Q&A with Richard Bartel
We caught up with ex-Grapevine and Cowboys QB Richard Bartel
It’s no secret Texas is king when it comes to producing quarterbacks. Richard Bartel is among the numerous Lone Star signal-callers that have gone on to play in the NFL.
The former Grapevine star started his college career at SMU before giving professional baseball a try. He eventually landed at Tarleton State, where he threw for 2,033 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons. Bartel was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys an undrafted free agent and spent time with five different teams in ‘the league.’
Our EJ Holland recently caught up with Bartel, who is now a personal quarterback trainer.
EJ: Well, let’s start back with your playing days at Grapevine. Do you have a favorite Friday night memory?
RB: I do. Southlake Carroll was a big rival for us since they were right across the railroad tracks. Both times we played them, they were nail-biting games that came down to the bitter end and won on the last possession, so we never lost to those guys. Moreover than the victories is the relationships I developed. For me, that’s kind of transcending life.
EJ: Your one of many quarterbacks from this state that has gone on to play in the NFL. Why do you think quarterbacks from Texas go on to have so much success?
RB: Parents are committed to it from a resource standpoint. The culture of Texas high school football is really unique. It’s like its own brand. And you have to give credit to Texas high school coaches. But moreover, they’re equipped, they’re qualified and when you put a kid in that atmosphere, he’s got a chance. Anywhere from 18-25 percent of quarterbacks in the league come from this state. When I was with the Arizona Cardinals, all three of us were from Texas, so it was really cool. We take a lot of pride in it. You just want to be perpetual with it and continue to produce.
EJ: You actually started your college career at SMU when the Mustangs were one of the worst programs in college football. How tough was it to play in that kind of atmosphere where losing was expected?
RB: It was very tough. I didn’t exactly know what I was walking into from an organization standpoint. I knew it had been down, but it was cyclical at that point. If you really go back from before me, starting with Chris Sanders, who was a state champ at Flower Mound, all the way past me, there are actually 11-13 quarterbacks that transferred out of SMU consecutively. Josh McCown, Tate Wallis, Ricky Joe Meeks, it goes on and on. It’s a great place. I enjoyed being there, but it just wasn’t where I ended my career.
EJ: So are you kind of surprised SMU has returned from the dead so to say? They still have a ways to go, but bowl game appearances are now expected.
RB: I’m not surprised. I feel like with anything, it’s a matter of time. It’s a cycle. Things that are great end up not so great, look at Texas now. So I just felt like it was a matter of time. You’ve got all the resources. You’re sitting in the middle of Dallas-Fort Worth. I understand you’re recruiting and competing with people, but that’s really a particular place because of the academic standards. But June Jones is an amazing head coach and well worth his pay. He deserves a little more, honestly.
EJ: Like you said, you didn’t end your career at SMU. How did you end up at Tarleton State for your last two years?
RB: I actually left SMU to go pursue my professional baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds. I needed somewhere to transition to because I loved football, and I wanted to get back into that, so when my contract was over with baseball, I just knew I wanted to play football. Division II in general was the only way I could go without losing a year of eligibility, so I decided to go to Tarleton. It was close to Dallas-Fort Worth, and they gave me an opportunity without seeing me.
EJ: It’s interesting that you took some time off football to play baseball. What was your time with the Reds organization like?
RB: I did it for four years. I was actually drafted out of high school. But I don’t think I was ready mentally and physically for the kind of grind minor league baseball is. For me, my life plan looked a lot different than what’s traditionally minor league. I didn’t want to be 33 year old in between education. Moreover, my personality fits football, so I decided I wanted to get back into it.
EJ: Well, you made a pretty good choice because you did get your shot in the NFL. Your first stop was with the Dallas Cowboys. Being from the area, was that a dream come true?
RB: Definitely. If you’re in Texas, the star means a lot. I knew it would be a big platform and to be honest, I didn’t know it would be as big until I was in it. I think any former Dallas Cowboy would say that. It’s unique in itself even in the organization and professional football. It’s a big brand, and Jerry (Jones) does an amazing job with that brand. Walking down the hallways and still seeing Darren Woodson’s autograph in the back of his own locker, that stuff is cool.
EJ: During your time there, you got to play with Tony Romo. What are your thoughts on him as a quarterback and the job he’s doing with the Cowboys?
RB: If you don’t know football, you think Tony Romo is a turnover king and all that kind of stuff. But from a person educated in the subject matter, Tony, of the 25 guys I was around in professional football, is the most talented. I think Brad Johnson would say that, too. He’s unbelievable. You can’t live with him, you can’t live without him. It appears that at times mistakes happen at the wrong time and maybe it’s too much freedom within the system that he creates because he has a lot of leverage contractually and a lot of power now. But they would never be in a position to play for a spot in the playoffs without him either. He’s a great quarterback.
EJ: Earlier you mentioned that you got to play under Jason Garrett. Do you think he’ll eventually be a great NFL head coach?
RB: I hope he becomes a great head coach. He’s a great guy, and he knows his system. He knows what he wants out of his football team. He’s easily a top five offensive coordinator in the league. I mean, one of the best. He’s so talented. If it doesn’t work out for him as a head coach here, he’s going to have a great career as an offensive coordinator somewhere and maybe work his way back into a head coaching job just like Ken Whisenhunt did. If it’s not here, it’ll happen somewhere else. But I hope it happens here.
EJ: It seems Jason is on the hot seat this year especially after another 8-8 season. What do the Cowboys need to do to get over that hump?
RB: You have to win the games you’re supposed to win. Win at home and steal some on the road. But really, just take it one game at a time. The majority of games in the NFL really come down to crunch time. It’s crazy how many games week in and week out come down to the last two minutes and taking care of situational football and handling that well, whether it be turnovers or maintaining possession. They’ll probably have anywhere from 3-5 shots at the tail end of the game to make the right play and if they do that, they’ll be fine. The NFC East isn’t great.
EJ: Now that your playing days are over, your spending a lot of time training quarterbacks like Marble Falls’ Brennen Wooten. Can you tell me how you got started?
RB: For me, it was a really dynamic scenario that I caught myself in. Back in 2007, I was sitting as a player with Brad Johnson and Tony Romo, being coached by Wade Wilson and Jason Garrett. In the offseason, I would coach nationally with Football University. I sat back at the end of my first offseason and thought there is a lot of material, some that’s applicable for me because I was a player. I was getting to try first hand does this work or does this not work. It just kind of started there with the player/coach/peer role I was in, and it developed over time. It really just allowed me to build my own curriculum and philosophy.
EJ: Do you think you’ll eventually get into coaching in high school, college or the pros?
RB: Down the road, maybe. This is really cliché, but it’s cliché because it’s true. I’m just taking it one day at a time. Having been out for one year now, 2012 was my last year playing, I’m transitioning into what I know. Right now, what I really enjoy is the one-on-one, small group, camp atmosphere.
EJ: Thanks for your time coach. That’s all I got, but I do have to ask you one last thing: are you bringing back the silver fox this season for good luck?
HW: The silver fox is here. Don’t you see it? You don’t see it! The silver fox is here and doing well (laughs).
EJ Holland is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
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