After spending more than two decades serving in various assistant coaching positions, Jim McElwain will lead his own team onto the field for the first time as head coach. But he won’t care much about that title.
“As far as the years of doing this, the reason that I do it is because I have an opportunity to affect a young man’s life in a positive way,” McElwain said. “And that’s the only reason I’m here.”
One of the main reasons McElwain received the head coaching position with the Rams, however, is because of the success he had as offensive coordinator at Alabama, winning two national championships during the last four years.
“Jim did (a) really good job here organizing our offense, getting along well with the group of people he’s had to work with,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
“He’s worked as hard as anybody as I’ve ever had coach for us in our program, and I certainly appreciate the job he has done.”
The hard work at Alabama paid off for McElwain during the offseason, when he was courted by multiple Division-I schools to become a head coach, but ultimately chose to make Fort Collins his home.
“This is an unbelievable community, and a great town,” McElwain said. “You couple that with a great university, one that has won in recent history, I mean, it was a no-brainer.”
The CSU football team has been pleased with the decision McElwain made to join the Rams, as throughout the offseason players have continually expressed how excited they are to play for the new coaching regime.
“He inspires you,” CSU fullback Jake Levin said. “He gets you to do things you never thought you could do before. He wants you to drain your tank every day.”
It works, players say, because he practices what he preaches.
Attention to detail has been a hallmark of McElwain’s success at every coaching stop, and he maintains that the mentoring he has received to this point has prepared him for the first head coaching job of his career.
“It’s been 27, 28 years in the making,” McElwain said. “I’ve had great training from some of the tops in the business, and so (I’ve been) able to kind of rely on them a little bit and yet there’s gonna be some firsts that come up, but that’s why you prepare.”
When things don’t go exactly as planned, McElwain, who has been described as a perfectionist, intently studies film while trying to correct the mistakes his units makes, and improve for the next game.
“He takes it as hard as anybody if things don’t work out the way he’d like for them to or we don’t get the kind of results we’d like to get,” Saban said. “He’s done a fantastic job and I’m sure he’ll be great as the head coach at Colorado State.”
Football Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.