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The Life and Career of Chiefs Special Teams Coach Dave Toub

A few chance encounters and the tragedy that opened a door to a successful career

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By BJ Kissel

Chiefs Reporter

It was two decades before either of them could comprehend the kind of success they’d have throughout the course of their storied careers.

But there they were just sitting in an off-campus diner in El Paso, Texas having lunch.

The year was 1987.

The younger of the two was a new strength and conditioning coach that had just finished up his playing career at the University of Texas El-Paso (UTEP). He was 25 years old and in addition to helping with the offensive line, one of his many responsibilities was to host incoming coaching recruits for head coach Bob Stull.

The older of the two had just spent a year at Northern Arizona coaching the offensive line. He was 29 years old and on the advice of the offensive coordinator at UTEP, Dirk Koetter, a man he had spent time with at San Francisco State a few years prior, he decided to interview for the open offensive line position.

So there they were, gauging their interest in one another over a simple lunch in a small town without any idea of the impact this meeting would ultimately have on each other’s lives.

“We hit it off right away,” the future special teams coach of the Kansas City Chiefs said. “You could tell he was really into the O-Line and he was going to get the most out of them.

“We had to have the guy.”

After a quick lunch, Dave Toub was already sold; he was on board with the hiring of Andy Reid as the new offensive line coach at UTEP.

From the Weight Room to the Field: A Tragedy Opens a Door

Growing up as a kid in New York, Toub showed at an early age the kind of dedication and passion that would eventually help define his professional life.

“I was into weight lifting big time,” Toub explained of his younger days. “We didn't have a lot growing up, so I just made my own weight room. I made my own leg press, my own bench press, everything.

“I wanted to be the best I could be and I needed to get bigger and stronger. That’s how I had to do it.”

All that work paid off for Toub, who after a standout prep career would start his college football career at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

“I was playing offensive tackle and I was very successful to be honest with you,” he said, “but I always wanted to challenge myself and play Division I.”

Toub had initially gone to Springfield College because it was the best physical education school in the country, and his post-college plan was to go back and coach at the high school level.

"I was into weight lifting big time. We didn't have a lot growing up, so I just made my own weight room. I made my own leg press, my own bench press, everything. I wanted to be the best I could be and I needed to get bigger and stronger. That’s how I had to do it."

- Toub on growing up in New York

But after two years at the Division II level, Toub had an opportunity to transfer and play at the University of Texas El-Paso, a Division I program in the Western Athletic Conference.

It was always his goal to put himself up against top competition and now he had his chance to play against the Arizona States, BYUs and other Division I programs.

After redshirting his first year at UTEP, Toub was voted a team captain prior to his junior year and before he ever played a snap for them.

“It meant a lot because they recognized I was a leader,” Toub explained of being named a captain. “I excelled there and that was a big thing for me, to know that I could do it against that level of competition.”

Toub was a two-time All-WAC selection (1983-84) at center and was named the program’s most outstanding offensive lineman during his junior and senior seasons.

He was selected in the ninth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and then spent time with the Los Angeles Rams in 1986.

When his playing career came to an end, Toub changed his focus back to strength and conditioning, an area he had been passionate about since he began building his own training equipment back in high school.

Toub and Andy Reid while coaching at UTEP.

Toub began working back at his alma mater under coach Stull as a graduate assistant in 1986 before moving to the strength and conditioning staff in 1987, and it was then and there that he first crossed paths with Reid at that off-campus diner.

Two guys grinding it out in a small town in Texas two decades before they’d make their mark on the NFL.

After Reid and Toub spent two successful seasons together at UTEP, Stull was offered the head coaching position at the University of Missouri.

In the 10 years between 1977 and 1986, the Miners had won 17 games total.

In the two years (1987-88) under Stull, Toub, Reid and company, they matched that with 17 wins out of 24 games.

They had been a part of building something special together early in their professional careers.

Toub eventually joined Stull, Reid and company in Columbia six months after they had left to take over the Tigers program.

Russ Ball, who was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Tigers at the time, decided to leave and take an open position with the Kansas City Chiefs, which then produced an opening for Toub.

Even though he was just 27 years old, Toub had already made a name for himself as a strength coach.

"He was phenomenal,” Reid explained. “You could put him as one of the top strength coaches in the nation at the collegiate level.” It was the right fit for Toub in Columbia.

“That was a great opportunity for me,” Toub explained. “I was really young and moving up, going to become the head strength coach at a Division I school at 27 years old.”

Toub would spend the next nine years (1989-97) as the head strength and conditioning coach for the Missouri Tigers football program.

Reid left in 1991 after just three years at Mizzou to become the tight ends and offensive line coach for the Green Bay Packers.

While Toub stayed at Mizzou, their paths would cross again.

After nine years as the strength coach for the Tigers, a tragic turn of events set in motion a path that forever changed Toub’s life.

The Tigers defensive line coach at the time, whom Toub had been working with as an assistant of sorts as he also took care of his strength and conditioning duties, was a guy by the name of Curtis Jones Sr. Jones’ son, Corby, was the starting quarterback and a standout for the Tigers.

One July day in 1998, less than a month before the season was to begin, the Tigers lost their defensive line coach.

"Moe Ankney, the defensive coordinator, asked me if I would step in and take the D-line for a year. So that's how I ended up moving over to coaching."

- Toub on starting to coach

"[Coach Jones] died suddenly of a heart attack,” Toub explained.

It was a shock.

Jones, 55, had played for the Tigers in the 1960s and had coached there for 11 years under three different head coaches.

With this sudden tragedy came a precarious position for Toub, who was given an opportunity to leave the weight room and head to the field.

“Moe Ankney, the defensive coordinator, asked me if I would step in and take the D-line for a year.

“So that's how I ended up moving over to coaching.”

It’s the move that officially brought Toub over from a strength coach to a football coach, and while it transpired from a terrible event, the path it laid out for Toub changed his life.

"That changed my whole career,” Toub explained. “I was getting out of the weight room and out to the football field.

“It changed everything for me.”

While Toub had assisted offensive and defensive line coaches during his time at both UTEP and Missouri, he had never been a positional coach, but that didn’t stop him from approaching it the same way he had everything else in his life up to that point.

"I was ready to attack it,” Toub explained. “I was going to be the best D-line coach there was. That was my mentality.

“So I worked hard at it and ended up having a good player and that's it."

That player was former All-American defensive end Justin Smith, who would have one of the best careers in school history during his three-year stay with Toub and the Tigers.

"He was dominant from day one,” Toub said of Smith. “As soon as he stepped on the field as a freshman, he dominated."

Smith was one of eight true freshman that saw action for the Tigers that season for head coach Larry Smith, who had replaced Stull after the 1993 season.

During his junior year, Smith finished the season with 11 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 97 total tackles, earning first-team All-American honors.

Smith would be selected as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Toub would ultimately spend three years with the Tigers as their defensive line coach, all of which came with Smith in his meeting room.

After the 2000 season, Toub and the entire Missouri coaching staff was fired.

Just like that, Toub was trying to figure out what was next.


A Familiar Face Helps Toub Find His Niche

It started with that chance meeting at a diner back in El Paso, Texas.

While it had been a decade since they had worked together at Missouri, Toub and Reid spoke about a potential opportunity in Philadelphia, where Reid had taken the first head coaching position of his career just a couple of years earlier in 1999.

Reid advised Toub not to take the head strength and conditioning job he had lined up and was ready to accept at Ohio University.

Toub's 2002 Philadelphia Eagles headshot

There was a position for him with the Eagles.

“[Reid] called me and told me not to take that job,” Toub explained. “He said he had something for me in the NFL and then hired me in 2001 with the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Toub was going to leave the football field and head back into the weight room and Reid wouldn’t let him.

Just as Toub had helped Reid back in 1987, the situation was now reversed and Reid went out of his way to make sure Toub had a place with the Eagles.

He even created a new position for his old friend.

“He was the first quality control special teams coach in the National Football League,” Reid noted. “So he worked under (the special teams coach) John Harbaugh and (the defensive line coach) Tommy Brasher at the same time, which was awesome.

“At that time, you could just tell he was going to be a good special teams coach. He could teach the fundamentals of bases and balance. You’re not born in a three or four-point stance, and I think if you can coach the offensive line and defensive line, you can probably teach anything.”

Working and learning under Harbaugh helped Toub develop a love for special teams, which is something he carried with him throughout his career.

"I just like the fact that you work with the offense, defense and the kicking game,” Toub explained. “You're coaching blocking, tackling, everything about the game. Really and truly, it was a lot bigger than what I thought it was. The fact that I would talk to the whole team—that was big.

“You're your own coordinator and you run your own show—that was huge for me."

After three years under Reid, Harbaugh and company in Philadelphia, Toub was given the opportunity in 2004 as to be the special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears under new head coach Lovie Smith.

It’s where Toub made a name for himself.

During his nine years with the Bears, Toub led a group that amassed an NFL-high 22 kick return touchdowns from six different players.

He helped develop Devin Hester into the NFL’s all-time leader in kick return touchdowns (17), while also compiling the fifth-best punt return average (12.1 avg.). Hester set an NFL single season record with 5 kick return touchdowns in his rookie campaign in 2006 and surpassed that mark one year later with 6.

Toub was named Special Teams Coach of the Year in 2006 as voted on by his NFL coaching peers. He guided five different Bears players to eight Pro Bowl berths, including Devin Hester’s three selections (2006-07 and 2010) Johnny Knox (2009), Brendon Ayanbadejo (2006-07), Robbie Gould (2006) and Corey Graham (2011).

Toub talks with Bears linebackers Stephen Larsen (68) and Hunter Hillenmeyer

But in 2013, Toub would leave Chicago and join his friend for the third time in their professional careers—first at UTEP, then Philly and now Kansas City.

From a small diner in El Paso to Arrowhead Stadium, they were once again on the same side.

All Toub has done since he joined the Chiefs is guide this unit into one of the best in the NFL over a very short period of time.

The Chiefs have 6 return touchdowns since 2013, which is the most for any team in the NFL during that time.

In 2014, the Chiefs led the NFL in punt returns of 20-plus yards (12) and average starting field position after kickoff (25.9). They also ranked second in NFL kickoff return average (28.0).

Cairo Santos logged 112 points last season, which marks the most points by a rookie kicker in franchise history, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud’s franchise record of 108 points set back in 1967.

Rookie De’Anthony Thomas finished fourth in the NFL in punt return average (11.9).

Additionally, Knile Davis was third in the league in kickoff return average (28.6) and registered a 99-yard return for a touchdown vs. St. Louis (10-26-14).

"I think that makes a great coach. You find that balance between the relating to the guys and having some fun, but when it comes to crunch-time—the need to buckle down, everyone knows that you can play on that line with him, but once he means business that's when you sit down and you really take whatever he says to heart."

- Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman on Toub

One of the reasons Toub seems to find success everywhere he goes is because of the relationship he develops with his players.

"He always finds a way to relate,” Chiefs fullback and special teams standout Anthony Sherman said. “He keeps his scheme so simple that we can just go out there and have fun and play fast.

“That's all that special teams is—knowing what you're doing and being able to play fast and let loose. Everyone in our room wants to do good things for coach Toub."

The delicate balance between being approachable to your players and also commanding the respect needed to enforce discipline is a fine line that Toub has figured out.

“I think that makes a great coach,” Sherman said. “You find that balance between the relating to the guys and having some fun, but when it comes to crunch-time—the need to buckle down, everyone knows that you can play on that line with him, but once he means business that's when you sit down and you really take whatever he says to heart."

The other characteristic that has allowed Toub to find so much success is the trust he has in his players.

It’s two-way communication with him on what’s happening on the field and how the different units can be the most effective. He wants his players to be a part of the process.

“He tells us to do it,” Sherman explained. “He says, 'I can't see everything, so come back and we'll talk about what you see.’

“Things like what return the other team might be trying or a different scheme we think might work. If you see a two flying down then we might be able to run a counter—something like that.

“You can relate to him because you know he's going to listen to you, and you respect him back and listen to whatever he says."

It’s easy to respect Toub when you look at his track record throughout his entire career, but he also carries himself in a way that is both relatable and respectable to those around him.

One player with a long track record of success on special teams is punter Dustin Colquitt, who is in his 11th season with the Chiefs and his third with Toub.

Colquitt owns the top spots in franchise history with a 39.4-yard career net average and a 44.8-yard gross average. His 321 punts inside the 20-yard line is also best in franchise history and 10th-best in NFL history.

“He's big on family and accountability,” Colquitt said of Toub. “No excuses, just come to work. That's what he expects us to do while we're here, while we're in the building.

“Then when we're home, leave it at work.”

Andy Reid on Dave Toub: “He’d be good at anything”

For more than three decades, Toub’s life has been about football at either the collegiate or professional level.

He’s been around hundreds of successful coaches and players and he’s taken a bit from each of them throughout his career.

"Everybody has an influence on you a little bit,” he explained. “You take a little bit from each coach and kind of throw on your own philosophy."

Upon reflecting how far he’s come throughout his career, dating back to his days of creating a homemade leg press workout contraption in high school, Toub said it’s equal hard work and fortuitous opportunities that landed him where he is today.

"It wasn't always the goal. Luck is huge; it got me great players. Being around guys like Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, I didn't know anything about special teams until I got to Philly. I'm just so fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time."

- Toub on coaching in the NFL

“It wasn't always the goal,” Toub explained of the NFL. “Luck is huge; it got me great players. Being around guys like Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, I didn't know anything about special teams until I got to Philly.

“I'm just so fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time.”

The Chiefs are lucky Toub was in the right diner at the right time down in El Paso more than 25 years ago.

That initial meeting with Reid, which probably seemed like nothing more than part of the normal interview process for any coaching gig anywhere, ultimately became so much more.

It set forth a chain of events that affected the football futures of the Missouri Tigers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and now the Kansas City Chiefs organizations.

From that first lunch until now, Reid couldn’t be more impressed with his longtime friend and what he represents.

“He can do everything,” Reid said with a smile. “I mean, he’s a guy that builds his own homes. He built his house in Columbia from scratch, and it was a phenomenal house too. He'd be good at anything.

“If he was a head coach, he'd be good at that. That’s just how he’s built.”

What Toub has built is a successful career laid upon a foundation of hard work, dedication and a passion for what he’s doing.

It’s what separates the good coaches from the great coaches and Toub has it in spades.

Whether it was as an assistant strength coach taking prospective coaches out to lunch in Texas, transitioning from the weight room to the football field in Columbia, developing the greatest kick returner in NFL history to date or simply helping the Chiefs special teams units consistently win that third phase of the game, Toub is the epitome of what a good coach looks like.

He’s disciplined, dedicated and finds a way to relate to his players while gaining their respect in the process. It’s a fine line to walk and Toub has it figured out.

We’re all lucky that lunch went well back in 1987.

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