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Archive for Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Kansas ties to NFL often not well known

July 30, 2003

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If you're interested in obtaining a free cold beverage on a hot summer day, I have something for you.

Bet someone. Bet anyone how many men who once wore Kansas University football uniforms now are assistant coaches in the National Football League. Not a single one of the people you ask will give the right answer. I guarantee it. After all, how many of them would believe that seven former Jayhawks are in NFL coaching cadres?

In fact, I'll wager you couldn't find a soul who could name anyone other than Nolan Cromwell, the Jayhawks' free-wheeling wishbone quarterback of the mid-1970s who now is the wide receivers coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

It's true, though. There really are a half-dozen others. Don't believe me? Here's the list:

  • Mike Sweatman, a linebacker (and a good one) for the Jayhawks in the mid-1960s, is the special teams coach of the Chicago Bears.
  • Darrin Simmons, a KU punter in the mid-1990s, is the special teams coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Skip Peete, a wide receiver on those Air Gottfried teams of the early 1980s, is the running backs coach of the Oakland Raiders.
  • Danny Crossman, a defensive back for the Jayhawks before transferring to Pittsburgh when Mike Gottfried left to take over the Panthers in 1984, is a special teams assistant for the Carolina Panthers.

That's five, counting Cromwell. The remaining two NFL aides with KU ties never played a down for the Jayhawks, but they did wear the uniform. They are:

  • Les Steckel, a walk-on running back for the Jayhawks in the mid-1960s, is running backs coach of the Buffalo Bills. You may remember that Steckel was also head coach of the Minnesota Vikings for one season several years ago.
  • Brian Schottenheimer, a quarterback who was red-shirted as a freshman before transferring to Florida, is quarterbacks coach of the San Diego Chargers. His dad is, of course, San Diego head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

There you have it. Seven names that fit the category.

Now if you're interested in another cool beverage, here are some other questions that will more than likely chill your palate:

  • Are there any former Kansas University football aides who now are head coaches in the National Football League?

Most people will answer no, but you'll have the hammer. John Fox, head coach of the Carolina Panthers, coached the KU secondary for one season (1983).

  • Are there any Kansas University graduates who now are head coaches in the National Football League?

This is a trick question. No KU grads who played football for the Jayhawks are head coaches in the NFL. But Jack Del Rio, the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, earned a bachelor's degree in political science from KU while he was playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. As a collegian, Del Rio was a linebacker at USC.

  • Are there any former KU football aides on the staff of the Kansas City Chiefs?

Since the Chiefs are nearby, some people you ask might know that Mike Solari, who coaches the offensive line for Dick Vermeil, was Gottfried's offensive line coach in the early '80s. So this one isn't a lock like Fox and Del Rio.

  • Are there any former Kansas University football aides who are general managers in the NFL?

Again, the answer is yes. While Terry Donahue, the San Francisco 49ers GM, gained most of his fame as head coach at UCLA, he was defensive line coach under Pepper Rodgers when the Jayhawks played in the 1969 Orange Bowl.

  • Can you name the former KU football player and graduate who is director of pro scouting for the Carolina Panthers?

Answer: Mark Koncz, a defensive lineman for the Jayhawks in the late 1980s.

  • Are there any strength coaches in the NFL who once were in charge of conditioning at Kansas?

Yep. Brad Roll, strength coach of the Miami Dolphins, worked in a similar role at Kansas in the '90s.

Well, that should be enough. I'm sure your thirst is amply slaked by now.

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