Monte Kiffin ‘One of America’s Most Respected Football People’
Randy York’s N-Sider
Official Blog of the Huskers
One of the best traits Nebraska Coach Mike Riley practices on a daily basis is using his innate ability to re-prioritize instantaneously. This past week, for instance, Riley pushed that special button after spending 15 minutes with Billy Devaney and Monte Kiffin following their unscheduled hallway rendezvous in Devaney’s office on North Memorial Stadium’s second-floor.
As Nebraska’s executive director of player personnel and special assistant to the head coach, Devaney welcomed Kiffin back to his alma mater after meeting him in the hallway. A few minutes later, Devaney invited Kiffin into his office to catch up on old times, not to mention Kiffin’s decision to become a defensive assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars at the tender age of 76.
Ten minutes later, Riley emerged from his office and ended up joining Devaney’s conversation with Kiffin, a former Nebraska letterman and Husker defensive coordinator. Three football savvy minds connected immediately and 10 minutes later, Riley asked Kiffin if he’d be willing to share his football thoughts and defensive schemes not only with him, but also Nebraska’s entire defensive staff beginning at 2 p.m.
Mike Riley: Parts of Two Days with Kiffin 'Great for a Whole Bunch of Reasons'
Since Kiffin was a day-and-a-half early to join son Lane Kiffin (Alabama’s offensive coordinator) and grandkids on a fishing trip near Monte’s hometown of Lexington, Neb., the answer was an immediate yes. “We were really excited to hear that Monte was coming by to say hi and we received a bonus because he stayed with us for about four hours on Tuesday,” Riley said, acknowledging the brain trust was so compelling, he asked Kiffin if he could come back again Wednesday morning to continue strategic and valued discussions.
“It was great for a whole bunch of reasons,” Riley said. “Obviously, it was just good to see Monte and hear how much he loves Nebraska. His background here kick-started a fabulous career. Monte is one of the most well respected football people in America, and we were so glad that he stopped by so we could talk a lot of football with him.
“I just marvel at Monte’s overall picture of defensive football and his detail in coaching us up on a couple of things that we really wanted to talk about,” Riley said. “He’s been through every part of all the changes and he has great perspective. We spent the first four hours interweaving his stories about what was behind the thinking to make changes. Those were valuable lessons for coaches to learn and help them grow.”
Monte Kiffin Never Met a Chalk Board or a Napkin that He Couldn’t Fill Up Fast
Football coaches who know Monte Kiffin understand why he’s never met a chalk board or a napkin that he couldn’t fill up fast and teach while he’s scribbling. “He opened up with the fact that football games are won and lost on turnovers and big plays,” Riley said. “Of course, those were our two major issues a year ago, so they hit home right away."
Riley asked for additional astute input on Wednesday morning, and Kiffin – donned in the full Big Red gear of his alma mater – was more than willing to share. “Monte got more into defensive football and specific coverages the second day,” Riley said. “He had a great-great talk about technique in certain coverages and how players must play. I really believe in what he said, and we all certainly appreciate his connection with this university. He’s very proud of his alma mater.”
Kiffin painted an intriguing picture of how Nebraska did things when he was in Lincoln and how the Huskers matched skill sets with schemes. “You see how certain players fit specific schemes and you enhance the abilities that will allow each player be at his best,” Riley said. “That’s coaching and it’s obviously a very big part of Monte’s history. We talked about different defenses and different looks. Monte has been very creative and has combined that creativity when he teaches players how to play.”
Bottom Line: Kiffin Had a Great Time and Listeners Had an Even Better Time
Riley embraces football history and is well aware that Kiffin was the defensive coordinator for the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which led the NFL in fewest yards allowed, fewest points allowed and most interceptions.
For the first time in Super Bowl history, Tampa Bay, the NFL’s leading defense, had a chance to meet Oakland, the team with the league-leading offense. Tampa Bay surprisingly walloped the favored Raiders, 48-21. The Buccaneers’ dominance was reflected in five sacks, five interceptions and three defensive touchdowns
Talk about magical moments. At 62, Kiffin became an overnight sensation, and at 76, he became a classic example of why Riley believes there’s NO PLACE like Nebraska.
“Monte told us there’s no place like Nebraska, and we all think he’s right,” Riley said. “That’s what ties so many people to this place. Monte’s love was so evident to all of us, we asked for more because that’s what Nebraskans do. Monte had a great time here last week, but you can ask Billy or any other member of our staff who sat down and learned from Monte – we had an even better time than he did.”
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Voices from Husker Nation
I played for Coach Kiffin, our defensive coordinator when Coach Powers was my position coach on the 1970 National Championship team. There were no better defensive minds anywhere in football. We never went into a game unprepared. Dave Morock, Parkville, Missouri
Great article. It captures the energy of Monte Kiffin to this day. Very happy he re-connected with the Husker football program. I got to see Monte play for a couple of years while I was at the University of Nebraska and now live about ½-mile from him in Florida, so I see him all the time around the area. He lives for football. Bob Decker, St. Petersburg, Florida
I just read your article on Monte Kiffin's visit to Lincoln. I was a student manager for the football team from 1969-1973. I have good memories of Coach Kiffin sending me to Kings for a late-night hamburger and fries after he finished making rounds for curfew during fall camp. I also remember former Husker Jim Huge and his complimentary words about Coach Kiffin and his teammates from their days in high school competition. Reed McClymont, Holdrege, Nebraska
Thanks a ton for the great story on Monte Kiffin. I really like the way Mike Riley and his coaches approach their jobs! Looking forward to a great season! Jerry Wood, Valrico, Florida
I remember Monte Kiffin graduating in 1958 from Lexington. He was a stud on a high school team whose starters gave up one touchdown all year. Monte was also the state high school athlete of the year in ’58. I really enjoyed this article. Larry Andrews, Elkhorn, Nebraska