Dwayne Slay willing to show Texas Tech how to play with his intensity
For more than a decade, Texas Tech fans have packed Jones AT&T Stadium to see the offensive fireworks of Kliff Kingsbury, Wes Welker, Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and many others.
But for one season in 2005, a defensive player was the star of the show.
Former First Team All-American safety Dwayne Slay delivered punishing blows and is arguably the hardest hitter the Big 12 has ever seen. He still holds the conference record for most forced fumbles in a single season with eight.
"In crucial moments, everybody looked at me to make a big play," he said. "I loved that pressure. I loved the challenge and loved the pressure of my guys depending on me to come through in clutch situations."
That’s something the Red Raider faithful wish was still around these days. Texas Tech’s defense is one of the nation’s worst in 2014 through three games, giving up an average of 430 total yards and 295 yards on the ground per game.
"These first few games have been horrific against the run," Slay said. "I know Kliff [Kingsbury] is a great coach and he’s doing everything he can do, but right now those guys have to feel embarrassed."
Less than a week after Texas Tech gave up 438 yards rushing in a 49-28 home loss to Arkansas, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt resigned, citing "personal reasons." But Slay believes coaching isn’t the main reason the defense has struggled.
"They lack leadership and lack any guys with any type of intensity or tenacity," he said. "When I played, I got into my guys’ faces. I just wanted to win, and sometimes it takes that kind of attitude. I may have been an All-American, but those other guys helped me out. They helped me to get in position to make plays and they got into the right gaps and did what they were supposed to do.
"Firing a defensive coordinator matters to a certain extent, but at the end of the day it’s about being a team and working through it."
Intensity and leadership is what Slay brought every time he stepped on the field. Just ask Kansas State.
Texas Tech threw for an astounding 643 yards and five touchdowns against the Wildcats in 2005, but everyone remembers that game for the two hard hits Slay delivered.
He forced a K-State receiver to fumble and later knocked out quarterback Allan Evridge.
Fans still talk about those hits, but what was most important to Slay was how his teammates always came through getting to the ball.
"Every forced fumble that I ever created, we got it back," he said. "There was not one forced fumble that the other team recovered, because our guys were running to the football. That’s just one thing that they need to emphasize now. It’s all just simple things like running to the football and plays will be made."
Texas Tech has lost the turnover battle in its last 11 games. If the defense wants to learn how to get the ball more, Slay is back in Lubbock and willing to show them how to play with his intensity.
"I texted Kliff after hearing the news about the defensive coordinator getting fired," he said. "If Kliff and the guys wanted to reach out to me, I’m open to go up there and help out. I know what I could bring to the table with the mentality that I have. If the opportunity presented itself, I’d love to be a part of Texas Tech football. I’d love to do it."
Kingsbury and several other former Texas Tech players are on the coaching staff. Another legend is right in their backyard.
Why not? The Red Raiders have tried everything else defensively.