Rams special teams genius John Fassel may hold keys to playoff success
By Ryan Kartje
Thirteen years before he was handed the reins of an NFL franchise in the final weeks of a failed season, John Fassel was given his first and only other chance as a head coach. It was decidedly less glamorous.
New Mexico Highlands University sits in the dusty foothills of the Rockies, in the small, ironically named town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The campus is “basically out in the boondocks,” Fassel recalls, the polar opposite of its glitzy Nevada counterpart. But when Fassel was hired as head coach in 2003, he didn’t mind. He was wide-eyed, 30-year-old, just beginning his ascent up the coaching ladder.
Right away, the climb proved steep. The football team had lost 24 straight games, the nation’s longest losing streak. With no other choice, the Cowboys practiced in the outfield of the campus softball diamond. Coaches drove the team buses to road games and slept four to a room at whatever Motel 6 was closest. Fassel arranged travel and team meals and even did the laundry. Every week, they cleaned the entire team’s uniforms in a single washer and dryer, filing large trash cans with detergent to let the stained pants soak overnight.
Sleep was a luxury. When his football responsibilities were fulfilled, Fassel taught three classes, including two master’s level kinesiology courses. For nine months, when duty called, he served as interim athletic director. That same year, he was named grand marshal of the town’s Electric Light parade.
Perhaps that sounds like too much for one man to handle. But for John Fassel, the boundlessly energetic and beloved special teams coordinator of the playoff-bound Rams, “it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”
“I was required to do a lot that I wasn’t honestly prepared for,” Fassel says. “But I had to find a way to get it […]