Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher is now in charge of coaching the position. Autry Denson‘s return to South Bend comes at the perfect time, with Brian Kelly looking to find the right coach and personality to replace Tony Alford on the coaching staff.
After interviewing a collection of candidates, Kelly picked Denson, a choice he wasn’t necessarily inclined to make.
“Autry came up immediately, because of his background here as the all‑time leading rusher, and quite frankly his background as a Notre Dame student‑athlete gave him a chance at an interview,” Kelly said on Monday. “I really didn’t think I was going to hire him, quite honestly, until he interviewed. He blew me away in the interview.
“His attention to detail at the running back position, techniques, how he was teaching the running backs, the depth and knowledge at the position both in the run game and the pass game. His philosophy matched mine in terms of development of the student‑athlete both on and off the field.”
Let’s take a closer look at Denson’s resume, some quotes from the enthusiastic Florida native now living his dream back at Notre Dame and his introductory video.
2014 — University of South Florida, Running Backs
2011-13 – Bethune-Cookman, Running Backs
2010 – Pope John Paul II High School, Head Coach
On the hectic time between USF and Notre Dame:
“It was very interesting. From the time I got into coaching, this was my dream job. So I heard it was open and here’s the funny thing about it … I heard about it at 1:30 or 2 p.m. and our furniture for the relocation to USF wasn’t even getting there until 3:30 p.m. so I had to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer before I approached my wife. I went in with caution, but of course she was excited as well.”
On his philosophy as a coach:
“I just talked about my philosophy. The X’s and O’s are the same, it’s what you bring to the table. Who I am as a coach, this is my ministry. This is how I mentor young men. I was blessed that the game of football raised me, it taught me a lot of invaluable life lessons. I’ve had so many great coaches around me – Urban Meyer, Desmond Robinson, Lou Holtz and Tony Dungy, that for me it’s very natural for me to do what I’m doing because all those people have taken the time to work with me. So I’m basically returning and playing back what they’ve done for me.”
On returning to Notre Dame:
“It’s so exciting. It’s amazing. I can’t stop smiling because you really don’t get this opportunity, it really doesn’t come (around very often). I realize how blessed I am. I’m ready to get in and work and do everything I can to help the University and help our team get to a national championship.”
Here’s Denson’s introductory video from UND.com:
(When Denson breaks off the long run against Michigan in 1998, if you listen carefully, you might hear a much younger version of this writer “experiencing” his first game inside Notre Dame Stadium.)