Did Mel Tucker, Michigan Steal “Keep Chopping” from Greg Schiano, Rutgers? A special investigation
Continue to chop.
These two words are the foundation of Rutgers football culture. Greg Schiano introduced the mantra to his team following a devastating Illinois road loss in 2005. The Scarlet Knights rallied to have a bowling game this fall, then enjoyed the magical rebirth of 2006. The term has become part of the fabric of the program and university. And when Schiano returned in 2019, he not only immediately reinculcated it in his introductory press conference, but took it to another level. You might show up to a Scarlet Knights practice this week and hear “chop” used as an adjective, noun, and verb – and maybe even in the same sentence.
“We’ve been doing ‘Keep Chopping’ since 2005. Dr Kevin Elko is the person who gave it to me, he actually gave it to me in 1999 when I was at the University of Miami. And he didn’t just give it to me, he gave it to all of our staff, ”Schiano said on Monday. “It’s funny how things sort out and then come out. But it has become much more than a word in this program. We really live off that. It really is a big part of our culture.
Now, the state of Michigan is, everyone agrees, trying to steal their thunder.
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Spartans coach Mel Tucker has used a huge range of #FootballGuy phrases since he was hired by the State of Michigan in early 2020, but for some reason. he decided he wanted “Keep Chopping” to be his thing too. Tucker used the mantra casually last season, but it has curiously gone all the way this year to the amazement and irritation of many in and around the Rutgers program, even going so far as to make the chop gesture in a recent video on social media.
They say football is an imitation sport, but it seems like a bridge too far. What’s next, the state of Michigan starts wearing winged helmets? At least Minnesota showed some courtesy and creativity in turning the ax into an oar, right? But before transporting Tucker and the Spartans to The Hague (or better yet, St. Elmo’s Steakhouse) to stand trial for the serious felony of Big Ten gadget infringement ahead of Saturday’s clash at SHI Stadium in Piscataway (12 p.m. , BTN), we need to build a case.
Well, it’s not as easy as you think.
Exhibit A: Chopped Tucker before Michigan State. NJ Advance Media obtained video evidence – OK, we did a 30-second Twitter search – that Tucker invoked the chop in his only season as Colorado’s head coach in 2019, before Schiano was rehired. at Rutgers and the hiring of Tucker by the Spartans.
“It’s a family, man. And we have to keep chopping. Keep chopping“Tucker said in a locker room speech after the Buffaloes beat Washington in late November of the same season. The mantra was also referenced in a story from The Athletic and mentioned by Tucker at his post press conference. -match after a win over Stanford two weeks earlier. That said, it doesn’t appear Colorado has ever directly referred to the mantra or used it as a hashtag on official social media platforms.
Exhibit B: The Six Degrees of Kevin Elko. It’s well documented that Schiano learned the mantra from Elko, a motivational speaker and bestselling author who worked with Miami during Schiano’s time as the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator. Elko also worked with Alabama coach Nick Saban, and he was definitely around the Crimson Tide in their 2015 national title season. Who was Saban’s associate head coach and defensive back coach that year? Tucker. In addition, at least two other current head coaches who were also assistants to this staff – Kirby Smart from Georgia and Billy Napier from Louisiana – have used the mantra with their teams to some extent in the past.
Exhibit C: The possibility of Jacksonville. Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio used the mantra in his first season with the franchise in 2003. This was quickly downplayed, however, after Del Rio’s idea of putting in an ax and a tree stump in the locker room went wrong and punter Chris Hanson suffered a season-ending injury when he missed a swing and put the ax in his leg. But Tucker was the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator from 2009-2011 under Del Rio, so it’s possible he took the mantra there first.
Room D: The Pyre. There is also a reasonable explanation for this. Tucker recently tried to get Spartan Stadium nicknamed “The Woodshed”. It’s a nickname created in 1999 and put on the Spartans’ Citrus Bowl Championship rings after they went undefeated at home that season. Saban also coached the State of Michigan.
Exhibit E: The Rutgers brand. Yes, Rutgers laid down the mantra during Schiano’s first term and renewed the brand after his return. But the mark is applicable to official clothing and products of this nature. Rutgers does not control the words or the hand gesture. Thus, the Scarlet Knights cannot send a cease and desist letter to the state of Michigan until there are bumper stickers and t-shirts.
Exhibit F: Lots of people chop. Elko told NJ Advance Media last year that he got the mantra from Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Chad Scott while working with him in 1998. The trail ends there, as Scott turned out. elusive in the effort to ask where he got it from. But the most important point is clear: it is difficult for anyone to claim full ownership of the mantra, and many people use it. Remember those button-up bowling shirts Chris Ash wore by his coaches and players during training camp in 2019 that said “Chop Wood, Carry Water?” No, have you deleted all the memories of this season? Understandable. Nonetheless, while Ash’s main mantra was “The Hunt,” he also turned to the chop in one church, much like a different bench.
You can’t really blame Tucker for using the mantra. No one really owns it and many have used it. And that’s understandable because it’s a great mantra. It’s eye-catching, descriptive, inspiring, and straightforward. Schiano got it from a life coach, but he could just as easily have had a Madison Avenue ad agency generate it.
That being said: it’s weird how Tucker tries to co-opt the mantra so suddenly, especially since he’s used a bunch of catchphrases in Michigan State. Why not choose one and make an effort to be original?
Tucker had never tweeted “Keep Chopping” in any form by any account until September 5 of this year. It’s hard not to conclude that he’s trolling the Scarlet Knights, especially since he made New Jersey a recruiting target during the 2021 cycle. It seems like a strategy without a lot (none?) Of it. clear advantages. And there’s a good chance that will piss off the Scarlet Knights ahead of Saturday’s big game for both teams. We saw what Rutgers looked like when he fought for his milk; what happens when the chop is in play?
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James Kratch can be contacted at [email protected].