Posted: 2:42 pm Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Tom Osborne among many notables to call Richt on Ekeler’s behalf 

By Chip Towers

Mike Ekeler's Nebraska ties and good relations with past employers helped him land a linebackers job at Georgia. (Photo from Lincoln Journal Star)

Mike Ekeler’s Nebraska ties and good relations with past employers helped him land a linebackers job at Georgia. (Photo from Lincoln Journal Star)

I ran across an interesting link on Twitter from the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper in Nebraska. It had reprinted on the Nebraska Conrhusker-dedicated blog, “Life in the Red,” a letter Mike Ekeler had sent folks up there who had a hand in him recently landing his job as a linebackers coach at Georgia.

Turns out Ekeler had a lot of folks working on his behalf from up that way, including the preeminent ‘Husker Tom Osborne, and current Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. They were among the many coaches that called Bulldogs’ head coach Mark Richt and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to recommend Ekeler. Ekeler as the fourth and final defensive assistant hired by Richt. The announcement came on Feb. 6.

Sometime after that, Ekeler wrote a thank-you letter to all the different people who recommended him for the Georgia job and helped him through the job search when he was unexpectedly “on the street” after the bizarre coaching fallout at Southern Cal. That letter eventually found its way into the hands of the Lincoln Journal-Star, which reprinted it in its entirety.

It provides some nice insight into the dilemma that faced Ekeler and his family and the role networking and relationship-building — and keeping — played in him ending up with the Bulldogs. It also provides a glimpse of Ekeler’s personality.

Here it is:

Dec. 24th, 2010, was one of the hardest days of my life. We had our last bowl practice in Lincoln and it was the day I told our LB group (Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Lavonte David, Alonzo Whaley, Matt May and pseudo assistant coach Blake Lawrence) that I was leaving. After practice we gathered in our LB group and I broke the news, at least tried to break the news. I couldn’t talk, I just started crying and looked up and the whole group was crying. When you leave a dream job, you leave for one reason, and that is to grow both as a person and as a coach.

Fast forward three years. Having spent two forgettable years at Indiana (Oh, I learned more than I wanted!) and one great, highly unusual year at USC (basically four head coaches in one season), I found myself in a position no coach wants to be in. On Dec. 21st, after completing a 10-win season, having the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 and No. 13 defense nationally, I was out of work.

Let me back up to Dec. 2. I was in St. Louis visiting a recruit, came out of the school and was driving to Chicago. I heard on the radio that USC had just hired Steve Sarkisian. I turned around and headed to the airport and back to L.A. On Dec. 3rd, USC athletic director Pat Haden introduced the staff to Clay Helton (interim head coach No. 2, an unreal guy) and future Head Coach Sarkisian (another great guy).

Sark was in an unusual position. Usually a head coach comes in after a bad season and it’s all very cut and dried. But we had a remarkable season, winning 10 games (while suiting up just 47 players), and going through essentially four coaching changes. Sark told us he hadn’t made any staff decisions and he would meet with all of us.

Dec. 4th, I was sitting in my office game-planning for our bowl game and noticed who I thought was Peter Sirmon (Sark’s LB coach from Washington). He was in the office across the hall filling out H.R. paperwork. I walked over and introduced myself as the “former LBs coach at USC.” I ended up meeting with Sark the next day and told him if he hadn’t brought his defensive coaches from UW, I wouldn’t have respected him or wanted to work for him. During the next three weeks, I became friends with all the new coaches. It was unusual. We shared our offices and they watched the bowl practices. Dec. 21 we won our bowl game, and I’m officially on the street.

So, the real purpose of this letter. There is a saying in life: “Who are your six?” Meaning, when the crap hits the fan, who is going to be there for you? When you’re out of work in coaching, you find out in a hurry. Jan. 15th, the University of Georgia LBs coach leaves to go to the NFL. Jan. 16th, I called Tom Osborne at 7 a.m. and asked if he would call Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Coach Osborne called me back 20 minutes later and said they had a great visit, and Coach Richt would truly consider interviewing me. At 8 a.m., Bo Pelini called and spoke with Coach Richt and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Jeff Jamrog called his good friend Josh Brooks, who works in the Georgia athletic department, and the ball was rolling.

Helton made calls to his good friends, Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Bob Stoops called Pruitt … All this to try to get an interview!! Jan. 23rd, I received a call from Pruitt. He said they were going to bring me and a few others in to interview for the last defensive spot. I called Nebraska video coordinator Mike Nobler, a great guy, and he hooked me up with all of Georgia’s game film via Hudl; that was huge.

Jan. 31st, I went to Athens and interviewed. What a process!!! During my interview, Coach Richt told the staff, “Mike pulled out the Big Gun on me, Coach Osborne, so I had to bring him in.”

I could write a book on this experience …

My point is it’s a very difficult profession. Bo called on every job that I had interest in. He went way out of his way for me and my family. John Papuchis wore out the phones for me. I can’t leave out Monte Kiffin (who I got to know when I was at Nebraska); he is the one who brought me out to USC to work for Lane Kiffin (who made calls to both Richt and Pruitt). Now I get to work for a great man, Coach Richt, who was born in Omaha and both parents are South High grads. I left Nebraska three years ago and the people who were there for me in my time of need are in Nebraska. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to coach at the University of Georgia, another dream job, and I hope to be there for 20 years! It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my Nebraska Family.

Go Huskers and Sic Em Dogs!!!!

Sincerely,

Mike Ekeler

37 comments
RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

Sounds like a good hire with a good pedigree. Having Kiffin call on his behalf , I bet was not solicited by him.  Tom Osborne though was a heck of a coach, so that had to help a lot. I feel sure, that was what most impressed Coach Richt and Pruitt.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Very nice. And obviously written from the heart. But one thing he shouldn't have done is make a somewhat negative comment towards an ex- employer ("two forgettable years at Indiana").

Never helps, even though it may be how you feel. People burn bridges by doing that.

Of course he probably didn't expect his letter to be made public. In today's society, you almost have to expect everything private to become public information eventually. Can't trust anyone. Someone released his letter to the media. Maybe he did! Should have edited it if that's the case. Lol

Orange Crush
Orange Crush

Coach Ekeler is a DGD already.  Sounds like a much respected coach and a great hire.  Sarks loss, our gain!!!

DawgWhisperer
DawgWhisperer

Welcome coach. You're right. Coach Richt is a great man because he serves a great God!

HendoDawg
HendoDawg

Hard not to like or at least be impressed with the man after reading that. If his vertical is any indication of his passion, then I think we are in good hands regarding LB's. Welcome to Athens CME!


On another note, how stinking refreshing to read an article and then see not one post from the typical UGA blog bottom feeders!

FrankFraticelli
FrankFraticelli

We got a good coach - unlike Vandy whose line coach, Vavae Tata, just got arrested for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. 

I think because it was a coach, this puts Vandy in the lead for this years Fulmer Cup (bonus points)

greenedefense
greenedefense

I'm glad CMR kicked Clemons off the team! He is setting an example to follow. LOL, Clemons will be an Auburn Tiger in 2 years!

greenedefense
greenedefense

WOW!!!! what a story! I'm glad that CMR hired him. Now he needs to be loyal and stay for 20 years. I actually like Nebraska now.


dawgeatdawg
dawgeatdawg

DREAM TEAM----------------------------------------------------REALLY----------THC-------BARN BOUND

dawgeatdawg
dawgeatdawg

GREAT STORY ---WELCOME NEW COACH GUY

dawgeatdawg
dawgeatdawg

THC will always be famous for F#$%ING UP A 4TH and long game losing BLUNDER vs THE BARN

-------------Take the BUS to Columbus AND tell CROWBABY HELLO------blahahahahah----LOOSER

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

Clemons was given chances to straighten up but he ignored them. He can blame no one but himself.

Adamsran
Adamsran

Speaks well of CME.  Speaks well of the people he has surrounded himself with.


Gives me a new found respect for the people around Nebraska football.


Makes you feel really good about this hire.


Great insight.


Great article.

OriginalATLien
OriginalATLien

Letter brought a tear to my eye! He kinda favors Derek Dooley in that picture too.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

I don't know if Ek can coach but he sure is an open guy with his feelings. Oh Yeah, and he can jump...he is getting some serious air in that photo. We may have to put a dome on Sanford to keep him from jumping out.

ToccoaDawg
ToccoaDawg

His Lb's played decent with depleted ranks. I can't wait to see what he can do with full ranks.


Preston2
Preston2

That is just to much. How cool can it get?

gmwdawg
gmwdawg

Looks like we have us another DG Dawg to coach.  I cant remember when I have looked so forward to the start of the next football season.  I am excited about how good our defense could be with this new staff.  We already have an awesome offense.  Could this finally be the year?  Go Dawgs!

NCDawg
NCDawg

Too bad for JHC.  I wonder if he was released by mutual agreement or if he was booted for how he was handling his business during the suspension.


Cool story about Ekeler. 

Dogleg
Dogleg

JHC kicked off team!

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

If not for him, we beat Auburn. And he's never available for the big time contests! He was going to be suspended for the Clemson and SC game this season anyway...no harm no foul. Good riddance...now who will take over the strong safety position along side Tray Matthews? Corey Moore?

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

So long to Josh Harvey-Clemons! 

Unfreakinbelieveable
Unfreakinbelieveable

Finally.....CMR dumps Josh Harvey-Clemons.  Lets hear it now from all dog fans about UGA players are all so above board and never do anything wrong.  Wonder which JUCO he'll go to.  You can be sure of this....Auburn won't take him after a year off :D

thebucket
thebucket

Welcome to Athens Coach Ekeler! On a darker note I just heard some bad news out of Athens. Stay posted.

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg

Definitely sounds like a good hire.  Soild resume, good work history, and apparently very well thought of by others.

Can someone answer one question though, exactly how do you pronounce his name?  E-Keller?  E-Keeler?  Eh-kel-er?

NCDawg
NCDawg

@gmwdawg it's been a while hasn't it?  I just want to get to the games so I can find out whether my enthusiasm is well founded.  I'm always optimistic but the shakeup and who we got to coach is exciting.

Ghost13
Ghost13

@DawgGoneIt  actually the  1st  3 games, too bad for him. He will probably do what Greg Reid did when FSU  kicked him off the  team, Tranfer to VSU and  enter the  2015 draft.

RedandBlackDAWG
RedandBlackDAWG

@Unfreakinbelieveable Probably Auburn will not take him. After all, he is only guilty of smoking the weed, not robbing his team mates. Maybe he can go to Kansas with Kamara, and then they both will have a fresh start somewhere. It is a shame because the kid was a good player when he wasn't riding the bench on suspension.

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg

Where are you getting that from?  Of course they get into trouble.  Georgia just disciplines earlier and more often than most programs.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@Unfreakinbelieveable  Um I'm pretty sure Alabama just kicked one of their running backs off the team. You can never know 100% what you're players are or are not getting into. But one thing's for certain, you can discipline them and that's just what Mark Richt did.

thebucket
thebucket

@Unfreakinbelieveable Where did any of us real Dawg fans ever say that? What I have said is that all SEC teams are recruiting out of the same pool and the problems that UGA has faced with some guys us not unique to UGA, it happens everywhere. Because UGA suspends on first offense you hear about it more @ UGA, but there are player problems everywhere.