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Future Football Coaches Academy Develops and Connects Aspiring Coaches

By John Kuzio

As a 13-year-old, Siriki Diabate came from the Ivory Coast in West Africa to New York City and developed a passion for football – the American kind. His passion grew as he did, and Diabate eventually made his way from junior college to Syracuse University. Following his two seasons as a linebacker for the Orange, Diabate still had passion for the sport he loves and jumped at the chance to become a defensive graduate assistant on the coaching staff at Syracuse.

“This is what I really want to do: work with young men and be able to develop them and be in their lives every single day, making sure they are doing the right things – kind of being a role model for them,” Diabate said while attending the 2015 NCAA-AFCA Future Football Coaches Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. “There’s nothing better than that. … This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Diabate was one of 30 men aspiring to be college football coaches who were selected to attend the academy, which took place January 11-13 in conjunction with the American Football Coaches Association convention.

The academy, an educational program presented by NCAA leadership development staff, is designed for individuals who have recently completed their collegiate eligibility, have a desire to learn about the coaching industry and are passionate about exploring a career in coaching. For many, the primary focus is on college sports. While at the academy, participants learned about goal-setting, networking and personal branding as it relates to coaching football.

Participants are not required to be former NCAA athletes, though most are.

Curry Sexton, another participant, just completed his senior year as an all-Big 12 wide receiver for Kansas State University. “In this industry where leadership is so key as a coach or as an aspiring coach, you always need to be refining your leadership skills because that is going to determine how successful you are,” Sexton said.

NCAA leadership development, in addition to the academy, administers the NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy for position coaches and the Champion Forum, designed for coordinators and assistant or associate head coaches deemed to be potential head-coaching candidates. The NCAA created its coaching academies in 2004.

NCAA leadership development and members from the Association selected the academy participants. The group, which is located at the NCAA national office, coordinates and facilitates cutting-edge education and customized training for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators from NCAA membership institutions, conference offices and the national office. The staff annually hosts more than 20 programs at little or no cost to the membership, with expert curriculum designed to enhance the well-being and personal development of NCAA student-athletes, and provides ongoing education and topical training to athletics professionals who identify and serve student-athlete needs. For more information, visit ncaa.org/leadershipdevelopment.

During the academy in January, prominent head football coaches talked with the eager group. Pennsylvania State University coach James Franklin addressed the participants before a networking dinner and offered words of wisdom.

“You are interviewing every single day,” Franklin said. “Don’t get caught always worrying about the next job. Do your job while you’re there, and everything will take care of itself.”

Academy participants took the opportunity to interact one on one with Duke University coach David Cutcliffe, Ball State University coach Pete Lembo and University of Miami coach Chuck Martin. The participants were able to ask tough questions and received some hard truths.

“You may have to move back to move up,” said Henry Harvey, Mount St. Joseph University cornerbacks coach, after speaking with the head coaches at the networking dinner. “You might be a defensive coordinator at a smaller school, and you may have to move back and be an assistant in order to get a better job.”

Gerald Chatman of Butler University, Mario Price of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Spencer Danielson of Azusa Pacific University and James Daniels IV of Becker College are all past participants of the academy and told participants about their progress since attending.

John Hughes, Montana Tech offensive line coach and academy participant, talked about the academy’s rewards. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with coaches on a more personal level outside of the game,” said Hughes, “and find connections with guys that have been doing this for a long time.”

Coach Ruffin McNeill of East Carolina University was the keynote speaker at the academy and spent 45 minutes relaying the scope of his passion and what it takes to coach college football. “Kids won’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care,” McNeill said. “Then they’ll care about how much you know.”

The participants at the 2015 Future Football Coaches Academy:

  • Kevin Abrams, graduate assistant coach, defense and special teams, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Ryan Barry, wide receivers coach, North Carolina Wesleyan College
  • Kevin Callahan, running backs coach, Amherst College
  • Michael DeTerlizzi, graduate assistant coach, defense and football operations, Charleston Southern University
  • Siriki Diabate, graduate assistant coach, linebackers, Syracuse University
  • James Emma, defensive line coach, California Lutheran University
  • Troy Emrey, graduate assistant coach, wide receivers, Sul Ross State University
  • Wes Graham, quarterbacks coach, Knox College
  • Henry Harvey, cornerbacks coach, Mount Saint Joseph University
  • John Hughes, assistant defensive line coach, Sacramento State University
  • Tristian Johnson, linebackers coach and strength and conditioning coach, Kentucky Wesleyan College
  • Marcus Jones, defensive back and kick returner, University of Minnesota
  • Philip Kaiser, linebackers coach, defensive intern, Wilmington College
  • Eli Keimach, graduate assistant coach, offensive unit, Duke University
  • Tony Koehling, graduate assistant coach, offensive line, Ohio University
  • Kevin Koger, assistant coach, tight ends and special teams, University of Michigan
  • Rick Lyster, assistant defensive coach, Monmouth University
  • Nicholas Mata, wide receivers coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach, Johnson C. Smith University
  • Brett Nelson, quarterback, University of Louisville
  • Ralph Ord, running backs coach, Austin College
  • Matt Purdom, offensive line coach, Drake University
  • Sean Reeder, assistant coach, offensive line and tight ends, California Lutheran University
  • Ty Reed, quarterbacks coach, McDaniel College
  • Jaquon Robinson, running backs coach, Troy University
  • Brody Rohach, quarterback, Wayne State University
  • Cody Schultz, running backs and tight ends coach, Beloit College
  • Curry Sexton, wide receiver, Kansas State University
  • Connor Waggoner, assistant coach, defense, Humboldt State University
  • Vernard Williams, running backs coach, Williams College
  • Mike Young, assistant coach, defensive line, Central College