Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland doesn’t like to reminisce about the past. When he’s coaching his offensive linemen, he’s worried about improving and moving on to the next play, always looking ahead. So when he learned his family had a history of heart problems, he ignored them.
But something finally changed.
“I work out every morning and I just had different feelings in my neck and my chest,” the fourth-year assistant coach said. “I didn’t feel normal. For once in my life I was smart. I listened to my symptoms. I decided to clear my conscious and go get checked out. It turned out it wasn’t a waste of time.”
Turns out, Stoutland needed to go through surgery. In mid-May, Stoutland, underwent triple bypass surgery.
“I had a 99 percent blockage, which is severe. I was real close [to dying],” Stoutland said. “The doctor told me, ‘You’ve got a problem, be glad you didn’t waste your time.’ It all escalated. I had a cathorization in my wrist, to them not being able to put stints in, to having to have open heart surgery. Then there was an issue with the [atrial fibrillation]. It was just unbelievable. It was a roller coaster, and it gets you to think twice about things.”
He was in intensive care for a couple of days.
Stoutland’s wife, a published children’s author, stood by him every step of the way during the procedure. But that wasn’t the only support he received.
Stoutland’s entire offensive line made frequent visits to the hospital to support their mentor, while UM President Donna E. Shalala and head coach Randy Shannon visited him as well.
“When I found out I was like, ‘Holy cow,’” redshirt junior center Tyler Horn said. “This all happened so fast. We all went up there to visit him. Stoutland was trying to push his limits but the doctor told him to calm down. That’s just his mentality to push it to the limit.”
Horn was one of the first players Stoutland recruited.
“He became the o-line coach only around two weeks before signing day,” Horn said. “He actually came to my school in Memphis. He was talking to me and finally I said, ‘Coach, are you going to offer me a scholarship or not?’ I feel like he hand-picked me because I wasn’t recruited heavily at all. The fact that he thought I was good enough to play here tells you that it’s a special relationship.”
There was an arduous rehab process over the summer. Stoutland lost 20 to 25 pounds, but he managed to never miss a practice or a meeting.
He claims he has more energy post surgery than he had before.
“The doctor told [the offensive linemen] that he fixed me up to the point where I was 18 again,” Stoutland said. “He didn’t know what I was like before but he told me I was going to be a lot more energetic.”
He used the newfound youth to reel in the biggest offensive line prospect in the country. Stoutland brought in a number of highly regarded offensive linemen, none bigger than the No. 1-rated Seantrel Henderson. Henderson committed to Miami in July, after being released on his scholarship at USC because the Trojans committed NCAA violations.
Stoutland has a message for people suffering from chest pains.
“I encourage everyone out there who has a history of that in your family to go get a stress test,” he said. “Get checked out. It saved my life.”
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.