AFCA Announces 2012 Assistant Coaches of the Year

The American Football Coaches Association is proud to announce its 2012 Assistant Coach of the Year winners. One assistant coach from the five divisions of college football has been selected for their dedication to their teams and communities.

Each year, staff representatives from NCAA and NAIA football-playing schools are asked to nominate an assistant for consideration. From those nominations, a winner is selected by the AFCA Public Relations Committee. The winners of this award were selected from Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and the NAIA.

The Assistant Coach of the Year award was first presented in 1997 and was created to honor assistant coaches who excel in community service, commitment to the student-athlete, on-field coaching success and AFCA professional organization involvement. 

The 2012 honorees are as follows: Football Bowl Subdivision–Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, University of Alabama; Football Championship Subdivision–John Revere, Runningbacks Coach, Eastern Kentucky University; Division II–A.J. Blazek, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line/Tight Ends Coach, Winona State University; Division III–Joe Early, Offensive Coordinator, Middlebury College; and NAIA–Gregg Horner, Defensive Coordinator, Valley City State University.
“Once again, five outstanding assistant coaches have been selected for their dedication, not only to their teams, but to their communities,” said Executive Director Grant Teaff. “Often times, the head coach receives much of the credit for his team’s success, but any head coach is only as good as his assistants. Much of an assistant coach’s work is done behind the scenes. It is our pleasure to bring it to the forefront.”

The criteria for the award is not limited to on-field coaching ability or the success of the team and players that these assistant coaches work with. Service to the community through charitable work and other volunteer activities, participation in AFCA activities and events, participation in other professional organizations and impact on student-athletes are all taken into account in the selection process.

Winners of the Assistant Coach of the Year Award will receive a plaque to commemorate the award and an educational stipend to attend the 2013 AFCA Convention or another professional development clinic/convention of their choice. They will be honored at the AstroTurf President’s Kickoff Luncheon, Monday, January 7 at the 2013 AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year Finalists for 2012

Football Bowl Subdivision
Kirby Smart, Alabama
Trooper Taylor, Auburn
Matt Lubick, Duke   

Football Championship Subdivision
John Revere, Eastern Kentucky
Jay Bubak, South Dakota State
Mike Jones, Tennessee State

Division II
Joe Evenson, Augustana (S.D.)
Jay Derby, Ouachita Baptist
A.J. Blazek, Winona State

Division III
Justin Charles, Louisiana College
Joe Early, Middlebury
Rick Ponx, North Central

Jim Hogan, Carroll (Mont.)
Eric Inama, Midland
Gregg Horner, Valley City State

Assistant Coach of the Year Notes
79 assistant coaches from 62 different schools have been honored by the AFCA since the inception of the award in 1997 ... Campbellsville (NAIA) and Hampton (FCS) lead all schools with three winners each ... Campbellsville’s three winners came in three straight years (1997-Samuel Wickliffe, 1998-Eric Graves, 1999-Haywood Riner) ... Hampton won its three awards in 1997 (Alonzo Lee), 1998 (John Wright) and 2003 (Donovan Rose) ... Air Force, Benedictine (Kan.), Bethel (Minn.), Carson-Newman, Central (Iowa), Morningside, Mount Union, Northwest Missouri State, Wabash  and Winona State have had two winners each ... A total of 36 assistant coaches from five divisions were nominated for the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award

The Winners
Football Bowl Subdivision
Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Alabama: Smart has been coaching football for 14 years, the last six at Alabama ... Smart has given to the United Way through a University gift program and is involved in various fundraising activities as a member of the Alabama coaching staff ... He participates in Nick’s Kids, an organization in which Nick and Terry Saban have raised more than $2 million for area youth charities over the last five years ... Smart participated in tornado relief efforts after the devastating storms in April of 2011 ... He helped set up a fund to help the son-in-law and grandchildren of former Alabama coach Joe Kines following a car accident that killed Kines’ daughter ... Under Smart’s direction, the Alabama defense is one of the best in the nation ... Alabama is ranked No. 3 in rushing defense (76.20 ypg allowed), No. 9 in pass efficiency defense (102.76 rating), No. 2 in total defense (247.80 ypg allowed) and No. 1 in scoring defense (11.10 ppg allowed) in 2012 ... His defenses have helped Alabama win two BCS national titles in the last four years and five of his defenders earned All-America honors in 2011.

Football Championship Subdivision
John Revere, Runningbacks Coach, Eastern Kentucky: Revere is in his 36st year of coaching and has spent the last 16 years at Eastern Kentucky ... Eastern Kentucky student-athletes dedicate more than 600 hours of community service projects each year under Revere ... He has led the EKU Football Blood Drive sine 2003, donating at least 100 pints of blood each year to the Kentucky Blood Drive Center and the American Red Cross ... Revere has mentored at many local elementary schools in the Richmond community ... Volunteered with Empty Bowls, Day of Hope, Habitat for Humanity, Shriners Hospital, the Kentucky Special Olympics and the Kentucky adapted physical education program sponsored by the YMCA ... Revere has coached 11 players to the NFL ... Eastern Kentucky’s running game is one of the better attacks in the nation, racking up 205.73 yards per game, good enough for 19th best in Football Championship Subdivision.

Division II
A.J. Blazek, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line/Tight Ends Coach, Winona State: Blazek is in his fourth season at Winona State and 12th overall as a coach ... He is the coordinator of community service for the entire Winona State athletics department, organizing over 3,200 hours of community service for all athletic teams ... Blazek helped raise over $3,000 for Winona Health’s Mammography Department and “Think Pink,” and raised $1,000 for Make-A-Wish of Minnesota ... He began a monthly reading program, “Readers for Warriors,” where seven athletic teams visit elementary classrooms and read with students in kindergarten through third grade ... Blazek also help organize a shoe recycle program, called “Soles for Souls,” in which he helped collect over 1,500 pairs of shoes ... He takes the football team each month to Lake Winona Manor nursing home so the players can interact with the residents in many different activities ... Blazek has been a member of the AFCA Convention Services Committee ... He has coached 12 linemen to Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) honors at Winona ... Blazek’s offense is ranked No. 18 in the Division II, and first in the NSIC, averaging 471.09 yards per game, with 192.45 yards coming on the ground.

Division III
Joe Early, Offensive Coordinator, Middlebury: Early has spent 17 years as an assistant coach, the last 12 at Middlebury ... Early volunteers at St. Mary’s Elementary School, working numerous fundraisers and community outreach programs for the school year-round ... He is a faculty advisor for Middlebury’s Newman Club, a religious-based group on campus ... For the past two years, Early has volunteered as an elf for the Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation annual Polar Express event ... He is a member of the local Knights of Columbus council #642, currently serving as council lecturer, while volunteering at numerous charitable events during the year for this fraternal Catholic organization … For two years he coordinated a child’s birthday party into a clever fundraiser for the local chapter of the Humane Society, bringing in money, supplies, food and awareness to the worthy cause … Additionally at Middlebury, he is an associate in the sports information department, handling in-game statistics and post-game media reports for several winter and spring sports ... Since Early was named coordinator in 2009, Middlebury’s impressive offense led all of Division III in nine statistical categories, including owning the number one spot for completed passes per game each of the last four years … The potent offense holds 25 more top 10 appearances in the national statistics during that span, adding a dozen from the 2012 season alone … He continues to serve the AFCA as a member of the Luncheon Committee.

Gregg Horner, Defensive Coordinator, Valley City State: Horner is in his 23rd year as an assistant coach, with his last 19 at Valley City State ... He organizes a First grade reading volunteer program for student-athletes and coordinates a VCSU athletic department “Bleed Cardinal” blood drive ... Horner is a member of the VCSU Environmental Task Force and coordinates student-athlete volunteers at a community youth Halloween party, “Ruckus at the Rec,” annual Earth Week city park cleanup and Salvation Army bell ringers ... He has volunteered his time fighting flood waters by filling sandbags ... Horner is a member of the AFCA NAIA Assistant Coaches Committee ... As VCSU Academic Coordinator, the football team has had a 95 percent graduation rate for student-athletes who have participated in the program for four years ... Horner’s defense ranks No. 18 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 298.5 yards per game, and is No. 13 in pass defense, allowing just 159 yards per game ... He has produced 32 All-Dakota Athletic Conference performers and four NAIA All-Americans.

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