User Interview: Mjmage

Q&A with noted Gridiron Dynasty user Mjmage

We recently contacted Gridiron Dynasty standout Mjmage to discuss recruiting, depth charts, out-of-conference scheduling, William and Mary, Dave Chapelle, Dan Marino, redshirting and George Carlin.

WIS

Who is mjmage?

Mjmage

I'm a 28 year old Database Administrator and Pittsburgh fan living in Northern New Jersey. I've been married for 4 years and I have 2 children (my son is 2 years old and my daughter is 14 days old)

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Mjmage

I found it through a simple Google search. In college, my friends and I would debate over which sports team was the greatest of all time. I was looking for a site that could simulate some results just for fun. I found the NFL sim matchup and I enjoyed pitting some of the great Steelers teams against other squads. I found GD soon after.

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Mjmage

I really enjoy playing sports. I play golf, basketball, and football anytime I can. I was very into weightlifting, but most of my interests now take a back seat to my children. My wife and I enjoy watching movies or going to Broadway shows. Living minutes outside of NYC really has some advantages.

WIS

Why do you think that sports are so big in our culture?

Mjmage

I grew up 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh in the heart of Western PA. My dad was a coal-miner and he would take me to high school football games every Friday night. He became an assistant coach of a local team and I would follow them around to every game. From an early age, my parents encouraged my participation in athletics--a pastime that engrained discipline, coordination, teamwork, leadership, and time management into my everyday lifestyle and my personal values. In today's culture, sports stars are glorified in the media. They are made extremely visible and accessible to their fans. This contributes greatly to their influences on our society. The games are entertaining to watch, and we get to live vicariously though our favorite teams and players.

WIS

Who sits at your dream roundtable discussion?

Mjmage

If I were picking a roundtable they would have to be entertaining. I would enjoy listening to the conversation between some of the best comedians of all time. If this were a draft I would take George Carlin #1, Robin Williams #2, Richard Pryor #3, Rodney Dangerfield #4, and Dave Chappelle #5. Since I only get 5 there are some big names I left off, but you can't really argue with that lineup. I will watch their comedy specials anytime they are on TV, regardless if I've seen them before.

WIS

What is your favorite sports moment?

Mjmage

When I was playing football for William and Mary, my best memory was beating Villanova 47-44 in the final regular season game of 2001 football season to capture the Atlantic 10 conference championship. This game clinched the playoffs for the first time in my career at William and Mary. If we had lost that game, Villanova would have won the conference and we would have missed the playoffs, an experience I will never forget.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams of all-time?

Mjmage

I'd like to say the 70's Steelers, although I wasn't around to watch them. Still, it's hard not respect what they did. I like Dolphins teams in the 80's with Dan Marino throwing to Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. They were fun to watch. Also, the 90 & 91 Pittsburgh Penguins with Mario Lemieux leading them to 2 Stanley Cups. I will have to add the most recent 2005 Steelers Super Bowl Champion team.

WIS

Did you play football growing up?

Mjmage

In high school I played football and soccer, wrestled, and ran track. I was All-State in football soccer, and wrestling. I went on to play football for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. In my senior year there, I was named second team All-Conference linebacker. I was also a National Strength and Conditioning All-American as a senior.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Mjmage

Being born and raised in Western PA, I idolized Dan Marino. He was a fellow Western PA guy that played at Pittsburgh. It was because of him that I wanted to play QB. I also loved to watch Barry Sanders on the field. He made professional athletes look like amateurs with the moves he had. I believe if he didn't retire early, he would be the all-time leading rusher.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Mjmage

I like Ben Roehtlisberger, Hines Ward, and Troy Polamalu. I know that's shocking since I'm a huge Steelers fan. I respect many players for their accomplishments and attitudes like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and LaDainian Tomlinson. I'm a big fan of Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, because he played football at William and Mary.

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

Mjmage

I always wanted to play at least one play in the NFL, but my chances at that are long gone now. I will have to settle for watching an NFL game. I have never been to a Steelers game. In fact my first NFL game was only 2 years ago. I would like to see the Steelers at Heinz Field. I would also like to see a Penn State game at Beaver Stadium. The college football atmosphere is something that I really enjoy.

WIS

As a coach in GD do you draw on the philosophies of any past or present coaches?

Mjmage

I can't really pinpoint one coach as I really use different approaches for each team depending on their strengths. For example, I've had teams with great passing attacks and not much defense. So, I would try to outscore everyone and I would equate that philosophy to Mike Martz. There are other teams that have really strong running games and I would run the ball almost every play. I would say that's more like Marty Schottenheimer. You really have to be flexible and try new things with your teams.

WIS

What is your favorite WIS moment?

Mjmage

It was winning my first National Championship with Hampden-Sydney in Bryant. I took over one of the worst DIII teams in Bryant history and won the National Title in 4 seasons. My Redshirt Junior RB was the greatest DIII RB I ever had. He was a DB convert with great elusiveness, strength, and with unlimited potential. He was the reason for the title that year.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of our website?

Mjmage

I like checking and improving my teams on a daily basis. There is always something to do or check for your teams. I like reading the play-by-play for my GD teams if it's a close game. I still enjoy recruiting and the challenge of facing a great coach or turning a terrible team around. And it's always satisfying to take my team to the National Title.

WIS

Least favorite?

Mjmage

My wife would say the amount of time I spend on the site.

WIS

Having won 44 conference championships and 19 national championships with a winning percentage over .850 and jobs at three different DI elite schools, what do you believe is the biggest key to GD success?

Mjmage

Recruiting is the biggest key. You can set up your depth charts and game plan any way you want, but if you don't have the talent you aren't going to win. After recruiting, the next key component is the depth charts. A good coach can manipulate the depth charts and beat superior talent if the other coach doesn't effectively set up his depth. The last important point is strong RB, OL, and DL players. Those are the most important positions to me in GD. It doesn't matter which team I coach, I will try to fill those positions with great players and redshirt a few every season if I can.

WIS

What is your approach to recruiting?

Mjmage

I first evaluate my team and address the biggest needs. If I plan on staying with a team for a while, I will try to find way to even out my team's depth. For example, if I have 5 Senior OL then I will try over the course of 4-5 seasons to get 2-3 OL per year. After addressing how many and what priority for each position, I will then make an extensive list of players that meet my minimum rating requirements across the country. After that it depends on what level (D1, D1-AA, DII, or DIII) I'm currently coaching and how many years I've been there. If I've been at a school for 3 or more years then I will recruit the key players I need from the beginning. The first cycle I use multiple scouting trips and visits. After that I try to use visits on every cycle. I feel consistent recruiting is the best way to go. I will try to stay as close to home as I can, but I always try to find gaps in recruiting areas where human coaches don't go. If this is my first season I will wait 1-3 cycles before going after anyone. I generally try to avoid battles, but before I enter a battle I look at a few factors: 1. How long has that coach been at their school? 2. How many scholarships do they have? 3. How important or rare is this recruit? 4. How many battles am I in or do I have the funds to win? 5. How many battles do you think the other coach is in? A great GD coach once said that recruits are "fungible" and that is true. Sometimes it's better to avoid the battle and save money on another recruit of equal quality.

WIS

How do you go about setting your depth chart and game plan?

Mjmage

I don't really have many secrets here. I try to use all of my depth, even if the player is a freshman. I will start with everyone effectiveness at 90% and work my way back depending on the substitution pattern. I don't want anyone playing out of position, but at the same time I don't want my best players being very fatigued. I try to use specific players for specific formations. I will try to have 2 dominant RB's and have 2 running formations where each RB is the primary guy. This will limit their pace while maintaining a strong running game. I don't always put my best players in the #1 depth chart position. This might seem counterintuitive, but you really have to manipulate the depth chart that works best for your team. This is why stamina is now a huge factor for GD 2.0. The players with higher stamina can recover much quicker when they are substituted. My game plans always target the other team's weakness while utilizing my team's strength. Sometimes those two don't always match and in those cases I generally lean towards my team's strength. In general, a good running game is the key to any successful team. If you can't average 4-5 yards per carry then you could be in trouble. The same is true for the defensive side. If you can't stop the run, then a good coach will just keep running it until you do. I consider myself a good offensive coordinator and a so-so defensive coach. However, the great coaches that I play against have really made defense a higher priority. I now run 3 defensive formations with 2 designed for stopping the running game. I also run 3 offensive formations with 2 designed for the running game. I really try to vary my offense if I'm playing a good coach or a coach that might know my tendencies.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

Mjmage

I will try to list them all, but there are a lot of users that I respect and enjoy. Everyone who is/was in the Bryant World Big 12 Conference (ddingo, dwhit34, rlahann, geevs, andynomore, dublinuf, fastec27, wlarson, jtrover55, cebrake, all2matt). Everyone in Warner Big 10 (eric_hoffman, deuce224, jkz3, rockeye, 24heel, deandg, melch316, thegrza, mowzer, mikie5088). Other users I respect: (carpediem33, pds65, jeffkahleb, buffalo_rob, scottso14, plague, metsny, cyphilissb, rc1990, cardsfankane, bronco2rings, captb71). Coach vhoward415 is a great friend and we currently co-coach a team Camp. Also, cravedogg was a tremendous help to me when I first started in Rockne.

WIS

You currently have two teams in 'BCS' Conferences - Penn State and Nebraska. What is your ultimate goal in Gridiron Dynasty? Or have you achieved it?

Mjmage

My ultimate goal was to win a National Title in D1-A and I have achieved it. However, I'm constantly trying to set new challenges. I want to win a National Title with every team I coach now. I also try to set all-time player records if I can. My next challenge will probably be taking over a D1-A BCS doormat and winning the National Title before getting fired.

WIS

What are your thoughts on the most recent major GD update in August?

Mjmage

I really like the additions and improvements made. The upgraded depth charts really have helped my game. Also, the improved play-by-play has helped determine maximum effectiveness of any player by amount of plays prior to substitution. I like the ability to set your own out-of-conference schedule and view rating improvements made by my players. The biggest improvement for me was the game plan section. The ability to save multiple game plans is tremendous. I now can really dictate the tendencies that I want. I'm just now starting to use the game plan section to its fullest extent.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position, and what would you be rated?

Mjmage

That's easy. I would be a below average D1-AA QB with great tackling ability. I wouldn't get recruited until after signings had begun. My ratings would convert really well to LB (Not recommended for GD though). By the time I was a redshirt Senior I would be a solid contributor to the team.

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