NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Google the name “Kerry Coombs,” check the pictures, and you’re going to find a silver-haired guy with a red face, yelling.
Search videos and you’ll run across that same football coach giving emotional pep talks before a practice. You’ll see a clip of him sprinting onto the field, blowing past others headed in the same direction.
That’s classic Coombs, who was recently hired as secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans.
The energy doesn’t come from Red Bull.
“I feel like I am one of the luckiest men to ever walk the face of the earth,” Coombs said on Wednesday. “I have a wonderful family, I have a beautiful wife, and I coached high school football for 24 years, and now I am sitting here coaching in the NFL.
“So when I get up out of bed in the morning, I am going to tell you – my feet aren’t hitting the ground and they are not going to. I am going to repay the Titans every day with my efforts. I will go as hard as I can and follow the lead of the head coach.”
Based on his track record, it sounds like the Titans were lucky to get the energetic Coombs, who has 35 years of coaching experience, and a long history of successful players he’s coached.
An assistant at Ohio State from 2012-17, Coombs was promoted to the position of Assistant Coordinator/Defense by head coach Urban Meyer in June 2017. He also worked with the Ohio State cornerbacks and as special team’s coordinator.
During Coombs’ tenure at Ohio State, three cornerbacks were taken in the first round of the past two NFL Drafts.
Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, both of his starting cornerbacks in 2016, were selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Lattimore went No. 11 to the New Orleans Saints and Conley went to Oakland with the 24th pick. Eli Apple was a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2016, taken with the 10th overall pick by the New York Giants. Another player, Bradley Roby, was a first-round NFL Draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014.
As he starts in the NFL, Coombs has no plans to change his approach with older, more mature players. On Wednesday, he stopped himself for a second and smiled when he called his new pupils “kids.” He knows they’re men now, many of them fathers.
“I love what I do, and I am passionate about it,” Coombs said. “I enjoy every minute of every day, and I don’t expect that to change. Guys have asked me: In the NFL are you going to coach differently? I don’t intend to coach a bit differently. I have learned that’s me, that’s who I am. And I believe that is what these players want and I think that is what they deserve.”
Coombs, who spent two years with new Titans coach Mike Vrabel on the staff at Ohio State, has known defensive coordinator Dean Pees for a long time, he said.
In the NFL, he knows players are different. But he expects to preach technique, a tough-minded approach, and discipline, three things that don’t change no matter what level of football you’re coaching, Coombs said.
Coombs has coached at every level. Before moving to the collegiate ranks — he also coached at Cincinnati — he spent 24 years coaching at the high school level, including 16 seasons as the head coach at Colerain High School, where compiled a 161-34 record.
With the Titans, Coombs said he wants his players to challenge every throw, and compete for the football in the air. It’s what he’s preached every step of his career.
In 2017, the Ohio State defense ranked ninth in the NCAA in yards allowed and in 2016, the Buckeyes ranked fourth nationally with 21 interceptions, including seven returned for touchdown. Coombs spent five seasons (2007-11) coaching the defensive backs at the University of Cincinnati before joining Ohio State. In 2007, the Bearcats led the nation with 26 interceptions.
“I think (the secondary wants to be known for) the same thing that Mike is going to preach to our team every day: We want to know our job, and we want to do it fast and aggressively,” Coombs said. “And we’re going to do that. So when we put the tape on, I want to see corners that are denying their man the ball and safeties that are running and hitting people and getting the ball when the ball is in the air.
“It’s different (in the NFL), because when you are coaching college football you are so much more hands-on. I saw my guys every day. And now you don’t. What we have to do is develop relationships with our guys, and I think their trust takes time. And trust is a two-way street. I have to demonstrate, we have to demonstrate, a level of competence about what we are doing and we have to be men of character. We have to be those kinds of people so our players will trust it. But that takes a little bit of time.”
Coombs has already started studying the tape, and he likes his personnel. He raved about Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard, who tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions last season and led the league with 10 takeways.
He knows some personnel will change – with additions and subtractions – by the time the Titans begin organized team activities, minicamp and training camp.
But he said his approach to the game won’t change. He admitted he’s a screamer, but he also said he’s a teacher. While browsing the photos, you’ll find plenty with Coombs smiling, giving a high-five or a hug. He looks intense on the field, in practices or games.
On Wednesday, was asked about a video of him sprinting out of the locker room, leaving others in his rear-view mirror, including Meyer. He smiled, and made no apologies. He was in a hurry to get started, just like he is with the Titans.
“I love what I do. I am going to run around everywhere I can,” Coombs said. “But I’m going to tell you this: I could never catch Mike Vrabel. So when I coached with him for two years, he was out ahead. And he has more energy than I do, so I’m going to have to work real hard to keep up.”