NORMAL -- Illinois State football head coach Brock Spack filled one of the openings on his coaching staff Friday when he announced the appointment of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Szabo.
"I've known Steve for a long time and he was actually the first coach to come by Rockford East High School when I was a junior during the start of my recruiting process," Spack said. "A lot of the things I did as a linebacker coach throughout my career I got from him. Steve has coached at every level possible and wants to help us become a championship football program, which is why we brought him in here."
Szabo replaces former Redbird linebackers coach Jay Peterson, who earlier left the program to assume a similar role at his alma mater Miami (Ohio). Phil Elmassian, who served as the defensive coordinator for the last two seasons, has been named assistant head coach and will continue to work with the ISU secondary.
During a coaching career that has spanned over 40 years, Szabo has coached the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs at both the college and NFL levels. He has coached in the Super Bowl and in two games where the national collegiate championship was on the line (1980 Rose Bowl and 2007 Rose Bowl).
"The single factor in me coming to Illinois State was the opportunity to work with Brock," Szabo said. "I think the world of him as a person and a coach and have known him for a long time. I would like to do everything I possibly can to help him be successful, because I think he's the epitome of what a college coach should be."
Szabo comes to Illinois State from Eastern Michigan, where he spent the 2009 season as the associate head coach and linebackers coach. He took over that position after spending the 2008 season as the defensive coordinator at Colgate, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program from the Patriot League. In his only season with Colgate, the team won the Patriot League Championship and was the only non-scholarship program to reach the FCS playoffs.
Prior to taking over the defense at Colgate, Szabo served as linebacker coach for two seasons under Lloyd Carr at Michigan. In 2006, the Wolverines were 11-2 and ranked eighth in the country with the top-ranked defense against the rush. During his tenure, four Wolverine linebackers earned all-Big Ten honors, including David Harris who was a Butkus Award semifinalist. Michigan also played USC for the national championship in the 2007 Rose Bowl and participated in the 2008 Capital One Bowl in Szabo's two seasons in Ann Arbor.
Szabo joined the Michigan coaching staff after spending 12 seasons as a coach in the National Football League. He was the defensive backs coach with the Buffalo Bills during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Prior to his stint in Buffalo, Szabo worked with the New England Patriots during the 2003 season, when they won Super Bowl XXXVIII, and spent eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1994-2002). During his time in Jacksonville, he helped the team advance to two AFC Championship games (1996 and 1999) and helped develop Kevin Hardy into a Pro Bowl linebacker in 1999, the same year the Jaguars ranked first in the NFL in scoring defense.
Szabo also has experience running his own program, after serving as head coach at Edinboro for three seasons (1985-87). At Edinboro, he was named coach of the year in the small college division in Western Pennsylvania by the Pittsburgh Press in 1986.
After his head coaching stint at Edinboro, Szabo was the defensive coordinator at Boston College for three seasons (1991-93), helping the Eagles improve to a national ranking in 1993. He also worked for two seasons at Colorado State (1989-90) and one at Missouri Valley Football Conference member Northern Iowa (1988) prior to that and was also was an assistant at Western Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa State, Syracuse, Iowa, Toledo and John Hopkins.
Szabo played his college football at the United States Naval Academy (1961-64), alongside Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach. He participated in the 1964 Cotton Bowl against national champion Texas and also played midfield on three National Championship lacrosse teams at Navy (1963-65), before being stationed in Quantico (1965-69) and serving a year in Vietnam.