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Ryan Jones

Newly hired Tulane football head coach Curtis Johnson didn’twait long to begin recruiting for the Green Wave. In fact, Johnsondidn’t even wait until the end of his introductory Wilson Centerpress conference on Monday. Wearing an NCAA championship ring onone hand and a Super Bowl ring on the other, the Saints widereceivers coach invited his prot?©g?©s up to the stage, a few of whomWave fans might recognize – Saints stars Marques Colston, RobertMeachem and Lance Moore.

Johnson, who inherits the daunting task of rebuilding a 2-10program that has not received a bowl bid since 2002, said hecouldn’t wait to bring that same success Uptown.

“I’ve had a winning tradition at every level,” Johnson said.”I’ve coached on a college team. I’ve coached in the NFL. My wife,Sean, and these guys make me wear these rings. I really don’t liketo wear them. What we’re going to do is we’re going to do our bestas expediently as possible to get these young men a taste of whatwe have … I just want to say, guys, just get ready. You guys aregoing to be champions. We will hold a trophy up.”

Nearly two months into a national coaching search, AthleticDirector Rick Dickson ultimately found his man less than a15-minute drive from campus. Johnson, who said he was offered thejob Sunday, said that the opportunity was well worth the wait.

“This is amazing,” he said, addressing a packed-in conglomerateof family, friends and fans at the press conference. “You couldn’thave dreamed this. I say there is no way I could dream something sogreat as this.”

Johnson arrives at Tulane with 27 years of experience as a widereceiver coach, though he has never served as a coordinator or headcoach. Resume highlights include stops at the University of Miami,from 1996-2005 and the New Orleans Saints from 2006-11. Whilecoaching at the college level, Johnson developed his reputation asa skilled recruiter, famously convincing New Orleans nativeMarshall Faulk to commit to San Diego State. Prominent recruits atMiami included Andre Johnson, Devin Hester and Santana Moss.

“When it comes to recruiting, this is a guy that has recruitedand signed Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Marshall Faulk,” Saints headcoach Sean Payton said. “Arguably the best football players thathave ever left this state have gone with a certain school, but thecommon denominator has been Curtis Johnson.”

Though he admitted bias, Payton dismissed the notion thatJohnson will be hindered by his lack of head coachingexperience.

“It’s silly,” Payton said. “It’s ignorant. Vince Lombardi hadhis first head job somewhere.  All of us have our first head job. This is my first head job.  I think it’s silly, and there are alot of head coaches who have been prior head coaches who were hiredbased on their experience.”

Johnson, the first black head coach in Green Wave history, willremain with the Saints through the NFL postseason, though he willbegin assembling a coaching staff and contacting recruits at Tulaneimmediately. He plans to implement a fast-paced offense and anaggressive defense, similar to what defensive coordinator GreggWilliams runs with the Saints.

In his opening remarks, Dickson said that Johnson met all of thecriteria the university sought in its next head coach. When askedif he had offered any other coach the position, Dickson saidJohnson was “the only one offered a contract.”

“We said it would be somebody that had great training, greatengagement, participation and contribution to high-tempo, upscaleoffense,” Dickson said. “We said we would love to find someone, ifthey meet all those criteria, that has New Orleans ties. I think wefound that person.”

Johnson said he met with the team before the meeting, tellingthem that he would work his hardest to ensure the current playersenjoyed on-the-field success. Redshirt junior quarterback RyanGriffin said he thought the speech invigorated the squad.

“We now have a face and a name,” Griffin said to TheTimes-Picayune. “It’s not just that limbo period, which was kind ofweird. Just how he addressed the team and his attitude, it’s reallyexciting.”

Fan reaction to the hire was mostly positive. Dan Hurley, a 1954graduate of Tulane Law School, said he was understanding of thetime Tulane took before finally deciding on Johnson.

“You have so many factors that go into that decision,” Hurleysaid. “A lot of coaches you might be interested in are invested intheir current schedules. I thought it was a positive move. Theimportant thing is for him to get together a very good staff.”

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