One-on-one with former Texas Tech safety Dwayne Slay


Dwayne Slay is one of the greatest defensive players to ever wear the scarlet and black.

In his lone season as a Texas Tech starting safety in 2005, he was a First Team All-American, accounting for 114 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and a Big 12 single-season record eight forced fumbles.

I caught up with Slay, who hasn’t enjoyed what he’s seen from the Red Raider defense this year.

What have you done since your days at Texas Tech?

I had a short stint with the Chicago Bears and had a trip to the Super Bowl [in 2007]. I tore my Achilles tendon and tried to rehab that. It took up to a year and tried to bounce back. I got a little stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League. Then I had some hamstring problems which were coming from that Achilles.

After that, I started figuring out ways to give back and give back to kids. I came back to Lubbock recently to finish my degree. I’ve been going around to local high school football teams and motivating kids. I’ve been pushing them to be the best they can be, and not just on the football field.

Texas Tech hasn’t been a program known for defense. Why did you decide to come to Lubbock?

I knew it would be the best situation for me. I had many other schools and options to choose from coming out of junior college. I knew I could come in and solidify my name and what I bring to the table to help the defense.

How do you think another defensive coordinator change for Texas Tech affect the team?

I’ve never personally had to go through that and I’m pretty sure it affects a player in some shape, form or fashion.

If I were put in that situation, it really doesn’t matter who you bring in there to coach. I think it’s more about the caliber of players you have and the guys working together and figuring out how to win on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully they can get that done.

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What have you seen in the Texas Tech’s defensive struggles this year?

Just from first sight watching from the spring game to now, seeing them struggle against the run is pretty hard to watch because of how I played the game and the way I played it.

It wasn’t just me back when I played. It was collective unit of 11 guys on the field getting to the ball.

You see a few missed tackles and a few guys with their heads down. ‘You can’t hit what you can’t see’ is always my motto. Guys got to get their heads up and they got to put that hammer right on the chest. If guys aren’t doing that, it’s going to be a long game.

I always emphasize that if you can’t win on defense, you can’t win the ball game. If you can’t stop anybody, you can’t win. I don’t care how many points you put up, because they’ll match it. At the end of the day it’s about defense, and defense wins championships.

What do you see as the problem with all the missed tackles by the Texas Tech defense?

Coaches can only do so much. To me, it’s the players. The players got to play and the coaches can’t go out there and play.

Back when I played, we did extra. We did things after practice. When coach [Mike] Leach called the huddle after practice, there were times I would tell my guys ‘hey, let’s stay around and work on this.’

We did pursuit drills with all 11 guys running to a certain spot on the football field. And whenever Saturday came around, we knew each and every one of us was going to be around that football.

Defensively, there are a few plays that will depict the outcome through the course of a game. You may have 40 or 55 snaps, but three or four of those will depict that whole game. If you run to the football, things are going to happen. Right now, we haven’t created many turnovers on defense and you can’t win that way. These guys have to figure that out and they need to figure out a formula to get that working for them.

What do you remember about the two big hits you made against Kansas State in 2005?

One of those plays we were actually down when I hit the receiver. The quarterback hit I think we were down 17-14. After those plays, it literally took the life out of Kansas State and you could see it throughout the rest of that game. I think they scored a field goal the rest of that game and we went on to win 59-20.

It just goes to show that when you play great on defense and make plays like that, it turns the whole momentum around, and it actually gives the offense confidence and swagger to match that intensity. When we did that, K-State laid down. In any football game, it’s hard to beat a team with that intensity.

What message would you give the Texas Tech defense right now?

I’ve talked to a couple of the players. Offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark is a good friend of mine and I talk to him a lot.

As far as the defensive players, I haven’t talked to any.

The advice I would give them is pretty simple. Get to the football. Kliff has to say ‘we can’t get our butts kicked like this and we have to figure out something for the rest of the season so we can be remembered as something.’ And not be remembered as a defense that gives up a lot of yards per game against an opponent they’re better than.

I’d just tell the guys to get out there, cause turnovers, know your assignments, do what you’re supposed to do, and study your opponent. It’s a simple formula and you just got to go by it every single week. It’s a will to want to do it.

Follow Louis Ojeda Jr. on Twitter @LouisOjedaJr