“I’ve been here 21 years, over 400 players have played here, and the bottom line to it is it’s always been about the program, never been about winning,” Patterson said. “Winning is important but not over somebody’s health.”
Patterson also spoke to the number of players who have played under him who haven’t expressed a problem.
“On our campus, we have always said to recruits that it’s about the 40 years after you graduate, not the four that you’re here,” Patterson said. “Our seniors that were here in 1998 are now 42, 43 years old, and there’s a lot of testimonies of guys that have had great experiences here of growing up and doing things.”
Many thought during his National Signing Day press conference Feb. 7, Patterson would address the lawsuit, however, Patterson said he had a root canal that needed immediate attention. This was met with skepticism by some who thought the timing of the procedure was to avoid questions on the lawsuit. Patterson said he wanted to let people know that was not the case.
“For me, we had Signing Day and I had a root canal for three weeks that I couldn’t get taken care of because I was on the road recruiting,” he said.”You should have seen what it looked like when they dug into it, it exploded with infection. I still haven’t gotten it fixed because you have to wait two or three weeks to get it done.”
Listenbee’s suit, which added five more former players’ accounts of malpractice by Patterson and his program, mentioned specifically the way the doctors were pressured into clearing players. Patterson disagreed with the account.
“We felt like since I’ve been here that our outside doctors and our staff has always been unbelievable when dealing with our student-athletes,” Patterson said. “Our outside doctors decide these things: they say they’re released or if they say they can’t play, they can’t play, and if they say they can, it comes down to the student-athlete and they decide. Every student-athlete is different, and we’ve never changed that philosophy.”
Patterson said it bothered him that the lawsuit paints him as someone who doesn’t care about his players.
“I was little bit hurt because with 36 years in coaching and everything I’ve put into it has been for the kids to grow them up and give them an opportunity,” he said. “A college’s job is not to make the NFL, it’s our job to prepare them so they have an opportunity, simple as that.”
Patterson said that ultimately his job is to give people opportunities that they couldn’t get on their own.
“There’s a lot of people who are successful on and off the football field because of the job we’ve done here,” he said.
When asked if questions have come up from players or parents on the recruiting trail, Patterson said, “no, not one.”
“High school coaches know us too with 36 years in coaching and 21 years here, they work with us, and we already have five commitments,” Patterson said. “Kids know us. The people that come here talk about family atmosphere. Our players show recruits around and show them family atmosphere. Players recruit recruits. It’s not coaches. Kids want to play with kids to be part of a program.”
In Listenbee’s lawsuit, Patterson is labeled a bully. He dismissed that claim, stating that he’s “a winner.”
Ultimately, the head coach said he would get “his day” to tell his side of the story.
However, in legal battles, sometimes settlements occur and everyone doesn’t get to tell their side of the story, but Patterson isn’t worried about that.
“Bottom line is I’ll know,” Patterson said. “It’s not about what you guys think, it’s about what I know.”
Patterson said he had “no idea” when the legal battle will end, but he’s instead looking forward to what’s next for his Horned Frog team.
“The key for us is you need recruit a 2019 class,” Patterson said. “We have 15 spring practices, so you know everything about what you have and then you go about your life.”
As for if Patterson would eventually sit down with Listenbee and the other players listed in the suit, he had a simple response.
“There will be a day,” Patterson said. “Go Frogs.”