The Coaches Who Could Play
Florida QB Steve Spurrier
Florida QB Steve Spurrier
Posted Aug 22, 2009

Which of the current head coaches could play back in the day? Richard Cirminiello takes a look at the ones who also were stars between the lines, including former Florida Heisman-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier, the leader of the All-Back In The Day offense.

All-Back In The Day Team - Offense

Which coaches were the best players?

By Richard Cirminiello

- All-Back In The Day ... Defense

Is success as a college player a precursor or a prerequisite to success as a college coach? While it probably couldn't hurt, a review of the playing days of the current FBS head men shows that it certainly isn't a requirement. For that matter, neither is attending a nationally-recognized university. Yeah, it might help if your chosen profession is, say, a doctor or a lawyer, but it won't prevent you from landing a coaching job at an FBS school.

The current crop of head coaches is littered with leading men, who earned their degrees and played their ball at places, like Ursinus, Williams College, and Heidelberg. Huh? In fact, of the 120 coaches, 41, or more than one-third, cut their teeth at a minor football school. The message is clear that to be an upper-level coach, you absolutely do not have to be an upper-level player. Actually, being a journeyman, with no prospects of playing beyond the amateur ranks, could provide the early impetus to consider a career on the sidelines. If you're Julius Peppers or Tom Brady, mentoring young men just might get in the way of more lucrative pursuits. If, however, you're a step-too-slow special teamer, with a good head and a passion to stay close to the game, this could be your true calling.

*The first school listed is where the coach played football, and is followed by his current employer *The number of head coaches who played each position is listed in parentheses


Quarterbacks (33)

Steve Spurrier, Florida…South Carolina – Far better known these days for his coaching prowess, Spurrier was also an accomplished gunslinger in the 1960s with the Gators. In fact, he's the only current head coach with a Heisman Trophy in his vast collection of individual awards. A two-time All-American and multi-dimensional athlete, Spurrier went on to have a far less memorable NFL career as a quarterback and punter, predominantly with the San Francisco 49ers.

Turner Gill, Nebraska…Buffalo
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan…Stanford
Bobby Petrino, Carroll College...Arkansas
Chris Peterson, UC-Davis…Boise State
June Jones, Portland State…SMU
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State…Oklahoma State
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State…Cal
Steve Sarkisian, BYU...Washington
Rick Stockstill, Florida State…Middle Tennessee
Bill Lynch, Butler…Indiana
Todd Dodge, Texas…North Texas
Bobby Bowden, Howard College…Florida State
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA...UCLA
Jim Tressel, Baldwin-Wallace…Ohio State
Larry Blakeney, Auburn…Troy
Mark Richt, Miami… Georgia
Joe Paterno, Brown…Penn State
Lane Kiffin, Fresno State...Tennessee
Steve Fairchild, Colorado State…Colorado State
Bob Toledo, San Francisco State…Tulane
Randy Edsall, Syracuse…Connecticut
Steve Kragthorpe, West Texas State…Louisville
Houston Nutt, Oklahoma State…Ole Miss
Mike Price, Puget Sound…UTEP
Chris Ault, Nevada…Nevada
Troy Calhoun, Air Force…Air Force
Ken Niumatalolo, Hawaii…Navy
Dennis Erickson, Montana State…Arizona State
Steve Roberts, Ouachita Baptist…Arkansas State
Charlie Weatherbie, Oklahoma State…Louisiana-Monroe
Mike Sanford, USC…UNLV
Doug Martin, Kentucky…Kent State

Running Backs (3)

Frank Solich, Nebraska...Ohio – An All-Big Eight fullback, despite being the smallest member of the team, and co-captain of Nebraska's 1965 squad, Solich earned induction into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame as a player. He was the first Husker to ever run for 200 yards in a game, an accomplishment which was parlayed into being the first Nebraska player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Mack Brown, Florida State…Texas – If not for a severe injury during his playing days, Brown may never have made it as far as he did in the coaching ranks. A talented running back in the early 1970s, he began his career at Vanderbilt and graduated from Florida State, becoming a student coach after earning a pair of letters and being sidelined for the entire 1973 season.

Dan Hawkins, UC-Davis…Colorado

Wide Receivers (9)

Larry Fedora, Austin College...Southern Miss – It's no wonder Fedora puts most of his time and emphasis on the offensive side of the ball. He was a pretty good weapon in his own right. A sure-handed receiver and four-time letterman, he was on the Kangaroo team that won the 1981 NAIA championship, earned academic All-American honors in 1983, and honorable mention All-American in 1983 and 1984.

J.D. Brookhart, Colorado State…Akron – A walk-on at Colorado State, Brookhart started for three seasons, finishing his career as the schools' No. 6 all-time pass-catcher with 111 receptions for 1,873 yards. The 1987 Academic All-American went on to transfer what he learned in Fort Collins to a new generation of receivers with Pitt, Akron and the Denver Broncos.

Rickey Bustle, Clemson…Louisiana-Lafayette
Bill Cubit, Delaware…Western Michigan
Art Briles, Houston…Baylor
Dabo Swinney, Alabama...Clemson
Derek Dooley, Virginia…Louisiana Tech
Skip Holtz, Notre Dame…East Carolina
Butch Jones, Ferris State…Central Michigan

Tight Ends (6)

Tim Brewster, Illinois…Minnesota – A two-time All-Big Ten performer, Brewster captained the 1983 Illini team that won the conference and capped the season in Pasadena. That year, he led nation's tight ends with 64 receptions, giving him 116 catches in his two seasons in Champaign.

Gary Pinkel, Kent State...Missouri
Dan Mullen, Ursinus...Mississippi State
Howard Schnellenberger, Kentucky…Florida Atlantic
Tommy West, Tennessee…Memphis
Al Golden, Penn State…Temple

Offensive Linemen (15)

Mario Cristobal, Miami…Florida International – A four-year letterman during the glory days of Hurricane football, Cristobal was a rock at tackle, playing on the 1989 and 1991 teams that won national championships. In 1992, he was named first team All-Big East before a brief and uneventful professional career.

Doug Marrone, Syracuse…Syracuse – Marrone returns back to his alma mater, looking to instill the fire, passion, and work ethic that made him a successful lineman with the program between 1983-1985. A team captain and a three-year letterwinner, he had briefs stints with the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints before moving on to a career in coaching.

Les Miles, Michigan…LSU – While not an elite lineman during his playing days in Ann Arbor, Miles was a steady performer for Bo Schembechler and the Wolverines in the 1970s. A tough, no-nonsense blocker, who typified Big Ten linemen of the day, he earned a couple of letters at Michigan before beginning his coaching career with the school a few years later.

Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh...Pittsburgh – Three decades before he became the head coach, Wannstedt was the physical and inspirational leader of the Pittsburgh offense from 1971-1973. As the Panthers' starting left tackle, he helped lay the groundwork for a program that would win a national championship three years after his graduation.

Pat Hill, UC-Riverside…Fresno State – A three-time all-conference lineman with the Highlanders, Hill earned All-America honors following the 1972 season. His determination and ferocity as an undersized center eventually got him elected into the UC-Riverside Hall of Fame in 1989.

Paul Wulff, Washington State…Washington State
Neil Callaway, Alabama…UAB
Danny Hope, Eastern Kentucky...Purdue
Gary Andersen, Utah…Utah State
David Bailiff, Texas State…Rice
Mike Sherman, Central Connecticut State...Texas A&M
Dick Tomey, Depauw…San Jose State
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland…Maryland
Dave Christensen, Washington...Wyoming
Bill Stewart, Fairmont State…West Virginia