Within hours of Texas Tech’s announcement that Baylor assistant Joey McGuire would be its new head football coach, social media ignited in celebration of a man admired by peers and revered by players for his boundless energy and overall decency.

With an assortment of admirers sharing tributes and painting scenes of McGuire chortling country songs in his office at Baylor and bouncing off his players in a celebration, it would take a very cynical soul to not be sold on this guy.

“I think he’s one in a million,” Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule told Yahoo Sports. “The biggest winners in all this are the players at Texas Tech. There’s no one more committed to helping young people and developing them as players. He’s exactly who I’d want my kids to be coached by.”

And then there’s the video of one of McGuire’s old pregame routines at Cedar Hill High School, in which McGuire delivered a speech that’s part homily and part Springsteen concert monologue. At various points, his players, attuned to their coach, shouted his words back to him.

“No fear!” he said.

“No fear!” they shouted.

Friday Night Lights and Coach Taylor never had anything this good:

We got a chance to do something special. . . . Ain’t many teams that could come here and do what we’re fixing to do. . . . Most of ’em are scared. I ain’t scared.

After leading those “No fear!” chants, he continued:

You know why I can have no fear? Let me tell ya. . . . This ain’t a team. This ain’t a bunch of guys that play football. We just get to play football together because this is a brotherhood; this is a family.

The 51-year-old McGuire is one of those high-octane sports figures who never seem to have a bad day. He also knows a little something about winning. During five seasons at Baylor, he was part of two coaching staffs that restored the Bears to the national stage. Before that, he was one of the most successful Texas high school coaches ever, and his hiring at Texas Tech prompted this tweet from the Texas High School Coaches Association: “One of our own!”

McGuire made his name at Baylor as a top recruiter, and more than anything, that may have been what attracted Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt and his search committee to the coach. They’re hoping McGuire’s arrival in Lubbock will prompt elite recruits to take a second look at the Red Raiders. “He has that kind of intangible factor that we need,” a Texas Tech source told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “Plus, he’s going to be able to recruit. He’s going to be able to recruit Texas high schools. That’s very important.”

McGuire’s other challenge will be to bring a divided fan base back together and get them pulling on the same end of the rope. Winning, which his three predecessors—Tommy Tuberville, Kliff Kingsbury, and Matt Wells—didn’t do, will fix every last bit of that. McGuire’s hiring is a gamble because he has never been a college head coach or even a coordinator. But his personality and passion burn so brightly that long-suffering Red Raider fans just might buy into him and finally move on from the 2009 firing of Mike Leach.

Leach elevated Texas Tech football to a place it had never been before or since. He was 84–43 in ten seasons between 2000 and 2009, and some Tech fans will never get over his ouster, justified or not. In the end, they all point to what has happened since: twelve consecutive losing seasons in the Big 12.

Texas Tech has first-rate facilities, a passionate fan base, and access to all the high school football talent the state of Texas has to offer. But unless McGuire is right for the job, it won’t matter.

This is not the hiring of a marquee name some fans were hoping for. One of their favorites, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, probably could have had the job. UTSA’s Jeff Traylor was also on Texas Tech’s radar, but he declined to leave the Roadrunners after just two seasons. Gary Patterson’s name surely came up after TCU forced him out last week.

“Joey’s got a great heart,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “Joey has a real fondness for his players and for the team. I think he’s got the ability to connect with people. And I think his care factor there is very strong. He is a guy that brings energy and brings a spark and fire to the times when it’s needed. And so I think Joey is a ball coach.”

McGuire’s success will depend on various factors, beginning with the staff of assistant coaches he builds around him. But nothing good happens without recruiting better players and then helping those athletes develop into effective college football players. His good name will open doors among Texas high school coaches, and it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of those relationships. Coaches who either know McGuire or know of him will tell their players, “You can trust this guy.”

“We always felt we had an opportunity [to win] because Cedar Hill had some of the greatest kids,” said Carlos Lynn, who replaced McGuire at Cedar Hill. “That was Joey’s superpower—relationships.”

McGuire was just 31 years old when Dallas-area Cedar Hill High School promoted him from an assistant role to head coach in December 2002. Cedar Hill athletic director Gina Farmer, since retired, was persuaded by McGuire’s drive and also by a petition, signed by every player on the team, backing him for the job. And McGuire’s players didn’t stop there—many of them showed up at  Cedar Hill ISD headquarters for the announcement.

“That’s easy for me to say now, but I definitely saw something in that young man that was a kid magnet,” Farmer told the Dallas Morning News in 2016. “I knew that’s what our kids needed, somebody that was going to show them that he loved them and establish that family atmosphere we’re always after.” 

McGuire went 141–42 during fourteen seasons at Cedar Hill, wining state championships in 2006, 2013, and 2014. He led the school to twelve straight playoff appearances and was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2020.

McGuire turned down an offer to join coach Charlie Strong’s University of Texas staff in 2015. At the time, his son Garrett, now an NFL coaching assistant with the Carolina Panthers, was a quarterback and incoming junior at Cedar Hill. McGuire texted WFAA-TV’s Ted Madden to explain the decision: “I am staying at Cedar Hill. Most will think I am nuts, but heck, u know I am nuts. Just can’t see me not coaching Garrett.”

Two years later, in 2017, when Rhule took over at Baylor and began putting together a staff, he needed someone who could give the program credibility among Texas high school coaches. McGuire took the job, admitting that he cried for most of two days as he said goodbye to his players and coaches at Cedar Hill. Current Baylor coach Dave Aranda retained McGuire after Rhule departed for the Panthers, and with Baylor back in the national rankings this fall, a head coaching opportunity seemed like McGuire’s likely next step.

“Joey is the ultimate people person,” Lubbock Coronado coach D. J. Mann said. “He makes people feel like they’ve known each other forever. He will recruit on a level never seen in Lubbock and he will take care of the kids.” 

McGuire’s relationships with some of his players are so strong that when Baylor offensive lineman Sam Tecklenburg got married in July 2020, he asked McGuire to officiate the ceremony. McGuire went online to get ordained and called multiple people for advice on how to do something way outside his comfort zone.

“There were football players in the wedding. They came up and said, ‘Coach, you might have found a new calling. You might be doing weddings after this,’ ” McGuire said. “If a kid asked me, I would definitely be honored and want to do it. It might be something I do on the side.”

Once, when asked about a game his Cedar Hill team had lost, McGuire gave an answer that seemed to summarize his core beliefs: “As a coach, you have to keep the kids believing in what you are doing.”

This is the leader Texas Tech is betting on—a coach who has had success at every stop and a hire who gives Red Raiders diehards something to feel good about, for the first time in a very long time.