Story and photo courtesy of N.C. State Athletics
RALEIGH, N.C. - Dave Doeren has made his mom proud.
There was a time, though, right before he started his senior football season at Drake, that Doeren's Irish-Catholic mother was not happy that her son decided to switch from his long-time career path of going to medical school to become a college football coach.
All it took was a brief stint as the seven-on-seven coach of his high school football team that gave the academic All-American student the fever to become a football coach.
"It was the funnest three hours I have ever had in my life," Doeren said. "I knew from that moment on that I was going to be a coach. I didn't know how long it would take, but I knew it's what I wanted to do."
In the 17 years since that summer, Doeren has never regretted veering off the path of a medical career. He has used his people skills and his smarts - he was an academic All-American at Drake - to dissect football plays and heal programs, from Kansas to Wisconsin, where he had assistant coach and coordinator positions, to Northern Illinois, where he won two Mid-American Conference championships as a head coach.
On Saturday, Doeren was named the head coach at NC State. Neither Doeren nor Wolfpack director of athletics Debbie Yow - who always had the 41-year-old up-and-comer at the top of her candidate list - could be happier.
"There is a long line of people who would want to be in my shoes today," Doeren said at his introductory press conference. "All I can tell you is that I didn't take any shortcuts to get here. I've been coaching 17 years on the college level. I've lined the field, driven the bus; I've been a graduate assistant twice and a high school coach. I was a Division I-AA non-scholarship coach, a I-AA scholarship assistant coach, a co-coordinator, a recruiting coordinator, a head coach at a mid-major college and now the head coach at NC State.
"All I can say is, I'm jacked up about it. I am excited to be a part of this program."
Yow was excited to land him too, even if it meant waiting for Doeren's Northern Illinois team to play in Friday night's MAC Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Huskies beat Kent State 44-37 in double overtime to win it second consecutive title.
She had identified Doeren as her top candidate early in the process, thanks primarily to Doeren's agent, Jordan Bazant, who also happens to be the agent for NC State basketball coach Mark Gottfried. Yow and Bazant are used to speaking regularly about Gottfried, but last week they spoke frequently about Doeren and arranged an Saturday's interview in DeKalb, Ill.
Yow was about 20 minutes into her sales pitch when Doeren stopped her cold.
"I already know I want the job," he told her, "if you want to have me."
The two spent the rest of the day talking, with Yow affirming the belief she had from the beginning: Doeren was the best fit to take over the Wolfpack.
"He brings to NC State the total package of skills and values that will be required to elevate our program to national prominence over time," Yow said. "What I really liked about him is that he is very smart. He was an academic All-American. He is a bright coach."
Yow said she offered Doeren $1.8 million per year for the next five years, with multiple performance incentives.
Doeren had been sold on the state of North Carolina for years, ever since he took his first fly-fishing trip to the Great Smoky Mountains shortly after his first son was born. That was more than a decade ago, and he's been back for meetings in Charlotte, coaching visits to Boone and another family vacation at Lake Lure last summer.
Doeren grew up right outside of Kansas City, where he was a big fan of the Royals' George Brett and the Chiefs' Dino Hackett. He also grew up watching his grandfather, Thomas Glennon, coach high school basketball and track. He loved the respect his grandfather commanded from his players, even after he retired from coaching.
He had set in his mind to be a doctor when he left for college in Des Moines, Iowa, but his brief brush with seven-on-seven football ignited the passion for coaching he was born with.
"It's definitely in my blood," he said.
Doeren has lived the vagabond life of a coach, with stops at Drake, Kansas, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. He's had little contact with NC State and the ACC, other than having the unenviable task in 2003, as Kansas' defensive coordinator, of coming up with a plan to stop Philip Rivers and Jerricho Cotchery in their final college football game. The Wolfpack beat the Jayhawks 56-26 in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
But his former boss, Jeff Compher, was an administrator at NC State for 13 years during the 1980s and `90s, and had nothing but the highest praise for the school. As much as Compher didn't want Doeren to leave, he knew that his coach would fall in love with the school and Raleigh.
"It seemed like NC State was always a program that was very close to getting to the next step," Doeren said. "I felt like I could make a difference here."
Doeren has recruited Florida, and he is keen on keeping North Carolina's best players in the state at home to play college football. He spoke at length about his recruiting philosophy during his 41-minute press conference and the private interviews that followed.
"We will recruit the right way," Doeren said. "We will recruit extremely hard. We will involve the high school coaches. We will involve them. We will turnover every stone, starting with the stones that are in state. We will fight for every kid we think belongs here. If we don't get one, it won't be for lack of effort.
"Recruiting is competition and relationships. I love both those things."
Doeren is excited about the challenges he will face when the team returns home from the Pack's bowl game later this month. He isn't going to shy away from the transition the program will undergo over the next four months until spring practice and the next nine months before preseason practice begins.
"I am not sure what all the challenges are here at State, but I do look forward to all of them," Goeren said. "As a head coach, there is a new fire everyday that you put out. I look forward to each of those fires. Whatever they are, we will take them on, one at a time.
"I love that part of my job."