Interview: Reno Ferri

He knew he was talking to a college football coach, he just didn't know who. Former Army running back Reno Ferri was on a flight from Orlando to Ohio in 2004, returning from a coaching convention, where he hoped to land a job. Little did Ferri know, he was interviewing for a position 20,000 feet in the air.

As it turns out, the man who picked his brain for an hour was Akron head coach J.D. Brookhart, hired just weeks earlier. A few days later, Brookhart offered Ferri, a 2000 West Point grad, a graduate assistant job on his staff.

"It was crazy, I swear I didn't know who he was," Ferri said. "I was in medical sales, making good money, and this job paid $500 a month. It was tough, but this is what I wanted to do. This is what I have a passion for." Ferri has quickly moved up the Akron ladder and is now the Zips' running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. He will face Army for the third time next year when the Black Knights host Akron on Sept. 20 and recently had a candid chat with armysports.com.

What's it been like to coach against Army (in 2005 and '07)

Ferri: For some reason, this past year, it was a lot harder. I think it was because I was so much more involved in the preparation as a position coach. Being on the field at Browns Stadium, bumping into (Army assistant coaches) Clarence Holmes and Tony Coaxum, who were my teammates. It was emotional, it really was. It was hard. Talking to them after the game was really, really tough. There are very few people who can relate to what we went through together at Army. To try to defeat them, everything that is me, was really tough. I'm glad we won.

How tough will it be coaching against Army at Michie Stadium this year?

Ferri: I think it will be harder, because it will be up there. Having the Corps of Cadets there, knowing everything that's going on for them, and being on the other side. It's unnatural.

Will Akron beat Army this year?

Ferri: That's probably not a good question for me to answer. I think we have a chance to be really good, improved over last year. If we're not, we're in trouble. Talent-wise, we are better, we were young last year. All the key pieces are back, so I think we will be better.

How difficult has it been to watch your alma mater struggle over the years?

Ferri: It's not easy, but at the same time, that is the hardest job in Division I football. Obviously, playing at West Point, you have expectations of what you think college football is. Now that I'm on the exact opposite spectrum, at a school like Akron, my running backs: I have a kid that transferred from Ohio State, a kid that transferred from the Miami Hurricanes and a kid that originally signed with Pittsburgh. To know that we have access to those kind of players, it's just so much easier to recruit talent. I really appreciate how hard it is to coach at Army.

Would you ever want to coach at Army?

Ferri: I love Akron, if I could stay here for 30 years, I would. But at the same time, it's crazy, but every time I drive back to Army, it feels like I'm driving home. Any time I go there for an event, it will always be like home for me.

Do you have aspirations to be a head coach someday?

Ferri: Absolutely. Just to be able to build men, to see a group of guys come into a team and over a four or five-year period, build them into men. Preparing them for life in and outside of the sport and to kind of set a mentality of victory. To succeed at that, I couldn't think of anything cooler to do. It's a lot like being a commander in the military.


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