Drake alum Chris Ash ready for Rutgers challenge
Three key mentors guided Chris Ash along his career path.
And the former Drake defensive back hopes to use the lessons they taught him when he takes over as Rutgers’ football coach.
Ash was hired by the Scarlet Knights this month but will continue to serve as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator through the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.
“It’s been crazy, to be honest with you,” Ash told the Register. “My world kind of got turned upside down. We beat Michigan in our last game … and I started to receive some phone calls from people about coaching opportunities.”
Ash’s options were much more limited in the early 1990s. The Ottumwa native never really set any college plans, so he followed a buddy to Des Moines.
“When I started at Drake, I was just a young guy from a small town,” Ash said. “I didn’t have any idea about what I was getting into.
“The fact I ended up at Drake was kind of a miracle.”
Ash is now the third ex-Bulldogs player to be a current head coach at an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school, along with Dave Doeren of North Carolina State and Charlie Partridge of Florida Atlantic.
“The opportunity to be a head coach is obviously a special honor for me,” Ash said.
It’s the culmination of humble beginnings in 1997, when Ash became a graduate assistant for Bulldogs’ coach Rob Ash (no relation).
Rob Ash posted a 125-63-2 record in 18 seasons at Drake, winning four Pioneer League titles.
“He was a very intelligent guy,” Chris Ash said. “He was an excellent teacher. He had a first-class program, treated the players right, helped players develop to reach their full potential.
“Those are things I learned from Rob at an early age.”
Chris Ash then joined Dan McCarney’s Iowa State staff in 2000.
McCarney led a Cyclone revival that included five bowl appearances in six seasons.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be there during that time,” Ash said. “Things I learned from coach Mack; it was about the importance of energy and enthusiasm to a program.
“He brought it every single day,” Ash added. “He demanded it from the coaches and the players every single day.
“He taught me how to build a program of toughness. Taught me how to treat people the right way.”
Ash also spent time at San Diego State (under former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long) as well as Wisconsin and Arkansas (under Bret Bielema).
In 2014, Urban Meyer brought him to the Buckeyes.
“I’m coming from probably the most comprehensive program in America, here at Ohio State,” Ash said. “From A to Z, there’s not one stone unturned, there’s not one thing that we don’t do to try to be the best we can be in every area.
“Coach Meyer does an unbelievable job of always trying to get better every single day.”
Ash inherits a 4-8 Rutgers team coming off its second season in the Big Ten.
“People say, ‘Well, it’s a four- or five-year turnaround,’’’ Ash said of expectations. “I’m not looking at it that way. I’m going in there and try to win from day one.”