Kiesau has had success coaching both scholarship and walk-on players. In 2001, when Kiesau was at Utah State, former walk-on receiver Kevin Curtis, now with the St. Louis Rams, led the nation with 100 catches and was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. At Cal, two walk-ons, Burl Toler and Vincent Strang, were forced into action after injuries to the receiving corps, and responded under Kiesau's tutelage with 65 combined catches in Cal's high-octane passing game, triggered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Geoff MacAurthur set Cal school records for career receptions and yards under Kiesau's guidance.
BSN: Why did you want to take the CU job?
Erick Kiesau: There were a lot of reasons. The first thing was obviously Coach (Dan) Hawkins and the staff he was putting together. It's an unbelievable group of guys. Very talented and very smart and all are great people. That was one of the biggest draws because football is football no matter where you're at. But it's the people you spend all these long hours with (that makes a difference).
BSN: What's your connection to Coach Hawkins?
Kiesau: It's really through a connection of friends. There's a group of guys: Chris Peterson, who's now the head coach at Boise State, Bob Gregory, who's the defensive coordinator at Cal. Myself, Justin Wilcox, who's now the defensive coordinator at Boise. There's a string of guys and we all just knew each other.
BSN: You're not the first new assistant I've talked to who's said they were excited about the staff Hawkins put together. Tell me more about what's appealing to you about the staff.
Kiesau: The bottom line is just the quality of people. You're talking about a group of guys that have the same values and the same beliefs. I'm talking about off-the-field things. Family is important. Our job is important and we love what we do, but there's got to be a balance there.
I think a lot of people get too caught up in the grind where they're over-working to out-work their opponents. You can get caught up in that when you're in the coaching profession.
BSN: How will you go about evaluating the receivers at Colorado?
Kiesau: I'm in a similar situation as I was when I went to Cal. I got in there and I watched as many games as possible (on archival video) and really tried to get a feel for them as much as you can before spring ball started. But spring ball is really where it's going to come down to evaluating and finding out what we have.
You can talk to other people who have been here in the past (about the players), but that's really their perception. I want to create my own opinion and find out where we are.
The big thing for me between now and spring ball is to get them to know me as a person and for me get to know them as a person. I want to find out what their academic interests are, what they're taking, where they come from. Just really get to know them.
You have to build a foundation of trust before you get into X's and O's and football stuff.
You line up 10 coaches and everybody's going to know football. There's going to be no difference between me and the guy they had before that and the guy they had before that. The big difference is the level of trust.
BSN: What are things you're looking for from a receiver?
Kiesau: I want a guy that's got great hands, a very natural ability to catch the football. I want a guy who's a great athlete, a guy who has great character and integrity. You may think that's crazy to say, but that does go into my evaluation. I want good people. And I want guys that truly love the game, guys that want to practice and study the game. I look for a lot of those things.
People sometimes get caught up in ‘he's 6-4 and runs a 4.3.' But what I'm trying to do here is I'm trying to have a receiving corps, not just one guy that's good. I'm all about getting all of them buying into what we're doing. Some of the best receivers I ever coaches, they ran a 4.6 and a 4.5. The best receiver Cal's ever had was Geoff McArthur and he ran a 4.58 on his best day. Don't get me wrong, speed is important. A (receiver) can't run a 5-flat. But it's not the most important thing to me.
Good hands, a good athlete, someone who loves the game and loves to play. I don't want to try to bang guys over the head to go out to practice. I want to coach them concepts, how we're going to attack the defense, not have to say, ‘C'mon, guys, let's get through this practice today.' You take a guy who's a little bit under average athletically, but has a passion and will and a drive, he will succeed in this offense.
BSN: Do you like the recruiting part of your job?
Kiesau: I love it. That's probably the biggest part of the job. Everybody thinks a coach's job is to teach football, but it's all about recruiting. If you look at the great teams and you look at their recruiting classes from the previous years, they're great.