Nord Returns to Kentucky (Updated with Quotes and Video)
“There are three things I look for when hiring a coach -- the ability to teach, the ability to recruit and ‘juice,’ a passion for what he does,” Phillips said. “Greg has all three of those. His knowledge of special teams is extensive and he has been involved with special teams at every school he’s coached. He has shown the ability to recruit the state of Kentucky and the South. And, he has a passion for the University of Kentucky.”
A UK player, alumnus and assistant coach under coaches Jerry Claiborne and Fran Curci, Nord’s career path has returned to Lexington following stops at East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Illinois. Nord had joined Illinois last winter as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator after spending the previous 15 seasons at U of L.
Nord was at Louisville from 1995-2009, serving at various times as assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and running backs coach. He helped the Cardinals advance to nine bowl games, including a championship of the 2007 Orange Bowl, and win three Conference USA championships and one Big East title.
Nord’s tight ends at Louisville had remarkable accomplishments. Ibn Green earned All-America honors in 1998 and ’99 while setting the NCAA Division I career record for most pass receptions by a tight end (217). Ronnie Ghent became the first player in C-USA history to earn first-team all-conference honors for four-straight seasons. Ghent and three other Cardinal tight ends, Richard Owens, Gary Barnidge and Breno Giacomini, went on to play in the National Football League.
With Nord serving as running backs coach in 2004, the Cardinals set school records with 3,005 rushing yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. Eric Shelton tied the school record that year with 20 rushing TDs and went on to play for the Carolina Panthers. In 2005, Michael Bush led the nation in scoring, was a first-team All-Big East performer and now plays for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Two more of Nord’s backs are also in the NFL, Kolby Smith with Kansas City and Brock Bolen of Jacksonville.
In 1997, Nord was coaching the running backs when Frank Moreau set an NCAA record by scoring four touchdowns in one quarter vs. East Carolina. Moreau went on to play in the NFL as well.
Prior to Louisville, Nord spent three years (1992-94) as the running backs coach at Georgia Tech. He guided Dorsey Levens and William Bell, each of whom earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors and played professionally. Levens enjoyed an 11-year NFL career and earned All-Pro honors. Nord also coached the running backs at East Carolina in 1990-91, highlighted by a victory in the Peach Bowl following the ’91 campaign.
A native of Louisville, Nord played center, tight end and long snapper for the Wildcats from 1974-78 under Fran Curci. He was a three-year letterman and a member of the ’76 Southeastern Conference championship team and the ’77 squad that posted a 10-1 record. He entered the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at UK in 1979-80. He was a part-time assistant in 1981, the same season that Joker Phillips arrived as a player at UK.
Nord was promoted to full-time assistant in 1982 when Jerry Claiborne took over as head coach. Nord coached the running backs all eight years that Claiborne led the Cats, including a pair of appearances in the Hall of Fame Bowl. By the time Nord departed following the 1989 season, he had coached four of the top seven rushers in school history, Mark Higgs, George Adams, Marc Logan and Ivy Joe Hunter. All four went on to play in the NFL.
“Greg was the leader of the great running backs we had – George Adams, Mark Higgs, Marc Logan, Ivy Joe Hunter and Andy Murray – and I watched how he handled them,” Phillips said. “When I talk to those guys, they always talk about how much they liked playing for him (Nord).”
Nord is happy about his return to UK.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to come back and coach at my alma mater,” Nord said. “The electricity with the Kentucky football program led me to come back with Coach Phillips. I’ve been following his career since his time as a player. I’m excited to work for someone whom I believe will become one of the top head coaches in the country.”
Nord and his wife, Donna, have two daughters, Amy and Angie, and four grandchildren.
Greg Nord, Special Teams/Tight Ends Coach
Opening Statement …
“First, I appreciate all of you being here. It is an exciting time for both myself and my family and we have looked forward to this for a long time. Getting the opportunity to come back and work with a coach that you believe in strongly and that has the same goals and values as you do and is truly one of the great upcoming head coaches of the future (is great). I’m honored to be here and look forward to a great time here at the University of Kentucky.”
On his personal relationship with first-year head coach Joker Phillips …
“It’s a great relationship. It is not a good one, it’s a great relationship. It started off when Joker first came to campus here as a player. I was a coach here on the staff and got an opportunity to work and see him as both a high school player and a recruit. I got to see him as a young player who had to make his own way and I got to see him as a star player that helped lead us to some great victories and two bowl games. Then I got an opportunity to work with him as a student coach and got a chance to work on the other side of the field as both a competitor in recruiting as well as on the field. That relationship, along with seeing how his career has gone and the things he has done with every program he has been and the positive impact he makes on everyone of these around, was just great to see. That is a part of the reason I jumped at this opportunity.”
On how much Joker and UK played into him leaving Illinois after such a short time …
“To be honest the decision was not hard at all. The timing perhaps maybe wasn’t what any of us would have liked but the decision wasn’t hard at all. This is a destination job and that is part of what made it attractive both for Joker and myself. This is our school. This is where we were going to go win championships together.”
On if he and Joker talked at all about him coming back to UK when he got the job …
“It’s been 25 years since he was a young coach and was just learning the ropes and I said, ‘Come on lets go and you can go riding with me and let me show you how I recruit , see my style and let you learn some of the things that maybe I can pass on to you.’ I remember traveling down through south central Kentucky on through eastern Kentucky and down through Alabama to a Southeastern Conference coach’s outing. He wasn’t able to go recruiting so he would ride with me and we would talk between schools. This was in May evaluation so we weren’t seeing players. Then he would sit in the car and wait for me because it wasn’t legal for him to go. And from that time on I realized we had great dreams for both the University of Kentucky and ourselves as individual positions and ultimately head coaches as you can see him upstairs now. This was something that we both saw as a very real possibility at times in our career. There have been several opportunities for both of our careers that we have tried to get each other on different staffs. I have tried to get head coaches that I have worked for to hire him and he didn’t come with us because they didn’t know what kind of coach he was. There have been opportunities that maybe timing didn’t present itself for us to get together until now.”
On his expectations for the team this year in his first season as an assistant coach …
“I have great expectations. I think that is one thing that is attractive about Joker because he is going to set the bar high and we will always constantly work to achieve that. I am still getting to know the names of some of the guys on the team. Obviously, it’s his kind of start. I think I am fortunate in that I know a lot of the players and familiar with their hometowns and the backgrounds that they have. I have recruited a lot of the same guys fortunately for me now, I didn’t get them. It’s been an easy transition whenever you can turn off Cooper Drive and turn to home and know that I have walked these paths. It makes it an easy transition.”
On what Sept. 4 will be like for him, since you were an assistant at Louisville for 15 years ...
“I think that as you walk into the stadium there will be some obvious emotions that show up but once you get between the lines whether you are playing your brother, your sister or your mom it’s lineup. Do your job, play and compete to win and I think both sides will being do that.”
On what his special teams philosophy will be …
“My philosophy, first, is I think the one thing you have to do on special teams is attack. You’ve got to be sound fundamentally, but you’ve got to stay on the attack. If you start sitting back on your heels, you open yourself up for failure. The other thing is, and this is something that Joker and I talked about before I took the job and he offered the job, is we both wanted to make sure that it’s a point of emphasis on your staff as well as your team. If it (special teams) isn’t the collective goal of the whole team, the whole program and the whole staff then you’re not going to be good. I have been on staffs where we have had excellent special teams coaches but the emphasis wasn’t such that it allowed you to have great special teams. Then I have also been on staffs where it is one of the top priorities, every coach on the staff jumped in and went to work at it and we had very good special teams. Our staff is an excellent staff and that was part of the lure (to come to Kentucky) as well, not only with Joker but the rest of the guys on the staff. I have coached with several (of the guys on the staff), I have played with one and I have competed against others and I know the quality of the guys on this staff and I look forward to them joining in with me and being able to go and get after it and put a proud product out there on the field.”
On what his secret is to having success in recruiting …
“I think the number one thing is to be honest, be yourself and let the players trust you. If you’re a good person than that usually comes through. The thing that I think is the most attractive about recruiting is that you stop and look at it. We have a very good recruiting staff. We actually have eight guys on our staff that have served as recruiting coordinators at their schools, so there is a lot of positive energy here. There are a lot of good recruiters (on this staff) and even more important is there are a lot of good evaluators of talent. Both Joker and I feel that one of the things that I have been successful with is being able to recognize talent. We both sat in the chair with Coach (Jerry) Claiborne at the head of the table and I think we both realize one important thing he taught us is that every year we would go out recruiting he would say, ‘One thing guys that I want you to go out and find for my team is a winner.’”