After spending a season as a graduate assistant, Ryan Walters was promoted as Arizona's secondary coach on Monday.
Walters, 25, spent the past season in Tucson after a successful four-year career as a safety at the University of Colorado.
He told WildcatAuthority.com that he was honored to accept the job.
"I was extremely excited obviously," Walters said. "This is something I wanted to do and the career I wanted to be in. It was also extremely humbling. It's an honor to be a position coach here at the University of Arizona at this level. The fact I'm able to do that at my age is something I don't take lightly and I recognize that it's a blessing."
In 2010, Walters worked under secondary coach Greg Brown, who left before the Alamo Bowl to take a job at Colorado. Walters coached the secondary in the bowl game as well as the practices preceding it, earning the faith of the UA defensive backs, who weren't shy about their desire for Walters to be Brown's replacement.
Mike Stoops ultimately opted with Texas' Duane Akina, who spent less than a month on the job before heading back to UT. After Akina left, Stoops went with Walters.
Walters looks back at the entire situation positively.
"It was fun," he said. "Starting out after coach Brown left, I got to coach the guys in the bowl game and went out on the road recruiting a little bit. I got a taste of the ins and outs of being a position coach. That experience helped me a lot.
"After Mike hired Akina, it was an opportunity for me to learn from one of the best. I was in Akina's office all of the time, trying to pick his brain about what he does and how he handles coaching the position and what he likes X's and O's wise. I felt like I learned a lot in that short period of time.
"The emotional roller coaster of Akina getting hired, him being here and then leaving, definitely was an exciting and anxious time for my wife and I, my family and the guys on the team.
"I count it all as a blessing every day I'm in this situation. The chips fell in the right places and this opportunity came down. I'm very fortunate that Mike has the confidence in me to make that decision."
For a graduate assistant to have all of the support of the players to be promoted isn't common, and Walters is thankful for the defensive backs' support.
"That was very humbling," Walters said. "For an entire group of guys to want you to be their coach, knowing the pressure and importance of what a defensive backs coach entails, really speaks highly to them as players and it's just really humbling to me."
Stoops is known as one of the best defensive backs coaches in the country and it could be easily surmised that he wouldn't have hired Walters without complete faith in his ability.
The two spent plenty of time working together over the past year, which ultimately proved to be big for Walters.
"The whole year Stoops was obviously very much involved in our defensive game planning every week," said Walters. "He was always around when I was around and he definitely knows my knowledge base.
"During the bowl prep practices, he sat in on all of the defensive backs meetings and he went out on the road with me to recruit a couple times, so I really didn't have to sit down and persuade him to do one thing or the other.
"He obviously knew that I very much wanted this job and very much thought I was capable of doing this job successfully. That's why I said it's humbling that he had the confidence in me to make that decision."
While one might point to Walters' age as a strike against him, he feels he can use it to his advantage.
"I can relate to the guys," he said. "Obviously I'm only 25, fresh out of college. I graduated in '08 so I know what it means to be a student-athlete in this day and age, what the pressures are and what the expectations are of a student-athlete. Being able to relate to the guys is easy for me to do."
Walters' strong relationship with the players he coaches can also be beneficial to him on the recruiting trail, he feels.
"I'm going to work really hard at it," Walters said. "Recruiting is something I have to be good at. I think it will be natural for me. I have a good relationship with the team and I think that will correlate into high school prospects. I know I have a lot to learn in the recruiting process but it's something I want to pride myself in doing very well."
Arizona may not have a position more loaded with young talent than the secondary and he knows what kind of situation he's walking into.
"I'm looking forward to working with all of those guys," he said. "We have two great veterans in Trevin Wade and Robert Golden. We have some young guys that ended up getting some valuable experience last year in crucial situations in Shaquille Richardson, Jonathan McKnight and Adam Hall.
"The one guy I'm really looking forward to working with is Marquis Flowers, who shows tremendous athletic ability and definitely wants to be a good player, and he's very capable of doing so. We've got other guys too, like Mark Watley and Derrick Rainey, who have talent and have the skill set. I think we have a chance to be deep and very successful in the secondary."
Ryan Walters hired as DB's coach
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