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Q&A | Sam Wyche

Ex-Bucs coach Sam Wyche takes a shot at politics

Sam Wyche, center, who still follows the Bucs, greets voters Wednesday at a homeowners meeting in Pickens, S.C.

Associated Press

Sam Wyche, center, who still follows the Bucs, greets voters Wednesday at a homeowners meeting in Pickens, S.C.

He's Sam Wyche, and he approves this message. And he wants your vote.

Well, he wants it if you live in District III of Pickens County, S.C. Wyche, who coached the Bucs in 1992-95, is 63 and living in semi-retirement outside Greenville. Today, he's going out for a new job on the Pickens County Council. On Monday, the day before the election, Wyche answered the phone at his campaign "headquarters" (uh, that would be home) and spent a few minutes talking to Times staff writer Tom Jones.

So, (today) is the big day?

Yep. If there is a good turnout, I think I will win comfortably. But we're in the middle of the heat wave, and they're calling for afternoon thunderstorms. So if we have tough weather, the numbers could be down. My opponent is the incumbent, and he has lived here all of his life. He's 59. And he comes from a big extended family that lives throughout Pickens County.

How did you end up in Pickens County, S.C.?

I went to Furman. Met my wife there. She's from Pickens. We lived here after college. Had a little garage apartment with a potbellied stove to stay warm back in 1965. We came back in 2000. Now we just bought a 28-acre Morgan-horse farm. So we've experienced it all here.

What made you decide to run for county council?

Well, I contracted a heart disease a while back — and I'm feeling fine now, by the way — and during surgery, my larynx was damaged. I was working for CBS, and they went as far as they could for me, but eventually I semi-retired, and we moved here. I get itchy, and I pretty much volunteer for everything. I'm an assistant football coach for the high school. I substitute teach for fun. I love doing that. I'm chairman for the Pickens Meals on Wheels. I work with Special Olympics. Well, people called and said it looked like I had room for one more thing and we needed a change. That's sort of a theme all over politics this year. So I decided to do it, but the campaigning has been tough.

How so?

Just a lot of handshaking. You're trying to be sincere, but it's hard not to be a little bit phony. You say, "Hey, great to see you." Well, we're standing in the middle of street. It's not that it's great to meet you, I'm trying to get your vote. But I tell them that. Occasionally I put my foot in my mouth like I did when I was coaching. But I think people can see that I'm just being myself.

Do you have aspirations in politics beyond county council?

I don't know. I'm just dipping my toe into the public service pool. If I were to get in there, I hope I wouldn't drink the Kool-Aid and become a so-called politician. I'm really just trying to make some changes here and do a good job.
What is your platform?

Well, I'm running as a Republican, a conservative. This part of the state has lost a lot of textile work. It has gone overseas. We need to find an industry that will settle here, create new jobs. That's No. 1. There are other issues, such as improving the fire departments. A lot of the rural areas outside of Greenville have fire stations that are mostly manned by volunteers. We need to find ways to improve that. Those are the big things. Also, improving the arts and culture and listening to all the concerns that people everywhere have.

Anything else?

Well, I'm here to do what I can for John McCain and his bid for president.

He has an opening for a running mate.

Oh, yeah, I'm really pulling for that. I've started a toll-free line: 1-800-VP! Seriously, though, I am interested in speaking on his behalf and doing what I can to help get him elected.

Do you still follow the NFL?

I follow it in that I still watch games. I don't follow it in terms of the newest rules on salary-cap exemptions or anything like that. Usually at the end of December, I start getting phone calls from old coaches I've worked with who say, "Looks like we're going to get fired here, can you make a call and help me get another job?" And I'm conveniently located between Atlanta and Nashville, so I still get to do some work with NFL chapel programs with teams as they pass through.

Do you still follow the Bucs?

Oh, yeah. Jon Gruden is a good friend of mine. I still can't help keeping an extra eye on the Bucs and Bengals — the two teams I coached.

Do you ever come back to Tampa Bay?

Not as much as I want. I do a lot of motivational speaking, and I thought I would be around Tampa and Orlando a lot more than I am, but I don't seem to get there very often.

You're still a young guy. Would you ever want to return to coaching?

I would go back in a heartbeat. I'm probably out of the loop now. I still get calls from players or coaches I used to coach who just want to talk football. About a month ago, (new Redskins coach) Jim Zorn called and asked for some advice. Those talks get you thinking, and I think I would love to get back in it. But right now, the big thing for me is this election and being on county council.

Ex-Bucs coach Sam Wyche takes a shot at politics 06/09/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 14, 2008 10:28pm]
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