- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Bob Diaco met Bob Elliott, one of his soon-to-be coaches at Iowa, in 1990. In the 22 years since, Elliott has been, in Diaco's words, a friend, a co-worker, almost a brother.
Now Elliott, Notre Dame's new safeties coach, technically works for Diaco, the Irish's defensive coordinator. It's a twist that suits both coaches and their fellow Notre Dame assistants -- some of whom also worked with or for Elliott themselves -- just fine.
"I was excited," Elliott said. "I love those guys. Bob and Kerry [Cooks] and Tony [Alford], I worked with Tony at Iowa State. He's a good friend. And Paul Longo, Paul's a guy, he was our strength coach at Iowa, I've known him forever, and he's a close friend as well. So there's a lot of close ties on this staff, so it was very, very comfortable for me to come here and get a chance to start working with these guys."
Longo is now Notre Dame's director of strength and conditioning. Cooks is the Irish's co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach, and Alford is the running backs/slot receivers coach. Cooks was one of Iowa's co-MVPs in 1997, when Elliott was the Hawkeyes' secondary coach. When Elliott held the same position at Iowa State three years later, Alford was the Cyclones' running backs coach.
In the spring game before the 2000 season, Elliott coached the White team, made up of second- and third-stringers, against Alford's Cardinal squad, comprised of first-teamers. Spotted 16 points, Elliott's team did not score in a 48-16 loss.
"Oh man, Bobby Elliott's big time, in every sense of the word," Alford said. "Big-time coach. Big-time mentor. Teacher. Recruiter. Bigger than all: big-time person. And Joey, his wife, they are phenomenal people. We got better. We got better as a football family with Bobby Elliott, in my opinion."
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Elliott's relationships with Cooks and Diaco made him an easy fit. Elliott wanted to make sure his former players were OK with the reunion.
"You have to be self-confident, you have to be sure of yourself to be able to sometimes work with somebody that was a mentor early in your career," Elliott said. "Some guys can't do that. You have to be pretty secure. Bob and Kerry are confident, secure guys. That's not an issue, a role reversal for them. And it isn't for me.
"I'm at a stage in my career where I really don't need a title, I don't have an ego. It's not about advancement for me. I'm not looking for that, that's not what I'm after. I wanna contribute, have a great experience here and win at the highest level and continue to have great relationships with players, and that's why I'm still in this."
Elliott's 33-year coaching career has featured stints as defensive coordinator at Iowa, Kansas State and San Diego State. With the Hawkeyes and Wildcats, his units finished fourth and second, respectively, in scoring defense.
"It's great," Diaco said of the addition of Elliott. "And I said this before: Void of our relationship, including the NFL, college institutions and the NFL, you're really hard-pressed to find someone that has a higher level of knowledge, and knowledge at a high level, for a secondary player, all phases. And when you factor in his knowledge of coordinating defense, he's had top-five defenses at two different institutions: Iowa and Kansas State."