Jon Embree played his college football at Colorado, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. Now, 23 years later, he left his post as the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins to become the head coach at his alma mater.
Embree took some time out for ESPN.com earlier this week to talk about his first weeks on the job and the program's transition to the Pac-12, as well as his own transition to a head coaching role.
In part two later Wednesday, he'll discuss changes in style and recruiting heading into next year, as well as what he'll miss about the conference the program is leaving.
David Ubben: What have these first few weeks on the job been like?
Jon Embree: It's been very busy, because you know, you're trying to put together your staff, you're trying to figure out who does what and some of the things around here and get things situated with kids and academics and getting ready to get everything going for recruiting, so it's mostly just real busy.
As a former position coach in the NFL, how do the time requirements compare between that and being a college head coach so far?
JE: Ha, it's a little bit longer in Boulder than it was in Washington. There's a lot of things you want to do early -- coming in early and staying there late -- and part of the reason you do that is because there's nobody in there who can come in and ask for a five-minute meeting when you're there early or late, so it's longer hours but it's definitely a lot of fun.
What's been the most difficult part of the transition?
JE: Probably letting kids know that they can't be part of the program anymore. That's hard when you have to do that. That, or letting kids that were committed to the previous staff know that they don't fit into what you're going to do from an offensive or defensive standpoint.
It seems like so far, the signature of your staff has been getting a ton of guys connected to Colorado, the state and the program. Why was it so important to get guys with ties to Colorado, or "Buffs?"
JE: Well, we only have four Buffs on the staff, but really, Colorado is a unique place. We don't have [multi-year] contracts, so you have to get people that a) want to be in Boulder and b) understand the uniqueness of the program and of the university that can go out and recruit and sell the strong points and answer questions about perceived negatives about the program. I think that's why you see some guys who have been at Colorado or played at Colorado that are here coaching for us.
What are some of those perceived negatives you guys are fighting when you're out talking to recruits or new assistants?
JE: People talk about the uniqueness of Boulder and the diversity, really our diversity is no different than any other campus, but there's a perception out there that there's a diversity issue that doesn't really exist. And we have the ability to let kids know that Denver is 20 minutes away and anything they could ever want to do, whether it's a Nuggets game, a Rockies game or a Broncos game, whatever it is they want to do is 20 minutes away from them. Just little things like that.
With those guys who are on your staff from Colorado, was getting that many something you emphasized when you interviewed, or was it something that the administration really wanted to see in the new staff?
JE: Nah, first and foremost, I just wanted to get the best coaches I could get. There's a lot of guys -- I could have filled the whole staff with Colorado people if I wanted. But I'm trying to get the best coaches I can get, so nothing was stressed by them or me. It's just how it worked out. [Offensive coordinator] Eric Bieniemy and I were basically guys that knew we were going to work with each other, [defensive coordinator] Greg Brown, a guy who has been here for a couple different stints, but has NFL experience. I think his résumé speaks for itself. [Linebackers coach and former interim coach] Brian Cabral, who has been here for 27 years and his experience. Like I said, it just kind of worked out like that.
As a first-time head coach, who are some of the guys you rely on professionally? Guys you call up for advice on handling this job and requirements that come with it?
JE: I'll lean on guys I've worked with during my career, like a Mike Shanahan. We've talked a couple times since I've been hired. I'll talk with Chan Gailey. Herm Edwards has already reached out to me. Bill McCartney. I'll reach out to various people, and it doesn't necessarily have to be just former head coaches. You have to broaden your scope as far as people you talk to about various things and get a different perspective.