North Texas Daily

Graduate assistants play key role in football

Graduate assistants play key role in football

Graduate assistants play key role in football
October 08
23:55 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

It is a long process to become a full-fledged football coach, and the very first step is being a graduate assistant.

GAs are technically coaches, but they are still learning the game from a head coach’s perspective. Most head coaches get their start as GAs, including the Mean Green head football coach Dan McCarney.

“When I got cut from the Atlanta Falcons, got cut from the Denver Broncos, Kent Stevenson, who was my position coach back at Iowa, he was the one who, when I got it out of my system that I wasn’t good to play in the NFL, put his arm around me and said, ‘You need to get into coaching,’” McCarney said.

McCarney said that Stevenson saw something in him that would make him think he would be a great coach. McCarney rarely envisioned himself coaching when he was younger.

“I didn’t grow up saying, ‘I want to coach one day when I am done playing,’” McCarney said.

McCarney accepted a position to be a GA at Iowa University and his experience there showed him how important being a GA is. Today, GAs and interns are a big part of the learning experience for becoming a coach.

“It has given young guys a chance to gain experience, build relationships, learn the game, learn about coaching, learn about teaching, learn about motivating and learn the whole big picture of running a Division I college football program,” McCarney said.

Some of the assistants are former players like McCarney. One is Victor Gill, who played at UNT from 2006-2010. Gill served as a student assistant for a year before becoming a GA. It was a natural path for Gill, who always wanted to coach.

“It was a way to transition from a student assistant, learn how things work, then become a GA, slowly integrating the ways to become a coach,” Gill said.

Gill works mainly with the offensive line and scout teams, and said that a lot of work goes into the life of a GA, but eventually it pays off.

“We get a lot of coaching on-the-field responsibility as well,” Gill said.

The hours for these assistants are long and include a lot of late nights and early mornings. Gill said the work can be stressful, but the coaches work the same amount, but on different things.

“If we are in there putting a scouting report together, the coaches are in there game planning,” Gill said. “Everybody has their own responsibility and work.”

Gill has enjoyed his experience with McCarney and has learned a lot from the head coach.

“You get to see the ins and outs of a guy that is coming in and turning around a program, what that takes and it has been a pretty cool experience,” Gill said.

GAs don’t necessarily need to be former college players to get a job. Spencer Brown has never played college football. The last time he played was in high school, but that didn’t stop him from trying out coaching.

“Once I was ready to graduate college, I had the option to go back home and sell insurance with my dad or go my own route,” Brown said. “So I decided to do what I loved and put everything into college football.”

In addition to their coaching responsibilities, the GAs have to get some schooling in, so they can get their master’s degrees.  All GAs must have six hours per semester and they don’t necessarily have to be in the summer.

“I am far enough ahead so I can just take three hours in the semester, which is a major load off my plate,” Brown said.

The only coaching experience Brown has is with high school lacrosse. He said trying to get caught up in his first year was pretty tough.

“It was like moving to a different country, the language these guys were speaking and how fast they were talking,” Brown said. “That first year I learned so much.”

Brown has progressed since he has been with the team, and he gives a lot of credit to all the defensive coaches who he has worked with. He said he now feels confident in his coaching future.

“I probably border on the arrogant side of how much I know, but I still got a lot to learn,” Brown said. “I feel confident going into a position job and hopefully a coordinator role.

McCarney feels the same way about his GAs. He said he would help them attain careers at North Texas or elsewhere.

“Those guys are invaluable. I love them and respect them,” McCarney said. “If you have a good one, you can’t take care of them enough or appreciate them. If you have an average one, you can’t get rid of them fast enough. I got some really good ones here at North Texas.”


Victor Gill


Spencer Brown

Featured Image: Head coach Dan McCarney congratulates senior outside linebacker Antonio Johnson after a good play during the last home game against Nicholls State on Sept. 20. Photo by Ryan Vance – Staff Photographer

About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Twitter Feed

North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@kevoooandres: @ntdaily is looking for writers, illustrators and photographers! Any major and level of experience is welcome. It's a great way to build up your portfolio!
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@JohnFields0: Excited to announce my return as the @ntdaily sports editor! It's where I got my start in journalism and I'm excited for the chance to help others do the same.Don't worry, I'll still be posting content as usual for @MeanGreen247. Couldn't fit it all in a tweet, more below!⬇️⬇️
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@Reed_Smith25: Interested in writing sports for @ntdaily this semester?Fill out this form!
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@rhemajoybell: 🗞 @ntdaily is looking for writers, photographers and illustrators for the spring semester.any experience level and major is welcome.fill out this form for more info:
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@marialawsonn: Interested in volunteering with @ntdaily this semester as a writer, photographer or illustrator? Fill out this interest form and we will be in contact during the first week of classes! 🗞 #unt @MaybornUNT
h J R

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad