Former DI Coach on Why He'd Recruit Military Athletes

  • Home
  • Former DI Coach on Why He'd Recruit Military Athletes
Former DI Coach on Why He'd Recruit Military Athletes

Dan Dodd has coached some of the most elite Division I football players during his 40-year coaching career. From Arkansas State to Tulane to TCU, Dodd has seen the best of the best come through his programs, and has developed a sharp eye for talent and for what it takes to play football at the collegiate–and professional–level. 

Dodd, coming from a military family and a strong advocate of supporting our troops, was on the coaching staff for the Athletes of Valor Football Performance Combine at Camp Pendleton in March 2019. When asked about collegiate football and military servicemen Dodd sees a natural connection.

What drives you to coach football? 

My faith, my family and football have been the three great loves of my life.  Billy Graham says, “a Coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime”.  I believe this to be a true statement.  Coaching has given me a sense of purpose that extends well beyond a paycheck. It has given me an opportunity to teach young people to pursue greatness in every area of their life.

How has your experience with CoachUp impacted your football career?   

For me CoachUp has been an extension of my coaching career.  Now that I am on the backside of 40 years in coaching, CoachUp has enabled me to continue doing what I love to do, teaching young people.

What was your first reaction when we asked you about coaching at the Athletes of Valor Football Combine at Camp Pendleton?

Really excited.  My father was a 14-year Marine and my father-in-law was a career Marine.  I felt like this would be a great opportunity to give back to a group of men that represent the best America has to offer, and a group that has had a long tradition with my hometown of San Clemente. 

What was your biggest take away from coaching at the Football Combine?

The first thing that came to mind is that America is in great hands.  I am a bit biased by growing up in a Marine family, but the USMC is the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, and these young men are great representatives of that proud tradition.

Most memorable experience from the Football Combine?

Without doubt my greatest takeaway from the AOV Football Combine was the joy that these guys had being on the field.  It was not only a great diversion from their normal day, but an opportunity to compete with one another and have fun doing it.

How is coaching military athletes different than coaching civilian athletes?

Because of their intensive training, Marines are taught to listen.  

They realize that their ability to work as an individual within the framework of the unit is critical to their success. They brought the same attitude to the practice field and tried to do whatever thing they were being taught exactly as it was being coached.

How do you think the military athletes’ service experience has prepared them for playing sports?

When I was at Tulane University, I had a quarterback named Joe Kemp that, after graduation, joined the Marines and eventually worked his way up to being a Captain.  While still in the Corps, we went out to dinner and I asked Joe, “what has the Marine Corps taught you about leadership that I did not teach you”.  Joe replied, “with all due respect Coach, you didn’t teach me anything about leadership compared with what they taught me in the Marines”.  I believe that these young people are much better prepared for the rigors of college athletics and academics after the experience of military training.

What would you say to current military members who want to play college football after their experience is done?

I would tell them that there is somewhere for them to play. It might not be USC or Alabama, but there is some school that would love to have their talent, leadership, and their real world experience that they could bring to a school’s program. Secondly to take advantage of the services provided through Athletes of Valor. Alex Stone and his organization are working hard to try to get these guys placed and they need to take advantage of that help.

What would you say to coaches or other athletes who think that military athletes won’t succeed because they haven’t played in a few years or are too old?

These athletes have trained at an elite level for 4 years and they will bring the same work ethic to whatever University is fortunate enough to have them.  I have been fortunate enough to have been around a few of these players in my career and have always been impressed with their dedication to both their team but also their academics.


Coach Dan Dodd is a coaching veteran of nearly 40 years. His experience spans almost all levels of football, including high school, community college and several Division I programs. Dodd has been on the coaching staff at Arkansas State, Tulane University, University of New Mexico, TCU, Utah State, Western Illinois, Butler (Kan.) Community College and four high schools located in California. Dodd has experience coaching in 12 bowl games and his roles have included head coach, assistant head coach, tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator, and offensive coordinator. Dodd is currently in his second season as the Offensive Coordinator for Lamar University in Beaumont, TX.