CEDAR RAPIDS — Tyler Staker excused himself in the middle of an interview Monday at Coe College’s football media day to address a quick problem. Excused himself virtually in mid-sentence.
The guy in charge of taking team photos was on a megaphone, loudly requesting that all coaches gather and line up for their group shot. The issue was that not all the coaches had shown up at Clark Field, yet.
“Sorry about that,” he said, upon returning to the interview.
Hey, it’s called being a head coach, something Staker apparently has taken to very quickly and nicely.
“Number one, the transition has been awesome,” said Steve Staker, Tyler’s dad and the guy he has replaced. “I’m really proud of how he has handled everything. He’s got new ideas, fresh ideas. We’re moving right along. I think the guys have done a great job, those who have been around, have done a great job of adjusting to him. I just think things are going to go really smooth. He knows what he wants, he’s got all these coaches buying into what he wants. It has been a great camp for us.”
Tyler Staker, 32, was an all-Iowa Conference defensive back at Coe. He moved over to the coaching side of things upon graduation in 2006, spending 10 years as an assistant in the program, including eight years as offensive coordinator for his father.
You didn’t have to be clairvoyant to predict he would take over head coaching duties at some point. Some point came after last season, when Steve Staker decided to step down and move into “semi-retirement.”
He remains on the Coe staff as defensive line coach for his son. Tyler Staker played for his father at Fredericksburg High School, where they won a state championship.
They have been together on the football field a long time.
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“I didn’t know how many years my dad was going to coach,” Tyler Staker said. “He’s in good health, and I just really didn’t know when he would be ready to step away from the game in that head coaching role. Obviously he’s not ready to step completely away from it. I feel like I put in the time. Being an alum here at Coe obviously helped. I was going to be ready when and if the opportunity came.”
“It has just worked out well,” said Steve Staker, who went 55-29 in his eight seasons at the Kohawk helm. “I enjoy being an assistant coach. Haven’t done it a lot, for four years here under Erik Raeburn and for a year at Upper Iowa back in 1989, I think it was. But it’s fine. It’s been a great transition, I’ve enjoyed it. And I’m pretty damn proud of Tyler for what he has done. He has taken the bull by the horns, and he’s run with it. He’s done a great job.”
Coe is trying to rebound from a 4-6 record a season ago. Fourteen starters return, including three guys on the offensive line and four on the defensive line.
If you believe being strong up front is telltale, the Kohawks should be in for quite a rebound.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve been focusing on early is just bringing energy to every practice, focusing on the little things,” said senior tight end Tyler Gunderson, a former Marion prep. “Just paying attention to all the details. Those things add up ... to winning more ballgames.”
The players also feel the coaching transition has been seamless.
“He has kept some things the same, changed some things,” said senior wide receiver Trevor Heitland, one of five former Cedar Rapids Kennedy guys on a 98-man roster. “For the most part, it’s been pretty easy for us. Tyler has been a big part of the program for a long time, so I don’t think it’s been too tough of a transition. He has stepped in and handled it pretty well. It’s been pretty easy for everyone.”
“There are probably more similiarites than differences,” Tyler Staker said. “But one of the things that I’m really focusing on and trying to emphasize is the culture of our program. Really getting guys to play for one another, doing things right on and off the field and paying attention to the little things. The little things add up to the big things. That’s really what I’ve put a lot of my focus and energy on in camp.”
The season begins Sept. 3 at home against Wisconsin-River Falls, which also was a 4-6 club last season. Then it’s the annual rivalry game at Cornell the following week.
The Iowa Conference schedule begins Sept. 17 at home against Loras.
“This is a really good group, a talented group, and they have worked really hard in the offseason,” Tyler Staker said. “They have come into camp in shape. They’ve taken steps in the right direction. A lot has yet to be determined, but I like what I’m seeing so far.”
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