Chicago — By now the story of Paul Chryst and his “journey home” to the University of Wisconsin is a well known and often talked about tale. However, just because a coach is coming back to a place heâ€™s known for most of his life doesnâ€™t mean it will be a good fit.
At the 2015 Big Ten Media Days one thing became very obvious â€” Paul Chryst genuinely loves Wisconsin Badgers football.
That was evident from his opening remarks to the media gathered at McCormick Place.
“And again, being back, thereâ€™s so many great things for me coming back to the University of Wisconsin,” said Chryst. “But the best partÂ of coaching to me always has been working with the players and helping those individuals be the best they can be, andÂ then getting a group of individuals to be the best team that we can be.”
Outside of Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Chrystâ€™s connection to UW is noticeably different than that of any coach in the conference. Not just because the two played and coached at the university before becoming head coaches, but because of how they approach talking about their schools.
Chryst, like Fitzgerald, lights up getting to talk about the university and the program as a whole. All the outside stuff is in the background for them. Get Chryst talking about “what it means” to be a Badger and his demeanor and tone change.
The job of a head coach is often to sell the program they are currently at, but thereâ€™s a difference between selling something and believing in something you are selling. For Chryst it is his authenticity that has helped in the transition period.
Itâ€™s also something players have easily recognized from the moment Chryst came back to campus.
“That resonantes well with the team, it does,” said senior safety Michael Caputo. “A lot of guys see that, you can feel that when he talks about how great he wants us to be this season. Just giving his dose of things…how Wisconsin has been successful in the past. He displays that every time he talks to us. The guys can feel that, you can feel that just by talking to him and his voice. He has a strong connection with this place and we have to uphold the traditions that it has and keep it rolling.”
After two seasons spent with Gary Andersen, the difference in how the two talk about Badgers football and the university as a whole was noticeable. It was also something refreshing to experience.
Few will categorize Chryst as a gregarious individual when publicly speaking, but give him a moment to talk about his players or what UW means to him and he becomes a different person.
Genuine passion for Wisconsin football makes Chryst a unique person to lead this program, or really any program in the country.
While he may not be an exciting or loud guy, the passion for UW is something that stands out even amongst those that have been in the program for four or five years.
Selling UW isnâ€™t a byproduct of the job, it is engrained in who Paul Chryst is. That passion could well translate to the field and on the recruiting trail in a way no other previous coach could do.
Will it equal winning football? Thatâ€™s a different question for a different day. However, for those getting reintroduced to Chryst as a coach, Thursday served as a reminder that he gets what matters most at UW.