going to happen with the entire coaching staff. ‘Am I still going to be wanted there?’ I was just really unsure of the whole situation. I was advised by my head coach and people that I trust to actually ask for an appeal of my NLI. To have it voided so I could still be recruited and sign in February. That process never went through because soon coach Diaz was back, so I had the whole process canceled.”
Only hours after coach Richt announced his retirement, coach Diaz was named the new Head Coach. Blissett’s wild, 17-day rollercoaster was finally over, and he could not be happier.
“Now I’m ecstatic because I have always loved coach Diaz. He is a mastermind defensively. Obviously, I’m a defensive player, so that’s everything I’m looking for in a program. I was just over the moon to find out that he was coming back to be my head coach and that he was retaining the defensive staff.”
During the months before he signed, and even for a few months after, Blissett was working hard to create a New York to Miami pipeline. His main targets were Jared Harrison-Hunte and Adisa Isaac. Harrison-Hunte eventually signed with Miami in February.
“Jared is a good friend of mine, and I was personally recruiting Jared and Adisa Isaac. Those were the two I was trying to get down. I didn’t play a big part in recruiting Adam (ElGammal). I was actually surprised to see him get offered and surprised to see him on my visit. We’re friends, we’re from New York so of course, we know each other, but I won’t take credit in playing a big part in recruiting Adam.
“With Jared, I was just letting him know that Miami is where it’s at and that I want to play with him. We gotta stick together, the New York boys, and we can do special things over there. That was my main message to Jared.”
Penn State eventually won out in the end for Isaac, but Miami was right there until the end.
“He even told me after he made his final decision and he signed that it was neck and neck between the two. He just felt that the better decision for him was Penn State. I’m not mad at him for it. Everybody feels at home somewhere else, and they have their own home. He did tell me it was really close.”
Less than a month after signing day, Blissett took one final hit. Miami’s defensive line coach, Simpson, left the Canes for the same job with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I was probably the most upset throughout this whole process when coach Simpson left. Not mad at coach Simpson, just upset at the fact that I won’t be coached by him. From day one, he stepped into my school, even though Paradise Camp, I’ve always felt a special connection to coach Simpson. He’s always thought highly of me and been honest with me.
“Really throughout the whole process, words can’t describe the relationship that he and I had. At least the relationship I experienced. To see him go was really disheartening. I was looking forward to playing for him but of course when the NFL calls you can’t say no. I wasn’t mad at him; I’m really happy for him. I hope he does great things with the Falcons, but I was sad to see him go.”
Shortly after the Jess Simpson news broke, coach Todd Stroud was named as his successor. Blissett and Stroud have a good relationship, but it can not compare to what he and Simpson built throughout the recruiting process.
“Given that they’ve started spring workouts, scrimmages, practices, and things like that I’m not going to say that we talk every day. Honestly, we don’t talk that often. I’ve had some conversations with coach Stroud, and I’m also looking forward to playing with him. His reputation precedes him as well.
“Also, he comes with high regards from coach Simpson and coach Diaz and they tell me that I’m going to look forward to playing for him. Also, that he’s a great coach and he’s going to be a perfect fit at Miami. He has a previous relationship with coach Diaz as well. I was looking forward to playing for coach Simpson, but I can see coach Stroud and I doing special things in the near future.”
One coach that Blissett has had plenty of contact with is strength and conditioning coach, David Feeley.
“I actually knew coach Feeley before he came to Miami. When he was at Temple, I had a couple of encounters with him. He was also good friends with my friend Ifeanyi (Maijeh) who is at the University of Temple playing football. They sent us a workout a couple of months ago, and I’ve been on that since then. No meal plan or anything but I’ve been working out a lot. Doing the things they want.
“His big thing is just make sure I come in shape and ready to run and be flexible. Those are the key things I’ve been focusing on. I love coach Feeley, I know him well. High energy guy, everybody loves him. He can connect with players. He brings the energy needed at Miami. From what I’ve heard, the players love him, and I’m looking forward to being coached by him as well.”
It was important for Blissett to get into coach Feeley’s program as soon as possible for many reasons, one of those being the transition from a two-way athlete to a full-time defensive tackle.
“What most people don’t know was that, during my last season, I played running back, tight end, and all that. That actually slimmed me down a lot more than what I thought I was playing at. Last season I was actually playing at 260-263. At this point now, after going through Miami workouts, I’ve come to find that I’ve grown bigger and stronger, while still remaining fast, twitchy, flexible and things like that. I feel the same way that I did during the season, just bigger.
“I’m not a strength and conditioning guy myself. I don’t specialize in that area, but I would think that’s impressive. To stay as fast and mobile as I am while growing at least 20-25 pounds and a half inch or two. I’m excited for the season.”
With basketball being the sport of choice in New York, most of the athletes Blissett played against were simply overmatched. This is why Blissett is eager to face elite competition day in and day out down in Miami.
“In high school, just demographically it was a little bit weird for me to be there. I will say that I was the best player on the team and I completely dominated anybody in front of me in practices it was just so easy for me. Coming to Miami, I’m excited for the level of the competition day in and day out with my teammates. I’m just looking forward to building relationships with them and being surrounded by people who want to win as much as I do.”
While Blissett is excited to get down to Miami, there is one thing he will miss about living in New York.
“Probably what I’m going to miss the most is saying that I represent New York. I remember when Rutgers was recruiting me their big thing was that it would be important to represent New York close to home and I would still be a New York boy because it’s not far. Going all the way to Miami, it’s hard to maintain that connection with people in New York and really represent New York. even though I feel I’ll represent New York every way I can when I’m down there. That’s probably what I’ll miss the most.”
Blissett is coming to Miami ready to make a name for himself and has lofty goals for his freshman season.
“Freshman All-American. That’s probably the main goal I want to receive. Just be recognized as one of the best freshmen in the country and for that to be a jumping off point.”
Blissett and the other New York Canes are still finishing up high school so they will not arrive in Miami until late June and they are looking forward to showing Miami what New York is all about.
“I’m just excited to bring New York to Miami. That’s all I can say pretty much.”