Meet the coaches: Ron Zook

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
2:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Last week, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced changes to his coaching staff.

This week, some of the new coaches and some of the returning ones with new responsibilities met with reporters.

We’ll introduce you to them throughout the week. First up was new running backs coach Sam Gash.

Next up is special teams assistant coach Ron Zook.

Zook, 59, has more than 30 years of coaching experience in both college and the NFL. He’s best known for his head coaching stints at Florida and Illinois, although he was fired from both jobs.

[+] EnlargeRon Zook
AP Photo/Seth Perlman, FileRon Zook is excited to reunite with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
He hasn’t coached since his tenure with the Illini ended in 2011, and he last coached in the NFL in 2001, when he was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. McCarthy was the offensive coordinator on that same coaching staff, and the two actually lived together for a time in New Orleans.

Zook broke into the NFL as a special teams coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996-98.

Here’s what Zook had to say on:

His relationship with McCarthy: “First of all, Mike knows how I am. He knows my personality, he knows the relationship I had with the players, which I think is very, very important. I think coaching at times is trying to get players to play the best that they can play. It’s not necessarily what the coach knows, and that’s the way Mike was. Mike develops players, and I think what I know of the Green Bay Packers organization, it’s an organization that develops players, and I think that’s very important.”

Relating to NFL players: “I think it’s all about relationships. I think you go back and look at coaches at any level -- high school, college and the NFL -- I’ve had the opportunity to coach at all three levels. It comes down to getting a player to play the best he can. And I can remember my first time when I interviewed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I asked coach [Bill] Cowher, ‘How do you coach these guys?’ He said, ‘Well, you coach ’em just like you coach your guys.’ I found that to be 100 percent true.”

Whether he thought he would ever coach again: “The first year [out of coaching], I probably needed it. I remember Marty Schottenheimer saying one time about every five years everybody needs to take a break, but nobody’s going to do that, because it’s so hard to get back in it. But this past year, something you’ve done for 35 years, you miss the relationships, you miss the camaraderie that you have, the stories sitting around the coaches, you know. My wife wanted me to get back in the NFL for a long time. She loved the NFL.”

If it was hard to go back to being an assistant: “Not at all. To me, I was able to get back in coaching for the reasons I got into coaching. Because I love the game. You love the relationships you have with the players, the relationships you have with the coaches, and to me, like I said, to be able to get back in an organization like the Green Bay Packers is really special.”

Regrets about his tenure at Illinois and Florida: “I look back on both situations, and in fact I told [Florida coach] Will Muschamp not long ago, I said ‘Will, if you and I would have had the teams to start with that coach [Steve] Spurrier and Urban Meyer had, it would have been different for us, too.’ At Illinois, we went to the Rose Bowl, I took a team to the Rose Bowl. We didn’t have a player on our team that had ever been to a bowl game. And the Rose Bowl is pretty hard to break ’em in. But still, it’s the way it is. It’s the profession, and I can look back, would I have done some things differently? Probably, but I think anybody can say that.”

Whether he wants to be a head coach again: “When I went into the NFL the first time, it wasn’t to be a head coach. It was to be a coach. And to make a long story short ... I wasn’t going to go to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was living in Gainesville, Fla., I was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. You know we just got done with recruiting. Coach Spurrier, he’s not one of them guys that spends much time in the office in the offseason, and when I got done with Bill Cowher, I knew I had to go. I just didn’t know if I was going to talk myself into it. And thank God I did. Once again, there’s no question, coaching special teams helped me when I became a head football coach.”

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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