Ryan Nielsen talks with Pack Pride about his decision to accept the defensive line coaching position for the New Orleans Saints.
Congratulations on your new job... I know that must be an exciting move for you.
Yeah. I appreciate that thank you very much. It's great to be a part of this organization, and coaching staff, and coach Payton, and just excited about the move down here.
How did this unfold? I wanna say it seemed like it was out of left field, but it just seemed odd. I don't want to say odd, but it seemed like maybe you were happy at NC State. Is this something you wanted to do? Or is this something that just sort of happened spur of the moment?
Well first of all, I was extremely happy at NC State. It really didn't have anything about NC State though. It's a goal of mine, something that I've wanted to do, coaching in the NFL, and when this opportunity arose, I became very interested in it.
This is an organization that has won a Super Bowl, and they're also in one of the best divisions... you had the last two NFC champions come from the South. So it's a daunting task... does that make it more appealing I guess?
Not necessarily, I just think the opportunity to be in the NFL.
One, I don't think it really mattered where it was, but when you're fortunate to get a call from the Saints in this organization, and what they've done, it's very exciting and I'm very grateful for the opportunity that they've given me. I can't really wait to get going here, we don't have practice yet.
That time is too far away from me, but we got a lot of time until then, and looking forward to really getting to know everybody in the building going down there.
When did football become a thing in your life? At what point when you were young boy did you know that football is where you wanted to go?
Well shoot. I've always played sports, and really Junior High, High School when it really became important to me.
I had some great opportunities coming out of High School, and actually chose USC. That really enhanced football for me playing there. The traditions that they had, and it's kind of opened up a lot of doors in my coaching career.
One person that you met at USC was Dave Doeren. What was he like there when you were playing football?
[Laughing] A lot younger, but so was I.
I'm known coach for a long time. We had more of an off-the-field relationship at SC you know? Recruiting visits, and stuff of that nature. It did start the relationship, and we did have something in common, when we got together a few years later.
Was it at USC that coaching became a thing in your life, a goal, or when did that emerge?
Yeah, that was more Senior year. I talked to Norm Chow ... Had a big influence in that, Ed Orgeron big influence, Pete Carroll, those guys... I'm very thankful for them.
You eventually made your way to Raleigh. The defensive line, the growth of the D-Line at NC State in your four years. Now you're leaving, and it's looking like they may have one of the better ones in the nation. They had a really good one this past season, but it looks like next season it's really set. How happy are you with the work you've done, and what you've been able to accomplish, and what's your leaving behind for the next man?
I don't really look at it personally what I've done. I look at it as what we've done as a defensive line as in the group.
The guys in that room, they've given everything that they have for the program, for what we've done defensive line wise in terms of scheme with Coach Huxtable. Fundamentals, and really have given themselves to NC State and the program.
I think that's... when players do that it makes it very easy to coach them. They're focused on their development which ... And the teams winning, and is very important to them. When that happens I think you create something special as a group, and in a room.
I think in the future as long as the guys stay with the things that got them to where they are in terms of practicing hard, and the toughness, and the skill development you know? Playing with an edge, they'll have the best season that they've had defensive line wise in the last four years.
Are you expecting them to take it to another level in 2017? I guess that would also make it harder to leave, knowing that they can be one of the best in the country next season.
Yeah. It wasn't an easy decision, but that's what my expectation is for the guys. But ultimately they have to do it.
And stay in the mindset of constant improvement, and working everyday to become the best players that they can possibly be. Don't take anything for granted. Which I think they will, I think they're in that mindset. Like I said, it wasn't easy to leave those guys. I love my room. Everybody in there gave me everything that they had, and I can't appreciate those guys enough.
You see guys like Chubb, Street, Roseboro... do you expect to see them on Sundays maybe even on your team, or maybe compete against them? Or some of the players at State that have that type of quality?
That's an ultimate goal for those guys. We talk about it a lot. That's the driving passion for the skill development. Playing hard and everything like that, but once we talk about it, it just kinda stays in there. I don't think about the next level with them at that time.
But we'll see what happens after the season, and I'm sure that many of them are going to have an opportunity.
When you look at coaching at the college level versus the NFL... those guys have all said you were sort of a father figure to them, and tough love was a common phrase. Now you're going to a place now where these are grown men, they get a check, they're going to work, do you have to sort of change your approach somewhat dealing with guys where this is a job as opposed to going to college?
No, I'm not going to change my approach because it's all about relationships.
You develop a relationship, and understand where somebody is coming from on both sides. You're working towards the same goal, a common goal. I think that that's what's most important, whether it be tough or not, football is the commonality in what we do, and I'm here to help players develop and become the best that they can be. When they understand that, and where I'm coming from, they get it, and it's a give and a take.
That's what we had there. That's my approach, and I'll keep that here. I've already started to contact the guys, and started to get to know them, and talk to them, and develop that relationship. So when practice comes around they get in the building, and they know me rather than just somebody coming off the street.
What type of reception, what type of feedback are you getting from down in New Orleans?
It's been great. Everybody's welcome me very warmly, and the players have been good ... The guys that I've talked to. Today's day one, so just getting into it, but they've been very accommodating, and I can't thank them enough.
One of the things I've noticed Ryan about NFL coaches is it tends to be a 16-18 hour a day job for most of the season. Do you feel like you're ready to take on the rigors of an NFL coaching job? Do you feel like you have that balance where you can do your job, but also take care of yourself, and make sure that you're living a type of life you need to live to a productive person?
First of all, I don't know what you think we're doing at NC State, but that's not going to be a change if anything.
I'm not in this for me. I'm in this for the players. This is not about Ryan Nielsen, this is about the guys that I coach, and the developed relationships, and even from year one at NC State, I still talk to those guys. That's what it's about for me. It's not an individual or personal thing, it's a team thing.
But no, I'm not going to change. I'm going to continue to do the things that got me here, and even push harder.
If you have a message for NC State, or if you have a message for the administration, what would you say to them?
Sure. Absolutely. First of all, thank you to coach Doeren for giving me the opportunity. Dave Huxtable, our defensive coordinator. George Barlow, Clayton White, those guys in the defensive staff room, along with our quality control, and GA's have been unbelievable to work with.
I've grown very close to Hux, and I really appreciate him, and helping me grow in my career. My players have been like I told you, unbelievable, and very easy to coach. The fans at NC State, when we first got there is a very warm welcome.
I've made a lot of friends in Raleigh, NC State alumni, and just running out in Carter-Finley Stadium on a Saturday afternoon... it's an unbelievable experience, and it's because the fans that attend the games, and tailgate and get in there, and scream their heads off.
It really is a fantastic place for everybody who's involved in NC State football or administration, and the organization, I say thank you. I enjoyed my time there. I'll look back on it, and for a time I've look on it very fondly and just remember things that brings a smile to your face. A meeting with administrator, player, coach... It was a great time in my life, and who knows, maybe we'll do it again someday.