NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nate Kaczor wants to strengthen special teams brick by brick but believes the “mortar” is equally important.
Kaczor is moving from the assistant offensive line coach he held in 2012 with the Titans to special teams coach, a post he developed his passion for during four seasons as a special teams assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2008-11).
A central tenet in Kaczor’s philosophy will be “the more you do it right, the more chances you’re going to get to make something big happen.”
Thus, he’ll stress to each member of the special teams units the importance of proper execution on every play. He’ll also focus on continuing to motivate players when the act of doing their job well isn’t always reinforced with a long return.
Kaczor said he likes working with the personalities of players on special teams units and the extensive opportunities to work with so many players. Kaczor said he benefitted from working under Joe DeCamillis in 2008 — DeCamillis was recently hired by the Bears as special teams coach/assistant head coach after four seasons with the Cowboys — and seeing the approach that he took.
“You can’t get a more well-rounded coaching experience than coaching special teams,” Kaczor said. “That was the part, when I did that, I realized this was something that I really like, so I immersed myself in that and obviously tried to learn as much, grow as much and still be myself. My personality is wired for a lot of the aspects it takes to coach special teams. That’s probably why I enjoy it so much, to deal with the whole roster.”
Turnover occurred on Jacksonville’s staff after the 2011 season. Although he loves special teams the most, Kaczor decided to apply for the Titans’ assistant offensive line opening in 2012. He saw enough carryover from coaching special teams to coaching offensive linemen that piqued his interest in Tennessee.
“Working with the offensive line in a lot of ways is similar to working with special teams because a lot of times you’re dealing with people that might not know the name of your right guard, unless he’s one of your main stars,” Kaczor said. “People may know three or four guys (on special teams) but not that seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th guy that are way better than anybody ever thinks they are. It’s important to motivate and work with those guys and give them a sense that, ‘Hey, your job is really important, although your name is not in the headlines all the time.’
“The o-line and special teams are very similar in (the importance of) being fundamentally sound and the drill work that could appear to be mundane,” Kaczor continued. “There are several positions where you would do the same types of drills every day, and people are like, ‘How could you do those drills every day? It looks so boring, it’s the same thing over and over,’ but there’s a lot of special teams positions like that.”
Kaczor’s journey to coach at the highest level of football began with Midwest routes. He grew up in Scott City, a small town in western Kansas that was a four-hour drive from Wichita and five hours from Denver. The town has intense passion for local sports, and Kaczor played center and handled long-snapping duties in high school. It is off the beaten path of the recruiting trail, but Kaczor was able to benefit from the state’s strong junior college program at Dodge City Community College.
|Click here for a Q&A with special teams coach Nate Kaczor on his philosophy of that aspect of the game.|
Kaczor continued to develop and gained the size needed to receive an offer from Utah State, where he finished his collegiate career, then worked his way up as a grad assistant coach and full-timer. He saw staffs come and go over the course of nine seasons at Utah State and found himself back in the job market in 2000.
A friend recommended that he apply at Division II University of Nebraska-Kearney.
“I had never been at any other level as a coach besides Division I, so I had all these preconceived notions in my head about how tough of a job this is going to be: ‘I’m doing laundry and cooking and all this,’ and we have a great talk for four hours, watched some film, and he offered the position. I was pleasantly surprised. It ended up being a great job, a chance to be a coordinator, a chance to coach quarterbacks — and punters, by the way.”
Kaczor hasn’t forgotten the 14-hour bus rides, how grateful players were when the bus pulled into a truck stop for snacks and being told during the interview process, “Nate, when it’s fourth-and-1, these guys care just as much as those Division I players.” He’s proud of those moments and Division I jobs at Idaho and Louisiana-Monroe, which included the Warhawks’ 2007 upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, when he was co-offensive coordinator before moving up to the NFL in 2008.
“An experience like that, I can’t really put into words because it’s every speech you’ve ever given to a team over the years of, ‘Hey guys, this could really happen,’ ” Kaczor said. “I’m sure if every coach was brutally honest, they would say that there’s times when you give those speeches and in the back of your mind, you may think, ‘I don’t know how much of a chance we really have.’ To see those kids be able to experience that, that was such a unique and great experience.”
Munchak said he likes Kaczor’s broad range of experiences and versatility. He described Kaczor during a press conference as “a very smart guy, (who will bring) a lot of enthusiasm and real fresh ideas.” Munchak added he thinks Kaczor will be a great fit for the post, based on what he’s seen when Kaczor has been in front of the team, the way he’s presented ideas and the way players have reacted to him.
Kaczor said he thinks there will be carryover from his experience with coaching other positions and his time as an offensive coordinator. He said blocking a punt rush won’t be much different from blocking a blitz and he enjoyed learning the coverage principles when he started coaching special teams in Jacksonville. He also enjoys the way a special teams play often incorporates offensive and defensive principles.
“There’s a back-and-forth between offensive and defensive football that coexist within special teams that’s really a lot of fun,” Kaczor said.