BY MICHAEL HAMMOND | USD Sports Information
Nov. 4, 2016 | Football
VERMILLION, S.D. — Offensive quality control coach Colby Felts is now in his second year as a graduate assistant on the South Dakota football staff, but back in February he was faced with a tough decision. That decision was either to continue coaching or go to medical school.
Felts graduated from USD in three years with a bachelor’s degree in medical biology and was accepted into USD’s medical school in February 2015. He then pushed back medical school a year to take a graduate assistant position for the football team and pursue a master’s degree in kinesiology and sport science. The medical school came calling the next February and Felts chose to stick with coaching.
“The toughest part of choosing coaching was all the work I did in undergrad,” Felts said. “I graduated in three years. It was a lot of work and something I’d really worked a long time for, even in high school getting good grades, and going through the process of interviews and applications.”
Back up to 2012. Felts graduated as a valedictorian at Remsen-Union, in the small town of Remsen, Iowa, where he played 8-man football. In the fall, he enrolled in the honors program at USD, with full intentions of becoming a doctor.
“I absolutely loved USD’s campus and the med school,” Felts said. “I thought I was going to go be a doctor and give up sports.”
That all changed when his high school coaches found out he wasn’t going to play college football and asked Felts to come back and help coach his high school team.
“I was a decent player and had the chance to play smaller college football,” Felts said. “As soon as I told my high school coaches I wasn’t going to be playing in college, they asked me to come back.”
During that fall, Felts would go to class and head back to Remsen, an hour drive from Vermillion, and get his first experience on the football field as a coach, working with the running backs and linebackers. He would coach at Remsen for his first two years of undergrad.
At the tail end of his second year of school, Felts went to see USD director of football operations, Luke Groth. Felts told Groth about his experience and asked if there was a position available. Groth told him about a position in the film department and Felts took it.
“I didn’t get into it with the intentions of coaching, but I got hooked as soon as I was in the Dome,” Felts said. “I basically did whatever the coaches asked me to do, tried to stay out of the way, and just picked up as much knowledge as I could.”
After his first season with the Coyotes, Felts started to wonder if coaching was what he really wanted to do after school. He took a graduate assistant job as a running back coach/video coordinator in January 2015. The following month, Felts was accepted into medical school and was allowed to push it back one year.
Then came the football season and Joe Glenn’s impending retirement as USD’s head coach. As Glenn retired and the Coyotes hired Bob Nielson as his replacement, Felts had no idea whether or not he would remain on the staff.
“Throughout the whole coaching change, I did not know what to expect,” Felts said. “Nielson got hired and they went into recruiting right away, so we were kind of in limbo.
“I got an opportunity to meet with him. I told him what I do around here and that I would be interested in staying on the staff.”
Nielson offered him a spot in January and Felts accepted the offer, turning down medical school for good. But why turn down the chance to become a doctor and coach football?
“I think football coaches play a unique role,” Felts said. “We get to help a lot of student athletes earn a college degree that, without football, they maybe wouldn’t have had the opportunity to.”
In his new role as offensive quality control coach, Felt’s primary responsibility is to prep the offensive staff on future opponents. While the team is working on the field for the next game, Felts is watching film and researching the next week’s opponent. When the coaches get done with Saturday’s game evaluations, they can jump right into game planning for the week ahead. This includes teaching the scout defense the proper techniques to give the offense a good look at the next opponent during practice.
“I am basically an expert on our next opponent when the coaches come in on Sunday morning,” Felts said. “The coaches look at me as the guy to ask what they do, what their tendencies are, who are their best players, and things like that.”
Felts also runs the team’s video department. This includes setting up a film schedule for practice, putting the film into the editing systems for the coaches, exchanging film with other teams, and creating the weekly hype video the team releases.
Helping Felts in the video department is his younger brother, Austin, who everyone calls ‘dog.’ Austin took over for Colby when he first took the job as a graduate assistant. Austin is in charge of making sure all the equipment is ready during practice and takes care of any problems or changes that may occur. He is also the mastermind behind the weekly hype videos.
“He has kind of taken the job and run with it,” Felts said about his younger brother. “He has taught himself everything he needs to know, he is a valuable part of our staff and I don’t want him to ever leave.”
One thing for sure is that this is just the start to Felts’ career, as he has his sights on becoming a head coach at some point.
“I love everything a head coach does,” Felts said. “It’s very similar to running a company, and I think that is something I could excel in. That is my ultimate goal in this profession. Be successful and help a lot of young men go to college, earn a degree, and do something meaningful.”
With his ultimate goal in mind, Felts’ current goal remains winning the next game. The Coyotes sit at 4-4 as they prepare to take on Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., Saturday with playoff implications on the line.
“I love being here at USD, but I obviously would like to become a full-time coach somewhere,” Felts said. “You gain more responsibility, get to be back on the field coaching a position, and you get to go on the road recruiting. USD is my alma mater, I love this school, I think we are headed in the right direction, and I would love to be here until something else comes up.”