BOISE — Career-influencing moments aren’t limited to a classroom. They can happen in a parking lot, on the football field or surrounded by four walls in a cubicle.
And though each of their journeys began differently, Boise State football coaches share a similar perspective on their career path.
“I can’t wait to get to work every day,” co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Eric Kiesau said. “I’ll tell you what, I’ve been coaching for 20 years and I’ve never felt like I’ve been working. Never.”
The Idaho Statesman recently asked members of Boise State’s football staff when they knew they wanted to be a coach. Here are their answers:
BRYAN HARSIN, HEAD COACH
“When I played (at Boise State), I went back and actually got to help at the Capital High School camp that they did. Being a college player, getting to go back, I coached and worked with the quarterbacks because I was playing quarterback. I don’t even remember who the two coaches were, but I remember walking in the parking lot and there were a couple coaches. They were just talking to me like: ‘Hey, good job out there. You looked like you knew what you were talking about. Was this something you’re interested in doing? You’d do a really good job of coaching.’
“So for whatever reason, that kind of put the bug in me. And when Dirk Koetter came here as the head coach and Mark Helfrich was the quarterback coach, Bart (Hendricks) was the starter, so I’m spending a lot of time watching film and just studying film. I had a play idea and got in front of Dirk. And the one thing about Dirk, he has his plan, and Dirk is one of the best I’ve ever been around as far as getting to the point of, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ So we were looking at some concept, I got a chance to get up there, I drew it up and I thought: ‘Hey, what if we do this?’ Add a little wrinkle to it. He was like: ‘Yeah, that would work.’
“So we had it in that week. We practiced it. We ran it in a game — it did not work. But really for me it was like I actually had some purpose and contribution to the team, rather than just standing there and signaling plays in. So it was a little bit of that high school camp and having a couple coaches just encourage me and say something positive, and then being with Dirk and Helfrich and having a chance to learn from those two, and then having a little input on what we did. And really from that point on, Dirk, he would ask my opinion at times in a meeting like you do with players, in a way where I felt important. He did a really good job of that and it was something where at the end of my playing career, I enjoyed that enough to where I thought that would be something I wanted to do.”
KENT RIDDLE, ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH/TIGHT ENDS
“I was actually getting ready for my senior year of college (at Oregon State), my fifth year. I played a little bit before that, but we had a coaching change and we went from essentially the early version of the air raid to true wishbone football, and I was a quarterback. They weren’t so much interested in somebody who could throw it as much as somebody who could run.
“So I was doing a (summer) internship and we didn’t start school until the end of September because we were on quarters, and the company I was doing the internship for was saying: ‘Hey, you should probably hang around here. This would be a good deal for you long term.’ So I called back and talked to the quarterback coach and he was like: ‘Yeah, you should definitely do that, and when you get back here let’s see where things are.’
“One of the graduate assistants had to quit, so there was a spot open and I got back and they said: ‘Hey, maybe you can help us in this regard and work with the young guys a little bit.’ Being a graduate assistant after that one day I loved it and stayed on and kept doing it. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed still being a part of the game, the camaraderie, the teamwork. We weren’t very good, but just still being a part of it. After I graduated they asked me to stay on as a graduate assistant and I was all in at that point.”
ZAK HILL, OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/QUARTERBACKS
“My dad was a head high school football coach, so I was always the little kid that was the ball boy or running around camps and all that stuff. I knew I wanted to be involved in football and I loved the sport, but it probably wasn’t until college (at Central Washington) where I really knew: ‘Alright, I want to coach football.’
“When I was at the end of my playing career and once that kind of finished, I knew I wanted to stay involved, and that’s why I decided to try and get in to be a graduate assistant (at Eastern Washington). Luckily, I was able to do that. So I think coaching was already ingrained in me when I was little, but it took some different jobs that I thought that I wanted to do and then I always came back to coaching.”
ERIC KIESAU, CO-OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/WIDE RECEIVERS
“When I was playing high school football and knew I wasn’t going to be big enough to be an NFL quarterback, I was like: ‘Well, if I want to stay in the game, I better start coaching.’ Because when you’re 5-foot-10 and a 100-and-nothing, you’re not playing in the NFL.
“But out of college (at Portland State), I didn’t jump right into football. I got married, went into corporate America, the suit and tie. Then that gave me a real perspective on you need to do what you love every day, because getting out of bed and not having a passion for what you do — no matter how much money you’re making — I’d rather make less and love what I do. I can’t wait to get to work everyday. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been coaching for 20 years and I’ve never felt like I’ve been working. Never.”
JEFF SCHMEDDING, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR/OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
“When I first went back and was helping out at high school and about maybe a week into that, that was it, for sure. Everybody says it, but when you’re coaching, you’re working with a guy and you see him improve, that gives me the juice. And some people it’s other things, but it really was a big part of it.
“I had a lot of respect for coaches that I had growing up, so I think it was just operating in that fashion and the sport was a big part of it, too. There’s so much to it. There’s the physical aspect, the fundamental aspect, the scheme aspect. There’s just so much to it, and I was sucked in right away.”
SPENCER DANIELSON, CO-DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR/DEFENSIVE LINE
“When I was in high school, I had a coach whose name was Chris Johnson. He is an absolute phenomenal human being. He told me when I was a junior in high school, ‘You’re going to be a coach.’ I was like: ‘Alright, I don’t know if I want to do that. I want to make money. I want to own a restaurant.’ When he told me that, it planted a seed, but I didn’t know it then.
“And then when I was a junior in college, my college team went and helped coach a youth camp for kids that were in high school. We were given our own personal teams to help coach and mentor. After that weekend, the camp was in Fresno, when we were driving back down I was like: ‘Done deal. I want to coach.’ The school that I was at was Azusa Pacific and I remember telling the head coach then, and I was only a junior, ‘When I’m done playing, I’m going right to coaching. I don’t care. I’m doing it.’
“From there, it’s awesome how God works. It was something I knew I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to impact young men because I knew how much I was impacted. What’s funny, too, is I redshirted, so my last year playing I was getting my MBA and I’ll never forget when I graduated from my MBA everybody was like: ‘What are you going to do now?’ I’m like: ‘Well, I’m just going to keep coaching.’ And family members were like: ‘Why? You’ve got your MBA.’ This is what I love. This is what I’m extremely passionate about and what the Lord has kind of put in my heart to do and I’ve never looked back.”
LEE MARKS, CO-SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR/RUNNING BACKS
“Not really knowing what level or where I really wanted to coach, but knowing I wanted to be around the game and contribute and to give back, I probably would say in high school some time. I knew I wanted to stay around the game in some capacity. And then obviously over the years it just kind of ended up happening. I know I’ve always wanted to stay around the game.”