Mark Elder began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Akron in 2000, teaching young men not far beyond his own age how to play defensive back.
After stops at Lehigh (2002), Iona (2003), Wayne State (2004) and Michigan (2005-06), he found himself a full-time job coaching linebackers at Central Michigan from 2007-09.
It was at Central Michigan where the former Case Western Reserve all-conference defensive back realized the most profound moment in his still-budding coaching career.
InsideTennessee recently spoke with the Tennessee tight ends coach and special teams coordinator about that memory, which sticks out and gives him reason to push through the grind.
“This summer, I had a player of mine that at a previous school who lived a pretty tough life, was foster child and I believe it was nine different foster homes throughout his upbringing and he had left school before finishing his degree. He and I had kept in contact quite a bit. He texted me — it was the first time he and I had had any type of contact in probably two months — to let me know that he was signed up for his last two classes this fall to get his degree. So that was probably, at this point in my career, my top moment.
“We had our ups and downs while he was a player. We were at each other's throats at times, literally. But that's what it is about. It's more than just about this game of football and about the wins and the losses. If that is what you are going to judge everything off of personally then there is going to be a lot of disappointment because at the end of the day I strongly believe that every single guy that got into this profession — at least initially got into it — because they wanted to help young men grow and be better and give opportunities to people through the game of football. Don't get me wrong, winning and losing is a big part of everything but at the heart of it that's not why I got into it. Not for the winning and losing — and I’m as competitive as anybody — but it was to help young men grow.”
Fast-forward to the present tense and see Elder speak about Tennessee's matchup with No. 4-ranked Oklahoma by clicking play on the InsideTennessee video below:
Elder talks Vols vs. Sooners
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