NH: Let me say this first Larry…that I want to thank all the people involved…that hired me…especially Rob Spear and Gary Michael…Vandal Boosters…and Dr. White…Bob Cowan…Wayne Walker…all the people that were in the hiring process two years ago. And I will say this too…that two years ago this job was not a very good job. After two years this is one heck of a place due to new conference affiliation, new facilities, new coaching staff, and obviously different players and a belief of knowing how to compete and being good in the near future. Now, the reasons why I am leaving is that I have a great, great opportunity here [St. Louis Rams] with the people I'm going to be with [in St. Louis]. They're excellent football coaches. They're great people. One thing I want everyone to know is that I'm going to work for a Vandal. So it's a heck of a deal, and you only get so many opportunities in life. Just like this opportunity to be a head coach at Idaho was important to me…it's a lot better place than it was when I first took it over…that's for sure.
LJ: Looking forward, has your ultimate goal been to coach in the NFL, or do you plan to someday return to the college coaching ranks?
NH: You know... that's a good question. I'd love to be a head coach in the NFL. I love being a head coach and there's no question about it. I'm still green and I'm continuing to grow, and this is a great opportunity for me to grow in my profession and become an even better football coach, and an even better Head Coach down the line. So, we'll see. We'll see how that turns out.
LJ: Things are happening quickly for you, of course. What are your short-term expectations with the Rams in the next two to four years?
NH: Well, we're going to win some games…we'll go in there with a new staff and be competitive and win the Division Championship, and the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. I think first things first, just like coming here, you start a program and you get kids to play hard and compete. We [St. Louis] have got to play a lot better defense then they have in the last couple years and I think we can get that done, so I'm excited about that opportunity.
LJ: What position will you coach with the Rams and what are your aspirations for your future in the NFL?
NH: Well, I will be the defensive line coach, and Coach Linehan wanted one of his guys on that side of the ball. A guy he trusts and that has a lot of background with. That's a really unique opportunity for me. I see in the future…I don't know what that time-table is, but to [eventually] move on from a position coach to being a coordinator, and ultimately to being a head coach.
LJ: How will your move to the NFL affect the assistant coaching staff at Idaho, and do you expect most of the staff to be retained?
NH: I expect most of the staff to be retained. Rob Spear has indicated that much to me. They're excellent football coaches, and that was a big concern of mine regarding my situation as far as taking the job in the NFL. I've been assured that the coaches will all be retained and get to stay, and that's a great decision on Rob's behalf, because these guys are great football coaches, excellent recruiters…excellent rapport with the kids already here on campus, and they need to have that to keep continuity with the players so the players don't leave this program. These assistants have done just a remarkable job in two years of going out and getting us players, and coaching up these players. There's a sense of comfort level with our kids in the program right now with our assistant coaches and, hopefully, they can coach here as long as they want.
LJ: You just signed an impressive recruiting class. How does your move to the NFL affect the last recruiting class and do you know if the staff has contacted the class to keep them committed to Idaho?
NH: We have already contacted all of the recruits over the weekend to tell them about some of the changes, and we're adamant about whoever does come in and get the job that the new kids will be excited. I think that the kids are okay…all the new kids that signed with us…they understand. Some of them, obviously, are disappointed…they had wanted to come and play for myself and some of the other guys. But, they understand and they came here, not only because of me…but they came here because of the Vandal family…and the players that were in the program and the facilities, and the chance to become part of something that is really, really neat that is growing…and [because of] the University of Idaho football program within the Western Athletic Conference. So, yes, you know, the kids are disappointed that I'm leaving, but I think in time the bigger picture…the reality will set in…they came here, not just because of one man, but because of a lot of aspects.
LJ: How did the current team react to the news that you are leaving?
NH: Well, you know, some are very happy, excited for myself. But, a lot of them are disappointed. They are wondering what's gonna happen. We [need] to just make sure that these kids are going to be taken care of…They're great kids and the administration here will hire a great coach and everything will move forward…just like we've done in the past two years. So, you know, it's a transition, but the kids are fairly well-coached here; very tough - mentally - and they will get through this, and I think they will be excited about what the future brings.
LJ: Would you care to speculate on who will take over the program?
NH: You know, I don't do the hiring so I'm the wrong guy to ask. But, I know to maintain some of the continuity there's a couple of guys on our staff right now that have an opportunity to get a look at being a head coach. Jeff Mills would be an excellent candidate as, you know, a lot of the other guys. I think there are some other candidates out there that are very interested in the job. Like I said before, this is a good job now. We've made this a good job, and the Vandal family has made this into a very competitive job within our conference. They will get a quality, quality head football coach here.
LJ: We've touched on this briefly, but how is the program being left compared to the one you inherited two years ago?
NH: Well, the program we inherited two years ago was in a shambles. No facilities, no conference basically, an interim President, an interim Athletic Director. That now has obviously…all those situations have been stabilized, and we've moved forward. A lot of kids left two years ago that couldn't play, really, at this level and we did not have a lot of depth. Everything has changed. The community support has changed. The Latah County boosters have done a magnificent job with promoting our Vandal football program and athletic program in the community of Moscow. I will say this, that when we got here our camps - our summer camps - were at an all-time low. And now, after just two years, they're at an all-time high. Our high school camps plus our little kids' camp, which are probably the two best camps, or as good as any camps on the west coast…and there're getting stronger and stronger…that's because of these assistant coaches. You know, the community support is at an all-time high because the coaches have gone out and have done a great job…and taken the time…and their wives have taken the time…and the wives have been in every, every function we've asked them to be at… and to mingle with everybody we've needed to mingle with…and so we just look at everything…everything is better. The golf tournaments are at an all-time high. So there is a lot of energy right now, and whoever steps in is just gonna pick up the torch and carry it on, and keep on going with this thing and keep gettin' better.
LJ: What will the departure of Joel Thomas mean to the new running back recruits?
NH: Well, I think a lot of those kids are gonna be disappointed that Joel won't be here to coach that. But I know, in time, that whoever gets to be the running back coach…I think the new kids will adjust and get a lot of yardage for the University of Idaho. They're great football players, and we've contacted all those running backs…Joel has…and we have…and they're gonna be okay.
LJ: If you had remained at Idaho, what were your future needs in facilities?
NH: I think the pressing concern was having a big-time academic center, and we've really outgrown some of the space here within the department, and I think that's in the plans. I think that's what they need to go to. Next, they need a basketball facility for the basketball programs, and keep on looking at the viable options of expanding or building a new stadium. And those things, I think they'll be addressed here.
LJ: Do you have any parting words for the fans of the University of Idaho and the program you've been successfully rebuilding?
NH: You know I want to say thank you to all the Vandal fans and the Vandal nation, and the supporters. They've been great to my staff; they've been great to me and my family. I look at this as not turning my back on the University of Idaho. No way…that's not how I see this move at all. I think it's going to open up even more avenues for this place…and I will become an avid, avid advocate of Vandal athletics. I will do my part in pledging my support in the near future. And I just want to say thanks to all you guys at VandalVenue.com; you have been great to me, and I have loved every minute of what I have done here in two years. I've put my heart and soul into this job, trust me I have, but by the same token I have loved every minute of it. Julie and I and the boys appreciate everything that everybody has done for us.
LJ: Alright Nick…best of luck and thanks a lot!
NH: You got it…GO VANDALS!