Ted Gill's defensive line is expected to be among the best in the nation in 2011. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

 

Two words that come to mind when talking about Ted Gill are well-traveled and wise. The 38 year coaching veteran is in his fifth year at Michigan State as the Spartans’ defensive line coach. With stops at nearly every level of football, Gill brings priceless experience to the Spartan coaching staff and the defensive line.

Ted Gill’s long and circuitous coaching career began at little-known Idaho State, where Gill played college football. A two-time letter winner (in 1968-69), Gill split time between nose tackle and middle linebacker in his playing days. He started as a graduate assistant in 1971, serving in that position for three years. In 1974, with a bachelor’s degree in education in hand, Gill headed to the University of Utah to become the Utes’ offensive line coach.

After the 1976 season, he became New Mexico State’s defensive line coach. Receiving an offer to become Ball State’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, Gill left New Mexico State in 1978. He remained with the Cardinals of Ball State for four seasons (from 1978-81), helping build a stellar defense there before becoming Cornell’s defensive coordinator for the 1982 season. The 1983 season saw Gill coaching the famed Army Black Knights. After serving one year as Army’s defensive line/ linebackers coach, Gill headed south to the University of North Carolina. Gill was a Tarheel for five seasons as the defensive line and linebackers coach. Following the 1987 season, Gill left Chapel Hill for Rice University, becoming a defensive line coach there.

In 1990, Gill joined the Iowa Hawkeyes coaching staff, and was introduced to Big Ten, and Spartan, football. “It [Michigan State] was a big rival for us,” said Gill. “My image is coming up in the stadium [Spartan Stadium] and seeing nothing but green and white. It was always tough to play here.” Gill found a niche at Iowa, helping the Hawkeyes go to three bowl games. He also is the mentor of former Hawkeye and now the head coach at Wisconsin Bret Bielema.

In 1995, Gill traded the Big 10 for the Big 8. He headed to Oklahoma State to become the team’s defensive coordinator. Gill’s only year in the Big 8 would be his last, as the conference was renamed the Big 12 in 1996. Gill would not be there to see it, as he recognized the dream of many coaches by obtaining an NFL coaching job in 1996.

He joined the Carolina Panthers in their third year of existence as a defensive line coach. Gill remained in the position for three seasons. He endured a two year coaching hiatus before joining the brand-new XFL in 2001. Gill served as the Los Angeles Extreme’s defensive line coach for only one season before the league went out of business. Joining another semi-pro league, Gill became the defensive coordinator for the Montreal Alouettes in 2002.

The University of Cincinnati became Gill’s 14th coaching stop in 2003. Little would Gill know that he would join Mark Dantonio’s staff in 2004 and remain in it for over seven years. With the departure of head coach Rick Minter and incoming of Dantonio, Gill was retained as the defensive line coach. He would not disappoint Coach Dantonio, as three of the Bearcats’ defensive linemen (Trent Cole, Andre Frazier, and Andre Wright) headed to the NFL after the 2004 season. In 2006, Gill followed Dantonio to Michigan State, Gill’s twelfth school.

 Now in his fifth year as a Spartan, Gill emphasizes two things: speed and technique. The first, speed, depends on the staff’s recruiting players who: “Can run and change direction.” If the coaching staff is successful at finding that type of players, Gills says:  “We can teach them to do the other things.” The Michigan State defensive line coach believes that technique is critical: “Technique is a vital part of playing defensive line… Get off [the line of scrimmage]- steps- explosion- hands- reaction- FINISH.” The end results Gill strives for are consistency and improvement.

One major point that Gill (and the rest of the Spartan coaching staff) preaches is that: “Two things can happen. Number one, you can get better. Number two, you can get worse.  There’s no in between.” It is safe to say that Spartan Nation has consistently been seeing scenario number one from Gill and his players. Six players in Gill’s tenure have earned All-Big Ten Honors. One of his prized linemen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, is currently in the NFL, with more players sure to follow. Last year’s defensive line helped to form one of the best rush stopping defenses in the Big Ten. The list of accomplishments goes on. With his wealth of experience and high quality of coaching, Gill has helped the Spartan defensive line become one of the most feared units in the Big Ten.

To say that Gill’s lone goal is to make his young players into great football players would be an abomination. Gill is deeply invested in helping his players grow into quality men. “The biggest thing you’re trying to instill in these young men is that football is not the only thing that happens here,” Gill articulated. “It’s the art of growing up. Being a part of their lives in this process helps these men grow in many different ways.”

One person who truly allows Gill to teach this message well is Mark Dantonio: “Being around Coach D really lets us do an admirable job with our players. We spend a lot of time working on the little things,” Gill affirmed. “Just being able to come in every day and work on the little things, as far as with our staff and being able to work on making the whole player to be a great person.” Gill takes joy in knowing that he is helping to develop young men: “It really gives us reassurance when a young man comes in this program, he’s not just going to be a guy who’s going to be just a football player, but he’ll be able to grow within our program. That’s the assurance that a young man will have working with our staff.”