Dave Doeren’s mother has come around in the last couple of decades, though it may have taken a while.
Doeren’s intent when he attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, was to get a good education, play football and go to medical school. He wanted to be a doctor. His mother, Susan, really wanted him to be a doctor.
So after whetting the appetite for coaching while he was still in school, Doeren made a decision that surely wasn’t going to please his mom: He wasn’t going to be a doctor, after all, he was going to coach football.
“My mom was mad when I made the choice to become a coach,” said Doeren, who this past weekend was named the new head coach at North Carolina State.
Doeren had already taken the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and was in the process of preparing to transition himself academically. But in the summer following his junior year at Drake, his high school coach asked him to conduct a 7-on-7 practice session. Current coaches were not allowed to participate, but former players could. So he did.
“I did that, and when I left I went home sand said, ‘I’m not going to be a doctor, I’m going to be a coach. That’s the funnest three hours I’ve ever had in my life,’” Doeren said. “From that point on that was it, I was going to be a head coach. I just didn’t know how long it was going to take me.”
Doeren’s contract at NC State is worth $1.8 million annually for five years, according to NCSU athletic director Debbie Yow. There are rollover clauses based on performance built in as well. Doeren joked after Sunday’s introductory news conference that his mother is pretty pleased with him as a coach now.
But the 41-year-old coach’s ascent to the ACC wasn’t an overnight one, and is laced with a fascinating string of experiences.
He has coached at seemingly every level of football. Doeren was a high school assistant coach before taking on several roles at his alma mater. He then worked at Southern Cal, Montana, Kansas and Wisconsin, where he was a sought-after defensive coordinator.
The last two seasons, Doeren has been the head coach at Northern Illinois where he led the Huskies to a 23-4 overall record and spot in the upcoming Orange Bowl. But he won’t be coaching NIU vs. Florida State on Jan. 1. He’s in Raleigh, NC, already working on building a staff and other aspects of the infrastructure of his new job.
The coaching bug that got to Doeren during that 7-on-7 workout 20 years ago was more a product of a seed that was planted by his grandfather, Thomas Glennon, a longtime track and basketball coach in Kansas.
“I grew up being around that kind of person that inspired people,” said Doeren, referring to his grandfather. “Seeing how his former athletes would still contact him and refer to him as ‘Coach’ even when he was 70 years old was always kind of special to me.”
Doeren acknowledges coaching is in his blood, which explains why he’s done whatever it takes to make it work and stick in the business.
As an assistant at Drake, when coaches were paid just nine months out of the year, Doeren made extra money mowing grass at a physical plant. He even cooked food at a Mexican restaurant in the evenings.
“That’s what football coaches, do,” he said at his introductory news conference at NIU two years ago. “They have a passion and do whatever you can to stay in the biz. It’s led me to where I’m standing now.”
In an attempt to increase interest in the NIU program after replacing Jerry Kill, who had won 11 games in the prior season and is now at Minnesota, Doeren created a web series called “Doeren Discovers,” which appeared on NIU’s official website.
Among the things Doeren did was sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch at a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, drove a Formula One race car more than 125 mph at Chicago Speedway and to top it off, he jumped out of an airplane 14,000 feet in the sky.
The more subtle side of Doeren speaks more to his true nature, however.
A Kansas City Chiefs and Royals fan growing up — he was particularly fond of Royals legend George Brett — Doeren’s love of fishing was born out of spending days with his grandfather as a kid. Now Doeren looks forward to teaching his kids how to fly fish in North Carolina, which has a lot of watering holes, lakes and rivers for their choosing. That’s one of several reasons he and his wife, Sara, chose to live the next stage of their lives in Raleigh.
They knew opportunities would come at the end of the season and began looking at possible openings and researching those schools and communities. When the NC State job opened, they absorbed as much as they could from the Internet and pretty much placed NC State at the top of their wish list above Auburn, California and others.
It helped that they had been to the Old North State several times prior to this past weekend.
After reading an article in a fishing magazine about a fishing spot just outside of Asheville, NC, the Doerens went there about 10 years ago. They visited the Biltmore, Appalachian State, where Doeren friended legendary ASU coach Jerry Moore, who retired a few days ago.
The Doerens returned to North Carolina a few more times, and when the opportunity came to actually move to the state, they jumped on it.
And here they are, a part of Wolfpack Nation with an opportunity and stability that has his mom’s approval.