Richmond, Va. - New Richmond football coach Russ Huesman had to scroll back through his football coaching memory to remember if he had ever coached in an on-campus stadium. After a few seconds, he said with a laugh "I did, but it was a long time ago."
When Huesman last roamed the Spider sidelines as their defensive coordinator, the team still played their home games at City Stadium. Huesman was formally introduced in the Robins Center Wednesday afternoon and had yet to see his new home next door, one of a few changes the program has undergone since he left in 2008.
"When they first talked to me, they said 'Do you remember what it was like when you were here 8 years ago?'" Huesman said. "I said 'Yeah'. They said 'It's a little bit better.'"
That was all it took for Huesman to come back to a program where he helped win a national title. The fact that he knows what is possible for the Spider football program and more importantly, what is expected both on and off the field, made him the top target for athletic director Keith Gill, who did not meet with any other candidates.
Huesman's predecessor, Danny Rocco, aired some concerns he had for the "vision" that the University had for the football program two weeks ago. Huesman, who has never met Rocco, said he didn't know of any issues previously and does not share the same concerns moving forward.
"We'll go find players" Huesman said. "There's a bunch of people out there that want a University of Richmond degree that can play football. You've just got to go find them. It must be pretty good [here] because they're winning football games. I don't know what anybody is complaining about."
"He (Huesman) understands the culture" Gill said. "He was here for our biggest football moment. He understands what it takes here and what it means to be a Richmond student-athlete. We already knew that, and we saw what he did at UTC".
In 8 years at his alma mater, UT-Chattanooga, Huesman won 57 games and three straight conference titles. Before his arrival, the Mocs had won 1 conference championship since 1979. Rebuilding and winning at a school so close to his heart made his decision to come back to Richmond much tougher than fans might expect.
"Chattanooga is a fantastic place, and they're going to attract a great coach there" Huesman said. "But something told me, 'You need a new challenge.' But it was hard to leave. I had to make 4 or 5 of the toughest calls I've made in my life to people that were extremely close to me."
"The foundation is set for sure. We just have to build on it now."