Three years ago Tyler Ward, ’14, was taking the field at Goodman Stadium as a senior captain of the football team. This year, he joins the Lehigh football coaching staff as an assistant coach.
More specifically, Ward will be acting as a specialty coach for rovers — defensive players that act in a hybrid position between linebackers and defensive backs.
After graduating in 2014, Ward spent two years coaching at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now, after making his return to Lehigh only two years after graduating, his job is coaching the players he once called his teammates.
Ward said he originally thought it would have been better to return to Lehigh after everyone he played with had graduated, but he has surprisingly made a smooth transition with those players.
“They’ve really embraced me as a coach,” Ward said. “There’s no worry about respect not being there.”
Fifth-year senior rover LaQuan Lambert said working with Ward as his coach has not been a big transition and that he was “sort of like a coach” to the younger players, even when he was still playing at Lehigh.
“He’s very knowledgeable of the game,” Lambert said. “I’m always very excited to be able to pick his brain everyday at practice and become a better player.”
Coach Andy Coen never had an issue with Ward returning to coach his former teammates. Instead, he looked at the situation positively, knowing Ward could help the team grow not only as players but as Lehigh students as well.
Coen sees great coaching potential in Ward and has already described him as a “very, very good coach” for the team.
“Sometimes you worry that you have a young guy that’s not mature,” Coen said. “I never thought twice about that with (Ward). I knew that he would be someone that I could trust to do everything that we as coaches want him to do.”
Ward believes the time management he learned as a student athlete has helped him encourage his players to find balance between academics, football and life. Additionally, it has helped him with his ability to manage the time-consuming job of coaching.
Ward’s first-hand experience with balancing Lehigh academics and football is one of the reasons Coen offered him a position on his staff. He knew Ward would be able to help the younger players understand that, for them, Lehigh is about both education and football.
Lehigh football also welcomes new assistant defensive backs coach A.J. Reisig to its coaching staff. Reisig has spent the last three years at University of Maryland as a graduate assistant.
“Even though he is a young coach, he has had a lot of experience, and he works very well with the kids,” Coen said. “We hired him through a pretty tough interview . . . and by far and away, (Reisig) stood out.”
Coen does not feel the team has responded any differently to Reisig, despite the fact that he was hired at the same time as a former Lehigh athlete.
Like Ward, Reisig has also found his transition into Lehigh football to be smooth.
“One thing that is good with Lehigh is that it is such an academics-first school, so you’re recruiting high-quality kids,” Reisig said. “The kids have been very welcoming, and it didn’t take me long to put names to faces.”
Both of the new coaches will be on the sideline for Lehigh’s next game at the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday.