Harry Hiestand file
Position(s) Coaching: Offensive line.
Hired: January, 2010.
As a Coach: 2005-09 - Chicago Bears (offensive line); 2000-04 - Illinois (assistant head coach/offensive line); 1997-99- Illinois (offensive line); 1994-96 - Missouri (offensive line); 1989-93 - Cincinnati (offensive coordinator/offensive line); 1988-89 - Toledo (offensive line); 1987-88 - Southern California (graduate assistant); 1986-87 - Pennsylvania (tight ends); 1983-85 - East Stroudsburg (offensive line); 1981-82 - East Stroudsburg (student assistant).
As a Player: Started his career as an offensive lineman at Springfield College before transferring to East Stroudsburg. His career was cut short by injuries. He graduated with a degree in health and physical education from East Stroudsburg in 1983.
Personal: Married with four children.
Harry Hiestand found himself in a unique position this past off-season.
He actually had a second chance to spend more time with his children - a rarity for a football coach.
Hiestand's first two children, two sons who are in college, saw first-hand the demands placed on their father in professional football. Hiestand didn't want his two youngest, a 9-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, to experience the same.
"I have a first-grader, which is insane, huh?" the 51-year-old said.
Even more insane were the constraints of the NFL, which was business first and family when rarely possible.
It really didn't need to be said, but it was well known: An NFL training facility is not the place for wives and kids.
"The environment is just not like that," Hiestand said.
That's not the case at the University of Tennessee, where Hiestand's children are welcome as are all assistant coaches'.
"That's tremendous," Hiestand said of the visits from his kids. "You don't have to not have a life (to be a successful coach)."
The time with his kids will grow shorter for Hiestand, who spent the past five seasons with the Chicago Bears.
But Hiestand doesn't see anything wrong with his children dropping by for a few minutes during the season. That would have never flown in the no-sleep, no-fun NFL, where everyone tries to outwork one another.
"That's what our sport has become in some environments because that's what the head coach is about," Hiestand said.
Hiestand was promised more family interaction when he interviewed with first-year UT head coach Derek Dooley, who also is seen chasing his children in the Neyland-Thompson Athletic Complex from time to time.
"Derek lives it," Hiestand said. "He told me that families are welcome. That's exactly the way it is. When my wife got to town, the first person there (was Dooley). As soon as she walked in the door, he walked right up to her and welcomed her and let her know she was important.
"He knew her name. I was about to introduce them, then boom. She was hooked."
The family-first philosophy is reminiscent of former coach Phillip Fulmer. UT administrators hope Dooley and staff can replicate Fulmer's longevity at UT, especially after former coach Lane Kiffin bolted in January after one season.
"Every program can use it," Hiestand said. "This one is in a position that it needs it more than normal."
A quick glance at Hiestand's resume and it's easy to envision him being around Knoxville for a while.
Once Hiestand established himself as a competent coach, he has shown a willingness to hold onto a job he's comfortable with, which is often a rarity among coaches.
He spent five seasons at Cincinnati (1989-93), eight seasons at Illinois (1997-2004) and five seasons with the Bears (2005-09).
"I think what Coach (Dooley) is looking for I've got a chance to give him," Hiestand said. "He wants consistency. He wants guys that have a passion for what they do.
"He wants guys who care about their players on and off the field; that get involved in their lives and are mentors for them and aren't just looking for the next best things for themselves. And in my background, I haven't moved around a lot."
That consistency in his career is evident on the practice field, where Hiestand has repeatedly garnered the undying trust of his players.
Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Tony Pashos still remembers the bond he and Hiestand formed at Illinois.
"That's huge, huge," Pashos said. "For every athlete, your coach is huge. The more you trust him, the better off that relationship will be. He's definitely a guy that coaches like a father. You know that he's doing it for nothing more than he wants you to succeed."
Sometimes that "want to succeed" means being tough. Hiestand may be fatherly on the field, but he's not soft.
"He'll drill it in you," said former NFL offensive lineman Reuben Brown, who played for Hiestand in Chicago. "He's a tough dude now. He's not a walk in the park."
Yet Hiestand also is flexible.
Brown remembers the first time Hiestand addressed his players in Chicago. Perhaps a little too intense for an off-season workout, Brown and several players went to Hiestand and reminded him they were professionals that didn't need the same barking a college player might.
Brown said Hiestand adjusted, but that fervor should pay dividends as Hiestand faces his next challenge.
UT has zero returning starters on the offensive line. That's right, zero.
"It's obvious," Hiestand said of the task at hand. "You don't have to have much background to realize it.
"You generally have some experienced players mixed in with some inexperienced players. We have inexperienced players mixed in with more inexperienced players. It is a challenge but that's what we're faced with. It's a challenge but what isn't?"
Even though Hiestand may not say it, he has to be realistic. He isn't going to turn out five All-Americans this season so he's determined to mold what he has through hard work.
"I'm here to help them be the best they can be and I'm going to challenge them everyday to do that," he said. "If they jump in with both feet, they're going to be fine in time."
The mantra alone is simple: Be the best you can be.
"It's easy to say but it's tough to do everyday," he said.
Brown believes Hiestand can handle the challenge. Brown said Hiestand is one of the top two coaches he's ever worked with. And Brown thinks his ol' coach will be even better in college than he was in the NFL.
"He really shines in college football," Brown said. "I think he's an excellent professional coach, but the only problem is Harry cares a lot. He cares a ton. In the pros, that's a business. In college, you build bonds. Harry is very good at that."
"I owe him a lot," he said. "He's definitely been a guy that has helped mold me and make me who I am today. He's been there for me after I left the University of Illinois.
"He's been there as a good friend of my family. He's a genuine guy. I don't think you could find another guy in the business that has more passion to get the job done and be successful."
Back to the Future
Hiestand also is faced with a challenge off the field. After his stint in the NFL, it may take some time to shake the rust off his recruiting ability. Hiestand isn't worried. He has experience to fall back on.
"I did it for 20 years," Hiestand said. "Recruiting is relationships. It's basic communications skills."
Hiestand said wooing high school prospects is similar to wooing free agents in the NFL. Moreover, his NFL history should help him recruit prospects determined to play professionally.
"It makes you feel more comfortable thinking he's been through all the levels," said highly touted 2012 prospect D.J. Humphries of Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, N.C.
Hiestand doesn't mind leaning on that NFL experience to sign prospects, just as long as he - and his family - don't have to go back to that world again.
"A lot of people stay in (the NFL because) it's good for your retirement," Hiestand said, referring to the NFL's strong pension plan. "There are benefits that way. But when this opportunity became available and I sat down and talked to Derek, I wanted to be part of it.
"I stopped thinking about just being in the NFL."
So did his family.