Returning Home As The Opposition
Former NT Linebacker Chris Hurd Back In Denton As FAU Coach
Saturday is a special homecoming for Chris Hurd, the former North Texas walk-on linebacker who played such a pivotal role in the Mean Green's run of appearances in the New Orleans Bowl from 2001 to 2003.
It will be the first time he has set foot inside Apogee Stadium, and the first North Texas game he has attended since his final season as a graduate-assistant coach for the Mean Green in 2006. The occasion will afford him the chance to see former teammates and reconnect with old friends, and to have the kind of family visit that his career makes extremely difficult this time of year.
"I'll have a bunch of people to see," Hurd said. "A bunch of guys I played with, a lot of friends I haven't seen in years."
But homecoming - and the 1,000th game in the history of North Texas football - is not the purpose of Chris Hurd's trip to Denton. He's coming to beat North Texas.
Hurd is returning as the opposition.
"It's different," said Hurd, who is in his first season as special-teams coordinator and tight ends coach for Florida Atlantic, the Mean Green's homecoming foe. "But you see it a lot in college football, a lot of coaches versus their alma mater or former teammates."
In fact, North Texas head coach Dan McCarney had the same experience early in his career.
"I'd been living in Iowa City 36 years," McCarney said. "I was a player there, a captain there, coached there. The first year I went to Wisconsin to be defensive coordinator with Barry Alvarez, we turn right around and come to Kinick Stadium.
"You run out into your stadium, on the opposing sideline, it feels strange," he added. "But as soon as that whistle blows, you're so locked into your team and players, all of that doesn't matter much."
That is Hurd's sentiment precisely.
"You can't allow emotions to overcome you," he said. "My sole focus is on winning a football game. We're a 3-5 team looking to be bowl eligible and trying to get that fourth win. Everything else is white noise."
Hurd's road through the coaching ranks has the same nomadic pattern many coaches necessarily take early in their careers. That journey has also seen him coach a variety of positions, but never linebacker, where he spent much of his playing time.
"I actually started my coaching career on the offensive side of the ball," Hurd said. "It's been a transition, but not as drastic as you might think. My specialty right now is special teams, and it's kind of been that was since I was a player. That's how I made my way onto the team."
After working as a graduate assistant at North Texas, he coached at Cisco College for four years, then two at Tennessee as a strength and conditioning coach and a year at Arkansas working with special teams. This year, he joined the FAU staff of head coach Charlie Partridge, who was a former assistant coach under McCarney at Iowa State.
"I've enjoyed every place I've coached," Hurd said. "I've worked under some great people and been a part of some great staffs. It's been a long journey, but I've been very, very fortunate."