When Army battles Notre Dame on Saturday, Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken will be looking across the field at a head coach he knew a long time ago. And it can’t help but trigger a trip down Memory Lane.
Because before Monken climbed the ranks at Navy and Georgia Southern, before he was given a chance to take over the program in West Point, he was a young coach trying to find a job.
The Times Herald-Record’s Sal Interdanto has a great story on the beginning of Monken’s career as a college coach. And it features a young graduate assistant being driven by his mother three hours for a job interview with young head coach Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State.
Monken hopped in a car, driven by his mother, Nancy, for the three-hour ride east of their Joilet, Ill. home.
“I was so thankful for that opportunity,” Monken said on Tuesday as his Army team preps for Kelly’s Notre Dame squad. “I had never been up there, He’s a terrific football coach and a great guy. I didn’t get the job and that’s OK. I wasn’t ready at the time. I’m sure he found a very qualified coach.”
While Monken didn’t get the job, his ties to Kelly still go back. He played college football at Millikin, the same program that produced former Irish offensive coordinator and Miami-Ohio head coach Chuck Martin. His cousin Todd Monken, who coached Southern Miss for three seasons, worked with Kelly at Grand Valley, before leaving for Notre Dame and a graduate assistant job.
So as we dive into subplots that were sure to come out this week, Monken’s job interview—and likely runner-up finish—is a fun product of the backroads of coaching in small-college football.