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A Chat With Tom the Herman

We chat about math and football with Tom Herman’s unsanctioned alter ego.

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University of Texas head coach Tom Herman, who almost certainly isn't the person behind @TomTheHerman
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The jury’s still out on if the Longhorns are missing Charlie Strong. His firing seemed to split fans into two camps, which have continued to exist as the team navigates its first season without him. But a certain base, over 27,000 people, almost certainly mourned the three-year head coach’s departure if for only one reason: the death of his Twitter alter-ego, Chuck F’n Strong, who kept fans laughing through seasons when the Longhorns most certainly needed a sense of humor.

But for moments like the Maryland game, a new parody Twitter account—Tom the Herman—has taken the place of the fake Charlie Strong. Where as Chuck F’n Strong relied on a general unawareness of his supposed team, the “unfettered and unfiltered fake Tom Herman” plays up the new head coach’s Mensa membership and a split personality. We chatted with Tom the Herman (and, as you’ll find out, THE HERMAN), about math and football.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for “clarity.” 

Abby Johnston: Happy game day. How’s it going, Coach?

Tom the Herman: Going great. Ran several layers of analytics this morning. They all check out.

AJ: What kind of analytics were you running?

TTH: You know the usual. Basic stuff I learned at MIT.

AJ: I didn’t know you went to MIT. I thought you went to California Lutheran and then to UT.

TTH: Oh yeah, I went to MIT. Got my associate’s degree from them. I did their football analytics coursework. Met Will Hunting there. You could say I was a protege of his. He’s always like, “How you like them apples?” He knows I love apples.

AJ: I wasn’t aware MIT issued associate’s degrees. Did Will Hunting teach you anything about football, or did he stick to math?

TTH: Football and math are not different. They are the same. There is no difference. I have a binder of coursework that proves this.

AJ: Could you walk me through that? In my mind, football and math are pretty different.

TTH: Sure I’ll try. But what is your math background?

AJ: Not extensive. I’m more of a words person.

TTH: Hmm, okay. I’ll try to make myself 10 to 30 times less smart so you will understand. No offense. Here goes: math involves numbers. Football has 22 people on the field at one time. Twenty-two is a number. Four quarters are played. Four is a number. You get three timeouts per half. Three is a number. Half is half of a number. Math.

Thus and hence math=football. Schemes and all of that are really just window dressing. But in order to make football, which is really math, accessible to the masses, I audited some courses at Oxford. There—it’s in England, where American football was born—they spoke to us about how to use certain words to talk about football. “Tackle.” “Ball.” “Sack.” “Hit.” “Field goal.” Each of those words has math at its root, but I digress.

AJ: So if Oxford didn’t help you understand how to explain football in words, what would you use? Walk me through a play in math terms.

TTH: Let’s say you have eleven personnel on the field. That is a “formation” with anywhere between four to seven O-linemen. After that the play really just sort of writes itself and you hopefully score a “touchdown” which is a language term for six points.

Ten personnel is similar except you have a “three-technique” at the center position. You hopefully score a touchdown here as well. If you don’t, you put in a tight end and throw it two yards in the backfield and hope he uses his talent to get a first down.

AJ: So I’m getting the hard numbers here, but you kind of lose me with the plays writing themselves. What happens in between the eleven personnel taking the field and a touchdown?

TTH: Okay, I’ll explain: They take the field and get in a “set position” for like, oh, five seconds. Then I flip up the little mic on my headset, which I do to communicate that the play can start. Then the ball is “hiked” to the quarterback (a quarter of a full back) and he does football moves. Then you have the touchdown. Oh, and I need to add, I make very intense faces during all of this.

AJ: You know, Coach, from a play calling wizard this seems pretty vague.

TTH: When was the last time a wizard explained how he turns a pile of babies into gold? It doesn’t happen. I have to keep it vague so Rock Tumbler Lincoln Riley doesn’t learn our plays. Also, it’s possible I’m faking my way through this. But I don’t feel like I am. I feel like I am good at math/football.

HEY GIRL YOU WANNA GO SHOOT OFF SOME FIREWORKS AND RIDE FOUR WHEELERS!??!

Sorry. Really sorry for that.

AJ: Coach, what just happened?

TTH: That’s THE HERMAN. I have a split personality.

AJ: Describe THE HERMAN to me. What is he like?

TTH: Let’s just say THE HERMAN did not get an associate’s from MIT. You want to talk to him? Consider yourself warned.

Tom THE HERMAN 2: HEY WHAT’S UP? I WAS GONNA DRIVE MY RAPTOR OUT TO SUN CITY AND FIND SOME DIRT AND LAY DOWN SOME TRACKS IN THE ATV YOU WANNA COME BRING JEAN SHORTS. I GOT A COOLER OF OG FOUR LOKO AND BOTTLE ROCKETS LET’S DO THIS. WAIT YOU DONT GOT A BOYFRIEND DO YOU?

TTH: I am so sorry.

TTH2: IGNORE HIM HE IS A BUMP ON A LOG WHAT A SQUARE RIGHT?

AJ: Question for both of you, I guess.

TTH2: I GOT A TRUNK OF ILLEGAL FIRECRACKERS FROM TIAWAN. IMAGINE THAT! ILLEGAL IN TIAWAN?!

TTH: Me. I’m on the sideline.

TTH2: WELL THAT AIN’T JUST TOTALLY TRUE IS IT TOM? I CALL ALL THE FOURTH DOWN PLAYS.

I’M LIKE GO FOR IT LOL.

AJ: Well, then, THE HERMAN, if you’re responsible for fourth-down plays, this question is for you: Why?

TTH: BECAUSE FOURTH DOWNS ARE FOR GAMBLERS AND WOLF MEN NOT MATH NERDS. AND COME ON, ABBY, I’M ALL OF THAT AND MORE I ALSO SHOOT FIREWORKS DONT KNOW IF I MENTIONED THAT.

AJ: You did.

TTH2: I HAVE WRAP AROUND SUNGLASSES.

TTH: Please stop.

TTH2: HAHA HE’S ALL SAD BOO HOO.

AJ: I would advise against letting THE HERMAN call the fourth down plays, Coach. Will we be seeing a lot of THE HERMAN play calling at today’s game?

TTH: I don’t have a lot of control over him. Things go bad and I get emotional and he comes out. In this respect I fancy myself a lot like Elsa from the popular movie Frozen®. You see, Elsa shoots ice powers when she gets upset. When I get upset, a redneck fireworks enthusiast rises from within my subconscious and starts calling plays and hitting on women.

TTH2: YOU GOT A BOYFRIEND OR WHAT.

AJ: It didn’t seem like THE HERMAN made a lot of appearances in Houston. Why’s that?

TTH: THE HERMAN didn’t appear much at Houston bc we were doing pretty well. I wasn’t getting upset like Elsa. He came out a few times against SMU but that was mainly because he likes their ladies.

AJ: So then what’s your plan against USC to keep THE HERMAN under control? It seems like if we consistently make good plays then he’d stay away.

TTH: As far as controlling him with USC I’m gonna go to a massage parlor and get relaxed. They’re all over Austin and I’ve never gone. They must work since they are so popular. Massages are just math anyway if you think about it.

AJ: Based on the game against Maryland, I don’t know if we can hang it all on you being relaxed.

TTH: Haha you apparently haven’t received a B.S. in game theory like I have (Cambridge). Losing to Maryland is just basic game theory.

AJ: How was that game theory?

TTH: Okay, here goes: Players thought they would win because we guaranteed they would. This made them decidedly not humble. So they lost. Perfect plan you say? I agree. So now they know they can’t trust the coaching staff. Perfect. Because if they can’t trust us, then they have to trust themselves. Inner strength, just like Tony Robbins talked about. So now we win out. Math.

AJ: Wow.

TTH: I know. Your mind is blown. So here you have to assume I’m probably going to lie to you since this will be published, and I know Texas Monthly is widely read in Southern California. But here’s my answer: We’re going to run five wide but with all tight ends. Oh my God, that’s incredible, right? Think about the chaos!

Which of course leads me to the subject of entropy. My master’s in fluid dynamics gave me a full appreciation for how that works (Cal Polytechnic).

AJ: I’ll take your word for it, Coach. We’ll see how it goes with USC. So I’ll let you go, I’m sure that you need to get to your players.

TTH: Well, using quantum mechanics I can tell you how USC goes. We win by a hundred at least.

AJ: But I have one final question. What do you make of this beef you’re having with Urban Meyer?

TTH: I don’t have a beef with him. He has a beef with me, because he knows I’ll never be caught crying into a personal pan pizza in the basement of a stadium. He also knows I can read minds, so like the philosopher the Gin Blossoms once said, “Hey Jealousy!”

AJ: But what do you think of his critique about blaming the players?

TTH: I would never blame players, are you crazy? Unless they mess up, which they did, because we told them they were invincible. So really I was blaming us—the staff. But Urban only thinks in three dimensions so he didn’t know that. I’m a tesseract basically.

AJ: Do you think that is apparent to the players, though? From whatever dimension you’re seeing it from you might understand, but I could see how they might read into it differently.

TTH: They know. We gave them space crystals that they can look through to decode our messages. $19.95 on the scientology website.

AJ: Well, as long as they know. That’s keeping morale up. Any last thing you want to say before I let you go get prepped for the game?

TTH: First, thanks for taking time to help the world understand how educated and humble I am. They need to know. Second, I’d just like to say that they recently discovered an intermediate-sized black hole about 400 light years from the center of our galaxy. It’s 40 million times heavier than our sun. It sucks with immense power. Almost unfathomable. But not like OU. This black hole is like a tiny baby of suck compared to OU.

TTH2: YOU WANNA GIMMIE YOUR DIGITS.

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