Ronnie Floyd met Gus Malzahn a little more than 20 years ago.
Floyd, the senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., was one of the men responsible for finding Shiloh Christian High School’s new football coach. He put in a call to Barry Lunney Sr., (the father of former Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney Jr., who helped upset Alabama in 1995), and the Arkansas prep veteran told him there was a young coach in Hughes, Ark., who deserved some attention.
Malzahn received the call and drove up to Springdale. Floyd didn’t need much time to make up his mind.
The pastor had one word to describe his first impression of Malzahn: “Focused.”
“He wanted to win like I did,” Floyd said. “We had a commonality, and we pushed each other to do that. He was always very focused. He loved the game of football and was willing to be creative. He was willing to do anything to try to get an edge.”
That attitude — doing “anything” for an edge — led to a “mad scientist” reputation for Malzahn (a label coined by former prep superstar Mitch Mustain in a recent interview). He went on to win two straight state championships at Shiloh before heading off to Springdale High School and several college stops.
But the fast-paced no-huddle offense that got him those rings was not part of Malzahn’s game plan when he arrived at Shiloh in 1996. The lightbulb did not flicker on until that autumn, when the Saints lost a close playoff game to Horatio High.
Postgame, Malzahn and Floyd were reviewing that night’s events. Shiloh Christian had come out in a no-huddle offense to open the game and scored, but it was a one-drive gimmick.
At least Floyd thought it was a gimmick until Malzahn blurted out a life-changing confession, per Floyd.
Malzahn: “I’ve been thinking about doing this all the time.”
Floyd: “What do you mean?”
“Well, you know how Florida State runs the court constantly in basketball?”
“I’m talking about, like, we don’t quit. We just stay with it. What do you think about that?”
The following season, Shiloh Christian debuted its fast-paced attack in a 45-3 win over Prairie Grove. Floyd’s son, Josh, was Malzahn’s first in a long line of successful no-huddle quarterbacks.
“We just dominated ‘em,” Ronnie Floyd said. “That’s what began to happen, because nobody had ever seen it before! It was just crazy. Just crazy.”
A look back
Last week, we published a feature on Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who took over for Josh Floyd as Shiloh Christian’s quarterback in 1999 and set several national records.
Floyd provided several photos of Lashlee, Malzahn and others from the late ’90s and early ’00s. Take a walk down memory lane below …