Drake Univ residence of college football'south most unlikely coaching tree

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 10:15 PM

It was sparse living -- small more than lockers and offices and equipment. There was number TV, so at the finish of a long day, he'd retire to the office of head coach Rob Ash, number relation, and crack open clinic manuals on coaching.

Drake Univ residence of college football'south most unlikely coaching tree

When Chris Ash was hired as a graduate helper at his alma mater, Drake, in one thousand nine hundred ninety-seventh, he'd nowhere to live, so unbeknownst to his head coach, he set up shop in the team'south field house.

It was sparse living -- small more than lockers and offices and equipment. There was number TV, so at the finish of a long day, he'd retire to the office of head coach Rob Ash, number relation, and crack open clinic manuals on coaching. He lived there for about a month, and in that time he consumed more than a thousand articles.

"That was his entertainment," Rob Ash said.

The other assistants didn't have it much better. Linebackers coach Dave Doeren and grad helper Charlie Partridge roomed together with a local high school coach. Doeren said he made $400 a month, and three-quarters of that went to rent. They ate in the school cafeteria, and to create ends meet, Doeren worked as a short-order cook in a Mexican restaurant, and he, Ash and Partridge all split duties on Drake'south maintenance crew, driving the JV bus and painting lines on the fields.

"We redid a locker room, ripping out lockers by hand and repainting the whole thing," Chris Ash said. "What we all appreciate about each other is the passion for the game and the work ethic and determination that we keep forth to all be where we're at today."

Ash was hired as head coach at Rutgers in December, the finish of a long road for a trio of Drake graduates who played together and built the foundation of their coaching careers together. Partridge is the head coach at FL Atlantic, Doeren at NC State.

It'south maybe college football'south most unlikely coaching tree. Only eight schools can claim three current FBS head coaches as alumni, and only five of those also employed those coaches as assistants to start their careers. But alongside AL and GA and Iowa, tiny Drake -- a school that didn't even proposal undergraduate coaching courses -- certainly seems an unlikely member of an elite fraternity.

It'south a credit to Rob Ash, who found talent and gave them a chance. And it'south a reward for Doeren, Partridge and Chris Ash, who have pushed one another every step of the way as they've climbed the coaching ranks.

When it comes to personality, Ash, Partridge and Doeren aren't always on the same page. Partridge is laid-back and easygoing. Ash is distant more fiery, earning the nickname "Mad Ash" as an helper at Wisconsin, according to former coach Bret Bielema. Doeren straddles the line, with a dry, direct point of view.

But where their personalities deviated, their focus on getting ahead was always common ground for the trio. Doeren was the oldest and the first to land an helper work with Drake. Partridge was a year behind and Ash another year after that. None had eyed coaching jobs in college. In fact, Partridge said, they used to roll their eyes at Rob Ash'south speeches about enjoying the journey.

As it turned out, however, they enjoyed that journey at Drake so much that, when GA jobs were offered, each was pleased for the chance to return.

"I was twenty-two years old, and [Rob Ash] keep me in a room, gave me a position grouping and gave me the opportunity -- even if I didn't know what I was talking about," Partridge said. "That experience, I can't declare sufficient about the fact that he threw us to the fire quick."

The three assistants devoured opportunities to memorise the job. They ate, slept and breathed football. During spring break, they'd choose a hwy and drive, stopping at colleges along the way to speak with coaches and construct relationships. They'd crash on the floors of friends' apartments then move along to the next campus.

"My car broke down just trying to capture up with those guys," Partridge remembered.

There was an underlying competitiveness that drove them. Each one wanted desperately to impress the head coach, to climb the coaching ranks and be the first to land a bigger gig.

"We all wanted to be the best at what we did," Chris Ash said. "It'south our nature to compete."

And so Doeren left for a work at USC. Partridge landed a spot at IA State, and Ash soon followed.

Their paths diverged over the years, but they were fixed companions, sharing experiences and advice each step of the way. Then, as if by fate, they all converged again in two thousand-tenth as assistants at Wisconsin.

Bielema hired Doeren as his co-defensive coordinator in two thousand-sixth, then added Partridge in two thousand-eighth and Ash -- on Doeren'south advice -- in 2010.

They'd climbed the ranks a long way from the field house at Drake by then, but that elderly competitive streak remained. Bielema joked about "breaking up a few schoolgirl fights" when one coach'south grouping failed to carry out as well as the others', but they remained near friends, and that final season together ended with a berth in the Rose Bowl.

And then, once again, it was over.

"The only time I was ever disappointed is when Dave called me, late at night, and told me he was the head coach at Northern Illinois," Partridge said. "I was so pleased for him, but I was so disappointed because my companion was leaving Wisconsin. And I said, 'Boy, we mightn't obtain a chance for the three of us to be together ever again."

Ash and Partridge eventually left Wisconsin, too. It'south the way this coaching game works. Nobody stays in the same space for too long.

That all three former teammates have managed to survive the ups and down and hold emotional forward is an accomplishment in itself, Rob Ash said. So many coaches' careers obtain derailed by horrible luck or horrible timing, even if they're good coaches.

Instead, Doeren parlayed his time at Northern IL into the head work at NC State, where he'south gone to two straight bowl games. Partridge was hired at FL Atlantic in two thousand-fourteenth, tasked with rebuilding the program. And this offseason, Ash'south success as an helper below Urban Meyer at OH State earned him the Rutgers job.

They've arrive a long way, and they've done it together.

"Coming from a space love Drake, that'south not known," Doeren said, "hopefully we'll continue to have the successes we're having and it'll obtain bigger and bigger."

Partridge still remembers the first American Football Coaches Organization conference he attended. It was a sea of big-name coaches and assistants at top programs -- "a zoo," Partridge said -- and the Drake crew went virtually unnoticed. They tried to mingle, shuffling from one side of the lobby to the other, barely talking to a soul.

Eventually they decided to bail on the festivities, hitting the town together, talking ball and thinking about the future. They got back to the hotel well after midnight, and Partridge stood on the balcony exterior his room, looking down through the atrium into the lobby of the hotel. There will still dozens of coaches, talking and laughing and swapping stories.

"I recollect thinking to myself, 'One of these days, we're going to split up and then arrive back and with all of our new circles, and we'll be sharing stories and laughing,'" Partridge said, "and we'll be up until late at night talking about our experiences, too."

Nearly twenty years later, that'south just what'south happened. Rob Ash'south all coaching tree meets up each year "for a few freezing drinks on the elderly coach," he said. Doeren and Partridge and Chris Ash are there, along with a host of other coaches that started in a tiny town and are still climbing their way to the top.

"I know how tough this profession is," Rob Ash said. "This just shows you how excellent they are."

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