Well before he became one of the fastest climbers in the college football coaching fraternity, Dave Doeren served as one of the more unremarkable Mexican food cooks in Des Moines.
To supplement his meager income as a Drake assistant coach in the mid-1990s, when everyone operated on nine-month contracts, Doeren had to find summer jobs to support he and his wife, Sara.
“I mowed grass at the physical plant,” Doeren said. “I cooked food at a restaurant at night. You did what you do to get by to pay the rent until football started.
“That’s what football coaches do. They have passion and do whatever you can to stay in the biz. It’s led me to where I’m standing right now.”
Doeren stands atop the Northern Illinois program after accepting a five-year deal to become Jerry Kill’s successor.
“I’m not walking into a rebuilding job,” said Doeren, who’ll make a base salary of $371,000 in his first season.
The 39-year-old Wisconsin defensive coordinator met with NIU’s players, fans and media Monday before returning to Madison to continue preparing for the Rose Bowl.
While Doeren won’t have any impact on NIU’s Humanitarian Bowl effort the Huskies leave for Boise, Idaho on Tuesday morning for Saturday’s game against Fresno State he’ll work both jobs until Wisconsin gets done playing TCU in Pasadena.
“Sleep will not happen here until signing day,” Doeren said. “But that’s OK.”
Doeren, who also interviewed at Indiana and Vanderbilt in recent weeks, says he has made a few offers to prospective assistants. He wants to find at least a few coaches with ties to long-time coach Joe Novak or the NIU program overall.
In the meantime, he wants the Huskies (10-3) to win their bowl and provide momentum for next season when he’ll have four first-team all-MAC returnees.
“He’s coming into a good situation,” all-MAC quarterback Chandler Harnish. “We have a lot of guys returning and we do a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. I think the least amount that we can change is probably for the better, but it’s his team and his mentality and I’m sure he’s got a great plan.”
While not saying flat-out that he’ll turn DeKalb into Wisconsin South, it’s clear Doeren espouses the philosophies established by Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema.
“I believe in a physical brand of football,” Doeren said. “It’s not about looking pretty. It’s about playing physical and playing within the rules.
“At Wisconsin, we’re the lowest-penalized team in the nation. I think people that watch football know that we’re not getting because we’re not physical.
“We truly took pride in taking our opponents down and getting to the fourth quarter and watching them quit. That is what I want to do.”
Doeren’s philosophy and success put him on NIU athletic director Jeff Compher’s short list before he hired the Parker Executive Search firm.
Compher was happy to discover the Parker people had Doeren high on their list, too, and more delighted to discover Doeren’s intensity is matched by his sense of humor.
When everyone met for the first interview last week, Doeren revealed his former life as a quesadilla- and taco-maker.
“He carried himself with a lot of pride, but seemed very accessible,” Compher said. “One of the interviewers said, ‘Well, I think I know that (Des Moines) restaurant.’ He said, ‘Well, I hope I didn’t screw up your order.’
“But, really, what I was impressed with, as we moved along, was his philosophy and what he stands for is so similar to what we stand for here. I felt like he would be a good fit for us.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.