LAKE BUENA VISTA (FOX 13) - Jon Gruden has been off the NFL sidelines for last eight years, but he's found a way to entrench himself even deeper into the game. Gruden's QB Camp fills what would be four months without football. It also keeps the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach from thinking about a return.
"This scratches the itch," Gruden said. "I miss coaching. I love coaching. I love being around these guys and teaching."
ESPN calls Gruden "America's Coach" and his popularity is growing. Gruden's QB Camp is a huge hit on TV and with college's top quarterbacks. ESPN Monday Night Football [producer Jay Rothman came up with the camp concept after working one season with Gruden on their game of the week.
"I knew we had to keep this guy busy," said Rothman.
To Rothman, Gruden is 'TV gold' and he's taken the show to new heights, from first shooting in Gruden's hole-in-the-wall Tampa office to Disney's Wide World of Sports. They spend seven hours a day with each of the seven quarterbacks. Cut it up to 130 hours of programming and spread it over five networks. Agents are now begging for the invite into Gruden's cave.
"It's a rite of passage," continued Rothman. "Like the combine, like a Pro Day; to come to Gruden's QB Camp if you're a quarterback coming to this draft."
"It was great, said Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. "Obviously I watched it growing up. All the way through high school. I got to watch it with Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, RG III, Kirk Cousins, and finally to be able to do it myself. It was great. Gruden was a great guy -- funny, loves to have fun, and he loves football."
It doesn't take Gruden long to lock in on his students and forget about the crew of over 50 and dozens of cameras. Before they even arrive, Gruden has already spent an entire week pouring over every play of each quarterback and learning the system they played in.
"Oh my gosh," said Cook. "The film that he was pulling out. The tape that he was pulling up. The angles...He's just a football junkie."
Gruden is overly prepared and it's reason his students have called this the highlight of their pre-draft experience.
"Well, I'm happy to hear that," said Gruden. "I want these guys to get one percent better. I want them to learn something. Hopefully they have a little bit of respect for where I came from. I called plays for 14 years, not all of them were good ones, but I have a lot of respect for what it takes and what you need to do to be a great quarterback."
"First thing he does before we even start recording is gives his cell number and says to each kid if there is anything I can do to help you, please feel free to call and you're welcome back to Tampa to come work with me," said Rothman.
"I also want to break them down a little bit," Gruden laughed with his famous Chuckie grin. "I want to get on their case and see how they handle that. Then we want to take them out on the field. Work them out, put them through some drills. Some things they need to work on."
They've taken him up on it. There are 10 current NFL starting quarterbacks that have all experienced Gruden's QB Camp and many come back during the offseason to work with or talk with him.
Gruden gets as much or even more out of these jam sessions than his students. He picks their brain, keeping him sharp and up on the game he's so passionate about.
Gruden's becoming a greater coach while at the same time helping others be great.
"You love helping a guy get better and seeing a person go out there and get it done and improve," he added. "Help put them in the channel of success. Steer them the right way. Then I'll feel good about myself."