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Rams Who Coach: A Legacy of Former CSU players that Coach Football

Ram Alumni Athletes Association

By John Hirn
CSU Athletics Historian

For more than 100 years, former football players at CSU have returned to their alma mater, or coached at the collegiate and pro levels. With spring football in session this April, we look back at former coaches that have played football at CSU and we look at current NCAA and NFL coaches who are Rams.

It was in the 1915 season when two ofHarry Hughes'former players, Floyd Cross and Otto Frisbie, became the first known CSU graduates to be assistant coaches in NCAA football. Frisbie guided the 1915 Aggie freshman football team while Cross assisted Hughes on the school's first championship football squad.

Since then, dozens of former athletes have coached in the NCAA or NFL. Several other former CSU student-athletes have coached other sports like basketball, volleyball and even baseball. But it is the former Aggie or Ram football player that when the cleats are hung up, has coached the most of any sport.

Anthoney Hill, one of the greatest quarterbacks in Rams history returned to CSU as an assistant coach in 2008 and last month took a position as Director of Player Development & Community/Alumni Relations with the Rams. He spoke about coaching after playing and said, "I always knew I was going to be a coach after my playing days were over, I just envisioned my coaching career beginning after a long stellar playing career. I was influenced by my love for the intricacies of the game and by every coach that ever instructed me on playing the quarterback position. I truly appreciated practice and the process of improving through hard work and repetition. Football had me hooked as a kid."

Hill was not alone in his love of the game. Several former CSU players have continued to love football and have coached not only at CSU, but other schools around the country.

Three Rams that have especially gained notoriety as assistant coaches in the NCAA are Billy Gonzales at Mississippi State, Chris Kiffin at Ole Miss and Tony Alford who recently left Notre Dame to coach for former CSU assistant Urban Myer at Ohio State.

Some former CSU players such as J. D. Brookhart, Al Lavan,Jack Christiansen,Bob WeberandOliver Woodshave been head coaches at the NCAA level. Julius "Hans" Wagner, Don "Tuffy" Mullison andSteve Fairchildwere head coaches at CSU.

In December 2014, former CSU quarterbackDaren Wilkinsonbecame the latest former Ram to become a head football coach. After being an assistant at CSU under Fairchild, Wilkinson moved on to CSU-Pueblo as their offensive coordinator where he helped lead the Thunder Wolves to the 2014 Division II National Championship. He was named head football coach at Texas A&M -- Kingsville four days before coaching in the Division II Championship game.

Looking back Wilkinson said, "Coach Lubick has been a huge influence in my life in terms of getting into this profession. I have always looked up to him and appreciate how he treated everyone on the team. Another influence wasSteve Fairchild. I have never been around someone who understands the X's and O's across the board like he does."

Some former Rams have gone on to the NFL as assistant coaches and one,Jack Christiansen, is the only head coach at the NFL level. Currently Brian Schneider is coaching with the Seattle Seahawks and our own Broncos have CSU Hall of Fame inducteeRick Dennisonas their offensive coordinator. Others that have coached in the NFL include Joey Porter, Fum McGraw,Steve Fairchildand John Benton.

When it comes to former Rams that have coached, no Ram (or Aggie either) has served CSU football greater thanTom Ehlers. Ehlers holds the distinction of playing, coaching or working for more CSU head coaches than any other coach in school history; eight in total. In the early 1980s he played for Sark Arslanian, Chester Caddas and Leon Fuller. Ehlers then returned to CSU to coach for Earl Bruce andSonny Lubickbefore being promoted as the school's first, and only, director of football operations where he has worked with Lubick,Steve Fairchild,Jim McElwainand nowMike Bobo.

Coaching is difficult and often times thankless work. Many hours are put into the profession and it takes a special person to dedicate the time and effort into coaching any sport at any level.

The Rams can be proud that so many alumni athletes have gone on to coach at the collegiate and pro levels.

Join the Ram Alumni Athletes Association

Visit the Ram Alumni Athletes Association website

Other recent features:

March 2015 - Where are you now, Katie Hansen
February 2015 - Howard Kinchelow, Pioneer in CSU Athletic Diversity
January 2015 - Cheerleaders: The Hardest Working Ram Fans for the last 100 years
December 2014 - Where are you now, Kristin Elliott-Fox: Born to Swim
November 2014 - Veteran's Day feature: The McGraw brothers fought on both fronts during WWII
October 2014 - Elizabeth Forbes - Pioneer of Women's Athletics at Colorado State
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August 2014 - Sport Cards of the Aggies and Rams
April 2014 - Where are you Now - E.J. Watson
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November 2013 - Top 25 Female Athletes in CSU History
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March 2013 - Olympic Affair captures the Glenn Morris story like a Hollywood Movie
February 2013 - Ben A. Jones and the legend of the Kentucky Derby's greatest trainer | Black History Month Photo Gallery
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