The Mike London Effect

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Jed Williams

I distinctly remember the first conversation I had with Mike London after he returned from a 1-year stint with the NFL’s Houston Texans to coordinate Virginia’s defense.

I quizzed him about head coaching ambitions, about playing second fiddle, about commandeering an Orange Crush D that would always feature Al Groh’s very prominent handprints. London looked me right in the eye, and with the infectious, convincing energy that marks his every stride and word, told me: “I can play Tonto. I don’t have to be the Lone Ranger.”

Diplomatic? Sure. Humble? It’s in his marrow (some of which he donated to save one daughter’s life). Accurate? No way. I craned my neck and shot London a stare like a UFO had just docked on the McCue Center roof.

You need not enroll in the McIntire Executive Development program to understand that alphas are rare. A-players and, as I like to call them, “1 percenters” are few and far between. And Mike London is all of the above … that unique natural born leader. Not a Tonto.

So it came as less-than-no-surprise to me to stumble across the following headline a couple of weeks back: “London Leaves UVa to Coach Richmond.” And naturally, my immediate thoughts were “well done Mike London” and “good luck UVa.” But this isn’t a column about London leaving for Richmond. That’s old news, and in the point-and-click generation, that is soooo two weeks ago. This is about the future for UVa and for Tonto, err London. For one, the horizon stretches on seemingly forever and the view is as clear as the desert sky. For the other, well, the forecast features a few more colored splotches on the double-doppler.

“The Mike London Effect,” as I’ll coin it in this column, is far-reaching and profound. Its ripple effects resonate from the idyllic lake at the heart of U of R’s campus to the Northern Virginia ‘burbs to the 757 burrows to the Tuttle Dorms and straight to the 50 yard line at Scott Stadium.

While UVa will continue to sell bumper stickers that read “Built Groh Tough,” I came to discover that London was every bit as much the spiritual heartbeat of this program. Players more than respected him; they loved him. Yes, LOVED him. Admired him. Saw him as a doting