Brendan Nugent gets his chance

Posted Monday, May 14, 2007 by
White Plains' Nugent gets his chance

(Original publication: May 14, 2007)
Brendan Nugent always knew he had the coaching gene in him. Never once did he think he wouldn't be able to land a coaching gig.

Still, the White Plains native and Stepinac graduate had no clue he'd earn a job as a paid assistant coach at such a prestigious institution so quickly. The 24-year-old was recently offered a chance to be the tight-ends coach at William & Mary, a job he accepted with open arms.

"It was a whirlwind," Nugent said. "They contacted me, and spring practice was starting the next week. So it was one of those bang-bang deals. I got in my car and shot down here (to Williamsburg, Va.). It's been unbelievable."

Nugent had been an associate coach, similar to an intern, at Iowa under Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz for the past two seasons. He was an active participant on the staff and got more than his fair share of television time.

"He was the guy signaling in plays," said Stepinac football coach Mike O'Donnell, who coached Nugent and also had him on his staff as the linebackers coach in 2004. "We used to see him (on TV) all the time."

During the offseason, Nugent did some old-fashioned poking around in college football circles, scouring for job openings he thought he'd be interested in.

When William & Mary came calling, he knew it was a job he couldn't turn down. And although he's an East Coast guy, leaving behind the Midwest and the people he had grown close to was tough.

However, if he plans on achieving his goal of being a head coach at a major Division I college, that's what he had to do. It's all about advancement.

"It's kind of the nature of the business, especially when you are a young coach," Nugent said. "You have to bounce everywhere and take the best opportunities that are available to you. I have been kind of lucky with the opportunities I've had. This is a no-brainer for me - coming from Iowa to coach a Division I program in the Atlantic 10."

Just making it this far shows the perseverance Nugent possesses. Diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes at a young age, he was told he'd never be able to play football.

Legg-Calve-Perthes is a condition stemming from a temporary loss of blood supply to the ball portion of the femur. As dying bone cells are replaced with new cells, the bone becomes unstable and could break easily or heal poorly.

Nugent underwent treatment for 2 1/2 years, trying various ways to overcome the condition. He had casts on both legs for a while, hoping to increase the blood flow. Additionally, he had braces put on both legs, which didn't do anything.

This all happened about six months before he became old enough to play Pop Warner football. Nonetheless, he wasn't about to give up.

"Brendan had that determination to make it," O'Donnell said. "He wasn't going to be told no."

Thanks to help from the doctors, the word "no" never became a part of Nugent's vocabulary.

"Finally, I went in for surgery (in 1994) because the treatments weren't working," Nugent said. "They actually went in and broke my pelvic bone, realigned it and pinned it back together."

It worked, and Nugent was finally able to quench his thirst for football.

His first season on the gridiron came during his freshman season at Stepinac. He played quarterback and safety, and still remembers his first game as if it were yesterday.

"We were playing Xaverian out in Brooklyn," Nugent said. "I was kind of nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Once I had that first tackle on the second play (of the game) I kind of calmed down and was ready to go from there. I felt like I had a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was able to do what I had been waiting for (for) so long."

Nugent went on to play linebacker at Catholic University in Washington for three seasons before heading to Iowa to finish his degree in political science.

Now he's back east, eagerly awaiting the chance to get things rolling.

"I have been kind of lucky with everything that has happened," said Nugent, who said he's acquired a vast amount of football knowledge from O'Donnell, Ferentz, and Iowa offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ken O'Keefe.

"It has been an unbelievable experience, and there's lot of people who deserve thanks for that. There have been a lot of ups and down these last 10 years, but more ups than downs. It's been a good experience and I'm excited to be here. I am ready for August to come and really jump full bore."

Reach Roderick Boone at