Initially, Zaunbrecher's whereabouts were a mystery. His last stop, as far as I knew, was Purdue.
After a short investigation (I googled), Zaunbrecher turned up as the new offensive coordinator at Rice. I left a message on his office phone late last week. Sunday night, he returned the call.
"That is great news about Raymond," he said. "Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy." Zaunbrecher was returning from the 10-year reunion of the undefeated team at Marshall. Coach Z landed there after his contract wasn't renewed in Monroe after the 1998 season.
He also coached at Florida, Illinois and Purdue since ULM. Zaunbrecher's years at then-Northeast Louisiana University were difficult. The transition from I-AA powerhouse to Division I-A newcomer was – and still is – challenging. Zaunbrecher's record was 20-36 from 1994-98, as he won five games in each of his last three seasons.
Complicating matters for those pioneering squads of the 1990s, the team competed as a I-A independent. The school played schedules that weren't conducive to winning.
Still, players like Philyaw gave fans a signature star to root for in those days. He engineered upset wins over Mississippi State and Kentucky and nearly pulled off another shocker at Auburn.
Zaunbrecher, who coached future NFL quarterbacks like Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich at Marshall and Rex Grossman at Florida, said that Philyaw brought special qualities to the job. "Of all the quarterbacks I've ever been around, no one threw deep better when on the run than Raymond," Zaunbrecher said. "Unfortunately, he was on the run a lot."