Editor's Note: Leading up to the start of Northern Illinois spring football practice on March 22, the Daily Chronicle will be presenting readers with stories on each of the new assistant coaches. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of the Daily Chronicle to clip out our special card of each assistant.
NAME: Ryan Nielsen
POSITION: Defensive line coach
RECRUITING AREA: Chicago and the northwest suburbans, recruiting coordinator
Sitting in his Yordon Center office, Northern Illinois defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen just points to the window when asked how happy he is to be with the Huskies.
"Look at my view every day," Nielsen says, pointing to the window that overlooks Huskie Stadium. "I come in every morning, I look out and I say, 'Wow, this is a great place to be.' "
A California guy who grew up in the suburbs outside Los Angeles, Nielsen is used to the bright lights of the big time.
He was a freshman defensive tackle at USC in 1998, when Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren was a graduate assistant with the Trojans. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of college, but “I was there for a cup of coffee,” Nielsen said.
As a student of the game, Nielsen kept in contact with Doeren as the NIU coach climbed his profession's ladder through Kansas and eventually Wisconsin. Nielsen once visited Doeren at Wisconsin just to discuss a coverage scheme.
"He's a very knowledgeable coach, mature beyond his years in this profession," NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said. "I think he's in his low 30s, but he knows as much football as a 50-year-old guy probably.
"Sometimes you find D-line coaches, because of the nature of their position, they don't have as good a handle on the big picture and the broad scheme of things. But that's not the case with Ryan. You can see in the years he's been coaching, he's been talking to a lot of people about not just the D-line but all 11 people."
Perhaps a bit spoiled by his days at the top of college football, Nielsen admits he didn't know what to expect when Doeren hired him Dec. 22. One step on campus, Nielsen said, and he immediately realized how special a place NIU is.
"When you get hired, you get on the Internet and do a little research about the background and the facilities and everything," Nielsen said. "When I first got here, I didn't think as highly (of NIU) as I do now because it didn't do it justice on the Internet. You walk into this place and go, 'Wow, I get to work here?' Not I have to, I get to.
"That's a huge thing if you can pop out of bed at 5, 5:30 in the morning, and you get to the office before 6, and you're already going and everything. That's exciting. There's not one day that I lay in bed and hit snooze because this place is unbelievable."