With 36 years of NFL experience as a player and coach, Mike Tice knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed at the pro level. After playing 14 seasons at tight end, Tice entered the coaching ranks, where he served as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and as an offensive coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders before retiring from the NFL in 2017. In January, he will return to the sidelines to lead the National Team at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. We caught up with Tice to talk about his expectations for the game and wisdom he has to offer the next generation of players.
What do you hope to bring to the game?
First, we want to be sharp and crisp because we owe it to the kids to be on our game. The staff are not full-time coaches; they are a mixture of former coaches and players that want to give it a whirl. We want to make the week leading up to the game and gameday worth it for everyone.
What advice can you offer guys trying to get to the next level?
I think that the biggest thing I would offer to them is to understand what your assignments are and don’t make mistakes. You are given the athletic ability you have and the chance to shine and succeed, so do not question that. Form good study habits and take good notes. Understand what the coaches ask you to do. That is first and foremost. The second thing is work hard in practice and if you do that and put out and finish plays, the games will be a lot easier for you. The main thing is that you want to have fun. There will be some former players who come in to coach and provide you with their expertise. Learn from them!
What advice would you give to the current upcoming generation of players that you have learned from coaching at the pro level?
Listen. Be a good listener. It’s not that hard. The game is about blocking, catching, tackling and running with the football. Coaches who have done it for a really long time, they have seen it done right and seen it done correctly. Listen to what the coaches have to say and don’t respond when maybe you don’t agree with what he is trying to tell you.
We are currently seeing some QBs being moved around into other positions in the NFL. Since you were a QB in college and transitioned to a tight end, what advice would you give to a player who is asked to play a different position in the pros than they did in college?
I think the biggest thing is if I’m a great athlete and I’m coming out of college and I want to play in NFL and have guys who have been around and see you at a different position, give it chance.
It is extremely tough early on and having never been in a three-point stance, I found that catching the ball was harder than throwing. I had to learn from scratch, but I listened to my coaches and tried to do it the way they told me to.
What do you recommend that the athletes know going into the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to prepare them for the week?
Relax and enjoy the moment. Remember that you are blessed to be picked to be playing in an all-star game. Feel proud about it and enjoy the moment. Just take everything in and try to be a guy that stands out. Don’t make mental mistakes. Show the guys that you can learn.