Mike Ekeler is in his third season on the NU defensive staff in 2010. A native Nebraskan, Ekeler serves as linebackers coach.
His linebacking corps earned numerous honors in 2009, including second-team All-Big 12 accolades for Phillip Dillard and All-Big 12 freshman team honors for both Will Compton and Sean Fisher. After switching to WILL linebacker and starting the final nine games, Dillard totaled 83 tackles and 11 tackles for loss, including three sacks, while adding one interception before being taken in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The linebacker unit played a key role in Nebraska leading the nation in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
In his first season with Nebraska, Ekeler molded a young linebacking corps that helped the Huskers rank second in the Big 12 in total defense in 2008, a dramatic improvement from 2007. Nebraska allowed 126 fewer yards per game than in 2008 and cut its rushing defense average nearly in half. The defensive accomplishments came despite the linebacking corps battling numerous injuries that forced Ekeler to use six different linebackers in the starting lineup throughout the year.
Ekeler joined the Nebraska staff after spending the previous four seasons working alongside Bo Pelini. Ekeler spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons as a graduate assistant coach at LSU, working with the Tiger defense. He then served as an intern for the LSU football team in 2007, helping the Tigers win the SEC and national titles, capped by a victory over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. The 2007 season marked the third time in five years Ekeler was part of a team that played in the BCS title game.
In each of Ekeler's three seasons assisting Pelini with the LSU defense, the Tigers finished third nationally in total defense. LSU finished the 2007 season with a 12-2 mark, after posting records of 11-2 in each of the previous two seasons. The Tigers were a perfect 3-0 in bowl games, winning the Peach Bowl in 2005, the Sugar Bowl following the 2006 campaign and the BCS National Championship Game in 2007.
In 2006, the LSU defense surrendered just 242.8 yards per game, the fewest by a Tiger defense since 1976. LSU led the SEC in six defensive categories and ranked in the top five nationally in four major categories. Tiger defenders Glenn Dorsey and LaRon Landry each earned first-team All-America honors.
LSU finished in the top 10 nationally in 2005 in all four major defensive categories and allowed less than 270 total yards per contest. A pair of Tiger defensive tackles - Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten - each earned first-team All-America accolades.
Ekeler spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons as a defensive graduate assistant at Oklahoma on Coach Bob Stoops' staff. In both of his seasons at OU, the Sooners participated in the national championship game and the Sooners posted a combined record of 24-3. In 2004, Ekeler worked alongside Bo Pelini, who served as the Sooners' co-defensive coordinator in OU's Big 12 title season.
The Blair (Neb.) High School graduate got his start in coaching, serving as a volunteer assistant at Omaha Skutt High School from 1999 to 2001. The following season, Ekeler served as an assistant coach at Manhattan (Kan.) High School, before moving into the college game. Prior to his stint in the high school ranks, Ekeler spent seven years in private business, owning a sales company based in Omaha.
Ekeler earned a reputation as a hard-nosed, fiery competitor during his playing days at Kansas State from 1991 to 1994. A four-year letterman, Ekeler was a linebacker and special teams standout for Coach Bill Snyder's teams, including the 1993 Copper Bowl and 1994 Aloha Bowl teams.
Snyder appointed Ekeler as a captain in 1994, the only self-appointed captain during Snyder's 18 seasons as Wildcat head coach. His special teams play was noted as Ekeler was honored for his special teams play as the George Michael Sports Machine Special Teams Player of the Year. He also earned academic all-conference honors while at Kansas State.
Ekeler played a key role in Blair High School's 1988 Class B state championship as a junior wide receiver and linebacker.
Ekeler graduated from Kansas State in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in social science. He and his wife, Barbie, have four children, J.J., Cameryn, Abigail and Bella.
The Ekeler File
Date and Place of Birth: Oct. 4, 1971 in David City, Neb.
Family: Wife, Barbie; Son, J.J.; Daughters Cameryn, Abigail, Bella
Education: Bachelor’s in social science, Kansas State, 1995
Playing Experience: 1991-94, Kansas State
Coaching Experience: 1999-2001, Omaha Skutt High School (volunteer coach); 2002, Manhattan (Kan.) High School (assistant coach); 2003-04, Oklahoma (graduate assistant/defense); 2005-06, LSU (graduate assistant coach/defense); 2007, LSU (football intern); 2008-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/linebackers)