Napier adjusting to life in Tempe

Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier has spent much of his career working in small college towns, but he's enjoyed the transition to the greater Phoenix-area.

For the past decade, first-year Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier has spent the majority of his time coaching in small locales where the college football stadium could fit the entire town population.

That's not to say that football isn't a big deal in Clemson, South Carolina or Tuscaloosa, Alabama --in fact, football is the most important deal-- but the adjustment to a greater Phoenix area that boasts a population of more than 1.5 million is quite a shift for Napier.

"I text people all of the time, it's almost surreal, what a great place to live, tremendous people, this weather is incredible isn't it?," Napier said after Wednesday's practice.

The third offensive coordinator in three seasons for ASU, Napier is calling plays for the first time since 2010, when he served as the coordinator on Dabo Swinney's Clemson staff. Since then, Napier has spent five seasons at Alabama, and one year at Colorado State.

The 2012 campaign Napier spent under Jim McElwain in Fort Collins actually marked the only time in the last decade Napier worked in a town with a population of more than 100,000, so life in the valley of the sun is a bit different.

Since arriving at ASU in late January, Napier has remained active on social media, posting about visits to restaurants like Culinary Dropout and Oregano's, while also showing off some of the events he's taken in.

"I'm smart enough not to answer that question because I've met so many great people," Napier said when asked about his favorite restaurant. "And my wife and my three little kids are not in town, so I've been bach-ing it up here lately, so I've had a chance to get out there and experience the Valley to some degree and obviously I like to eat, so I've been to a lot of restaurants. But there's too many to choose from."

Though Napier said he learned from a former prominent college football head coach not to play favorites with local restaurants, he did admit he's already found his favorite kitchen in the valley. That kitchen belongs to Nancy Cassidy, the wife of ASU's Senior Associate AD of Football Operations, Tim Cassidy, as Napier is living with the Cassidy's while he waits for his family to arrive in Arizona. 

"Miss Nancy is the MVP right now, it's one thing to stay at the Cassidy's, it's another thing to get fed a great meal every night so Miss Nancy is the MVP," Napier said.

Even ASU head coach Todd Graham expressed his jealousy of Napier's setup, saying that he'd switch places with Napier to experience Nancy Cassidy's cooking on a nightly basis. 

"The key to that deal is Nancy Cassidy is a really good cook," Graham said. "So I'd trade with him." 

In his two-month stint in Arizona, Napier has already taken advantage of some of the staples the local sports scene has to offer, as Napier took in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February and a spring training game out at Camelback Ranch in March.

Though Napier is clearly adjusting well to a larger city, he said the best part of working at ASU is the opportunity to impact another group of young men. 

Coaching runs in the Napier blood, his father Bill was a long-time head coach at Murray County High in Georgia and his brothers Kurt and Matt have both worked in the high school ranks. On Wednesday, Napier said the mutual values he and Graham share about the profession help make working in the Sun Devils' program an enjoyable experience, and he said it's his goal to do everything in his power to give his players the opportunity to succeed. 

"I think coach Graham has made a point of hiring people that believe the same things," Napier said. "So football is a game, coaching football is the profession that I chose because of the opportunity to affect young people. Having observed my dad who was a coach over the years, I chose the profession simply for that fact. So that's what that's about and at the same time, nobody is more competitive than we are. We want to work tirelessly and be relentless to put our players in position to have success."

Though Napier is excited about the progress the team he's new to has made this spring, he did admit that he's looking forward to re-joining another team this May. That's when Napier's wife Ali and their three children are expected to join him in Arizona. 

And though Napier will surely miss Nancy Cassidy's home-cooked meals, he's excited for what comes next.

"It's already taken care of, my man," Napier said. "Got to get there. Ali and Annie Jo and Sammy and Charlie here, that's what I've got to do, I'll be a happier man, I can promise you that."

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