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Mike Elko
Ross Bjork
Texas A&M Football

Mike Elko returns to Aggieland equipped with a blue-collar mentality

November 27, 2023
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Expect maroon jerseys and blue collars at Kyle Field next football season.

Not literally. Texas A&M won’t be changing its uniforms or color schemes.

But new A&M coach Mike Elko stressed on Monday at a re-introductory press conference his intent to field a football team with a blue-collar mentality.

He certainly won’t be drawing a blue-collar salary. Elko is getting a six-year deal with a $7 million base salary. He could earn as much as $10.5 million with incentives.

He returned to College Station as something of a prodigal son. Elko excelled as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator for four years before accepting the head coach position at Duke in December of 2021.

After two successful seasons in Durham, he’s back and hoping to bring the blue-collar mentality he instilled in the Blue Devils.

“We’re going to develop a blue-collar mentality and that there are no shortcuts to success,” Elko said to a mass of spectators in Kyle Field’s Hall of Champions. “We are going to roll up our sleeves. We’re going to go to work every day. We will accomplish amazing and great things here very, very quickly.”

A blue-collar mentality may be just what A&M needs to break the cycle of three years of mediocrity and finally emerge as a perennial Southeastern Conference championship contender.

That’s always the goal of every new coach. Heck, six years ago, Jimbo Fisher talked about his plan for making A&M great. He was going to push the Aggies until they got everything right. And then he was going to push them until they couldn’t get anything wrong.

“We’re going to develop a blue-collar mentality and that there are no shortcuts to success. We are going to roll up our sleeves. We’re going to go to work every day. We will accomplish amazing and great things here very, very quickly.”
- Texas A&M head coach Mike Elko

That was a great sound byte until 2021, when the Aggies started a downward spiral that led to Fisher’s ouster.

Elko also made it clear his goal is to win championships.

He talked about how he could make that happen. He talked about establishing a culture. He talked about the need for modern offense. He talked about fostering relationships with Texas high school coaches.

Perhaps most poignantly, he talked about not talking.

“I just think when you look at what this program is capable of, what we’ve got to do is fulfill that potential,” Elko said. “That happens with work. That was the message I sent to the players. That was the message I tried to deliver to the crowd.

“We can’t just say we want to be something. We can’t just say we want to arrive somewhere. We’ve got to be committed to all the work that it’s going to take from today until we kick off next September (actually Aug. 31) of doing that.”

“There’s a lot that goes into that. There’s culture building. There’s camaraderie. There’s connecting with the players. There’s the players connecting at a greater level with each other. There’s strength and conditioning. There’s development. There’s so much that goes into winning football games in the fall. Those are the things you’ve got to start taking pride in.”

The Aggies are a proud community. Elko said he’s proud to represent them.

He thanked seemingly everyone involved with A&M for bringing him back.

He thanked the Board of Regents. He thanked Interim President Mark A. Welsh III and Director of Athletics Ross Bjork. He thanked former A&M players. His voice cracked as he thanked his children and wife.

Aggies are just thankful he’s back and giving them hope for the future.

Indeed, an array of former A&M players gave enthusiastic endorsements.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Elko was accompanied on Monday by his wife, Michelle, and their three children.

“Hiring Mike Elko is the best thing that could’ve happened for the University other than hiring (Elijah Robinson),” DeMarvin Leal said. “Mike Elko is an unbelievable coach, and he’s driven by what he’s passionate about. The guys will understand his vision for the team for now and the future to come. As a recruiter, he lets you know what he sees for you within his program and how you could maximize your opportunities if you follow the plan.”

Former safety Leon O’Neal and linebacker Buddy Johnson echo Leal’s sentiments.

“I used to sit back in my room after games dreaming of this,” O’Neal said. “It’s an unreal feeling. I think this has the potential to be the best hire in A&M history. This is the start of something special.”

Johnson added: “Excited for my guy to be back! This means more than people understand because he recruited a lot of guys in the locker room. So that’s a huge security blanket for all the talent that’s in that locker room. I’m fired up about this decision! I approve.”

So did former A&M coach R.C. Slocum, who was the last defensive coach A&M hired as head coach. He’s also the winningest coach in A&M history.

“I knew him when he was here. I thought he did a good job,” Slocum said. “Now he has head coaching experience. I thought he did a good job over at a hard place at Duke. He beat Clemson this year.

“He’ll have to put together a good staff. Any head coach's success depends on how well you put together a staff. Without a doubt, Mike has a good coaching background.”

Elko made it clear one of his first steps in assembling a coaching staff is retaining wildly popular defensive line coach Elijah Robinson, who has been serving as interim head coach since Fisher’s dismissal.

“Elijah will certainly be a priority,” Elko said. “Getting him to stay here is a huge priority. That process has already begun.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Robinson has been serving as interim head coach, and when he was introduced at Monday’s welcome event, those in attendance gave him a standing ovation.

“Obviously, he and I have a strong relationship from the last time we were here. We’ll certainly do everything in our power to make sure that this is the place he believes is the right fit for him and his future moving forward.”

Robinson would play a key role in helping Elko retain the nucleus of the roster that many college football observers feel isn’t far from championship caliber.

This season, the Aggies held second-half leads over Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU but could not hang on.

Three of those losses were by one score or less. In fact, over the last two seasons, the Aggies have suffered eight losses by one score or less.

A sluggish offense was primarily to blame. A&M struggled under Fisher’s offensive system, which was frequently criticized as outdated.

Elko said he had grandiose plans for the offense.

“We’re going to find a way to play explosive offense,” he said. “We’re going to be part of the modern era. We’re going to be able to switch up tempos. We’re going to be able to utilize our personnel.

“I think, in this day and age, you’ve got to be able to be very multiple and very adaptable in what you do on offense.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to a group that knows how to attack defenses, get the ball into our playmakers’ hands and allow them to be successful.”

Discussion from...

Mike Elko returns to Aggieland equipped with a blue-collar mentality

17,286 Views | 14 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by EERS 2 Ya
ccatag
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AG
Whoop!
Charlie 31
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AG
Gig 'em, Coach Elko!
Dreigh
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The blue collar is from the Duke gear he's still rockin'.
The Agly Duckling
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Hell the eff yeah!
TAMU74
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AG
I have a high degree of confidence we made the right choice in hiring coach Elko.
We're gonna be real good going forward.
cageybee77
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AG
I like that he will find answers as opposed to saying (or implying) that he already has them.
DartmouthAg
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"He returned to College Station as something of a prodigal son."

Olin, you might want to consult a dictionary about that word, "prodigal."
WC94
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AG
Outstanding. He's the guy.
Paul Wallace
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It would be nice to see Dan Campbell's opinion of his school's hire. It would appear that Mike Elko checked most, if not all of Dan's requirements for the next Aggie coach. Most columnists are now backtracking one their premature hiring "Stoop scoops."
FlyFishnAg
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Very sound hire. I just hate that we had to go through such a process when I think Elko was the choice all along. We need Elko and coach ERob to retain and recruit players. I think they both will do an excellent job!
TombstoneTex
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The original story of the prodigal son is in Luke 13:11-32. The definition of a prodigal son is: a son who leaves his parents to do things they do not approve of but then returns home. Often used figuratively.

I see no problem with the use here.

Nobody wanted Elko to leave A&M to coach another team. Now that he returns home we don't begrudge him for leaving but celebrate his return, just as in the parable.
Cotton79
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Gig'em, Coach Mike Elko!

Welcome (back) to Aggieland! WHOOP!
Iraq2xVeteran
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Welcome back to Aggieland, Mike Elko!
EERS 2 Ya
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Great hire
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