DeKALB, Ill. -- Dave Doeren had put in the time as an assistant coach. He had coached at the smallest of schools like Montana, and at the biggest of universities like USC and Wisconsin.
He had experienced the struggles of coaching. He'll never forget the months of worrying if he had enough money to pay the rent.
But he also experienced what success was like when his hard work paid off. As Wisconsin's defensive coordinator for the past five years, the Badgers have been among the best defenses in the nation.
Doeren also had been through the interview ringer. He had put his resume on athletic directors' desks, sat through lengthy interviews and had his hopes of his first college head coaching job crushed with the word, "No." Recently, Indiana chose someone over him.
All of Doeren's highs, lows, sweat and tears through his 16 years of coaching had placed him in position to be named Northern Illinois' new coach on Monday, but before he could finally reach that dream, he had to endure one final obstacle -- a Wisconsin blizzard.
It took Doeren two hours in 50 mile-per-hour winds to shovel his car out of three feet of snow from his home's driveway Sunday before he and family could make the drive to DeKalb to sit through one final interview. Around midnight, Doeren was officially offered the job, and he accepted.
On Monday afternoon, following a much needed night of sleep, Doeren was announced as the Huskies' new head football coach before a crowd of media members, fans and administrators at the NIU Convocation Center.
"My wife and I were talking about [the journey to get this job] as I was trying to clear the driveway the other day," Doeren said. "‘Would you think that I would have to do this?' You think you're going down to try to get a head coaching job, and ... It was a crazy day yesterday.
"Each one of the schools I've met with were unique from each other. Timing and fit, and this was the right one. ... As a guy who started out coaching high school football, to go back to being a [general assistant] two different times, struggled to pay the rent, having to get supported through the family, my wife supported me as a coach for many of years, it's been a long road to get where I was at Wisconsin. And now to have an opportunity like this to be at NIU is very rewarding."
Northern Illinois didn't waste any time finding its new coach. As soon as Jerry Kill left the program to become Minnesota's coach on Dec. 5, athletic director Jeff Compher immediately began searching for the Huskies' next coach.
Doeren was on Compher's radar quickly.
"First of all, I think the fact he's relatively close, he understands the Midwest," Compher said. "He's a great recruiter and has been. He's had recruiting coordinator positions at several schools. He takes a passion for that.
"The fact Wisconsin is a great program, he understands what it takes to win at the highest level, and I think we need that. He wants to be here. You couple that with his own competitiveness, and the fact he's a very smart and intelligent man, I think that will translate well for us as well."
Doeren will remain coaching Wisconsin's defense until after the Badgers play TCU in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. During that time, he also plans on beginning his Northern Illinois' duties, which include contacting recruits.
Northern Illinois interim head coach Tom Matukewicz will continue to lead the Huskies against Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl on Saturday.
Coincidentally, Northern Illinois will meet Wisconsin next season at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"Dave was one of my first hires at Wisconsin, and he has been one of the major reasons we have had success," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "He has given us five great years of service and has represented Wisconsin football very well in our community and across the country. It was only a matter of time before Dave became a head coach, and I wish him all the best in every game next year, but one."
Doeren met with Northern Illinois' current players on Monday morning.
"He told us he's a guy who has built his programs, he's worked his way up, and he's a guy who's a hard worker and he wants a physical team," Northern Illinois junior tight end Jason Schepler said. "And that's what this team is. Everyone here is hard workers, so I think it's a good fit for him.
"It's been difficult because everyone was real uncertain [about the coaching situation.] But now that we have some certainty, I think everyone can concentrate, and it'll be easy to focus on what we need to. We can use this game as a springboard to show the new coaches what we can do."
Doeren described Northern Illinois' future playing style as being physical. He expected it to resemble some of what Wisconsin does, but also thought it would reflect on the team's personnel and the assistant coaches he would be hiring in the coming weeks.
"I think that's who I am," Doeren said. "I believe in not beating yourself and playing smart and playing physical. I think that's what makes teams tough to play. Finesse is not something that wins championship. It maybe scores points, but it doesn't win championships."
Doeren, who is 39, joined the Badgers in 2006 and spent two seasons as their co-defensive coordinator along with current Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz before taking over the position solely in 2008. He is also Wisconsin's linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator.
The Badgers ranked 22nd in total defense, 30th in rushing defense, 26th in passing defense and 29th in scoring defense under Doeren this season. Wisconsin was fifth in the country in rushing defense last season and was second in the scoring defense in 2006.
Before Wisconsin, Doeren was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Kansas from 2002-2005 and was promoted to be the team's defensive coordinator in 2005. He also was an assistant coach at Montana for two seasons, at Drake for three seasons and a graduate assistant at USC for two years.