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What exactly does "Eat the Captain" refer to?

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

This winter/spring has been awesome. Speaking at Glazier Clinics allowed me to meet many new coaches from all over the country and this year's group of schools adopting/implementing this system has boomed again for the second straight year. One thing that comes up as a side conversation quite often is, "So what does Eat the Captain mean?" So hear goes a quick explanation of how the whole "Eat the Captain" thing started.

While fishing in the Gulf of Mexico with my son and some of his friends (all of whom were football players for our high school) a few years ago, we started having our bait stolen and lines broken when we got too close to the bottom. Our guide explained that the reason this was happening was because there were Bull Sharks near the bottom. So, of course, I asked if I could try and catch a shark. Being an awesome guide and true southerner the answer was, "Sure, but be careful what you wish for." He then rigged up a new rod and got a large piece of fish for bait. He told me to drop the bait to the bottom, crank the reel 9 times, and hold on. I did as told. On the 9th crank...BOOM... Shark on the line! About an hour later we brought the large Bull Shark to the boat. Our guide used the steel leader line to pull the shark far enough out of the water to take pictures.

Here is a brief video of the experience:

After we got our pictures made and turned the shark loose it was time to head back in. As we made the hour and a half trip back to the dock "Eat the Captain" was born.

We all thought catching that shark was super cool! Our guide had explained during the time I was wrestling the shark that the shark could break the line at any minute simply by a quick move of his head or rolling as he swam. Neither of those happened and we landed the 200ish pound shark with 85 pound test line. The shark simply did not fight at all.

The high school players started talking about how we needed to do something related to sharks when referring to our style of defensive play. At the time, Ole Miss had the Land Sharks and they started talking all about how awesome something like that would be. I let them go for a while and then I took off on a typical "That ain't good enough!" style rant.

I don't recall the entire rant but it was something to the effect of, "That shark wasn't crap! He let an old man and a bunch of skinny high school kids reel him into a boat and take pictures with him! Heck, rich people pay big money to swim with sharks at expensive resorts and Shark Week has celebrities swimming with sharks for TV. Nobody EVER even gets bit! You gotta jump in the water and act a fool to actually get a shark to bite you! So you guys want to be known for looking tough but letting just anybody swim with you?! That's dumb!"

Then came the Jaws insertion!

As The Old Man and The Sea continued to roll the story got real! "You guys need to go home and watch Jaws! That shark was not playing around! In the 70's people would not go to the beach much less get in the water for fear Jaws might be near! That fool wrecked everything! And when he had some dudes trying to do him in he went right at them. Didn't wait on anybody to get in the water! Hunted them down! Jumped in the Boat! Took out the guy in charge...Literally Ate the Captain! He didn't just bite him, NOPE, completely ate him! Then swam away and went back to work."

They all looked at me like I had 2 heads and a case of sea sickness. I encouraged them that not just any shark was bad enough. If shark references were to be made, it had to be Jaws...not just any shark. Here are the things we talked about (and still talk about) that Jaws did different from other sharks:

  1. As a rule you have to be in the water to have any chance of getting bitten by a shark.... Jaws..... Jumped in the Boat!

No waiting around and never reacting to opponents! Always attacking and

ULTRA aggressive. So much more aggressive than all the others that

everyone knows you are a different breed.

2. Jaws.... Broke the Boat!

Break everything and leave no way to escape!

3. Jaws.... ATE THE CAPTAIN!

3 Big Bites. Nothing Left!

4. Last, Jaws Swam Away!

No showboating, no taughting, no pointing in the stands...back to work!

By the time we got back to the dock...Eat the Captain was born. There is no denying the level of corny, dumb, juvenile, or any other adjective you choose to use to describe our "Eat the Captain" motto but our players actually like it. More importantly, they totally get that this is a lifestyle we want to embrace in regards to playing defense!

So, there you have it. How a day of fishing and probably too much sun, gave us the perfect description for how we want to play D! You can't really read this without watching the scene from Jaws that our players see every Friday in the fall. #eatthecaptain

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