PULLMAN – It didn’t matter to Paul Volero where Mike Leach wound up coaching in the end.
All Washington State’s outside linebackers coach knew was that if Leach offered him a job, that’s where he was headed.
“I don’t care if it would have been University of Florida, University of Kansas, University of whoever,” Volero said. “This is a people business, and Mike’s a great football coach. But he’s an even better person. I would not have entrusted me and my family to anybody else but Coach.
“There were other opportunities, but I didn’t even want to consider them.”
So here he is in Pullman, back in the college game after a two-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Key West (Fla.) High School.
Volero knew Leach through interactions at conventions and the like over the years. But it was in Key West, where Leach resided during his two seasons away from the game after his firing at Texas Tech, that Volero and Leach really got to know each other.
Many hours on a fishing boat together will do that.
“When you fish and spend time together and things like that, you have plenty of time to talk football,” Volero said.
Volero, 41, has never coached linebackers specifically, though he’s plenty familiar with that side of the ball. Prior to coaching in Key West, he spent three years as the defensive line coach at Central Michigan. During the previous three years at West Virginia, he was a special teams quality control coach and graduate assistant. Volero also served as the defensive coordinator at three different high schools in Florida prior to that.
There was also a stop at South Florida in 2003. He played at both Arizona Western and Glenville State, but earned his bachelor’s degree from Nova Southeastern University in 2004 and added a master’s from West Virginia in 2006.
The details of his position on WSU’s staff weren’t worked out immediately, Volero said. It was considered that he could assist Joe Salave’a with the defensive line. Instead, he will aid linebackers coach Jeff Choate.
Considering his fondness for his employer, the job title likely doesn’t matter much.
“Mike could have done anything he wanted to do,” Volero said. “Coach Leach has a wide variety of interests, and he’s capable of doing anything. I think that when this Washington State situation began to happen, it was the best fit for him. And it’s true, as they say: ‘Why Wazzu? Well, that’s a dumb question.’ That was Mike being very honest.”
Asked if he felt the same way, Volero said, “No question. I would not have entrusted me and my family to anybody else but Coach.”
Volero said he’s worked with inside linebackers before, both at the high school level and early in his career while coaching at Glenville State. He said his experience with the defensive line will help with coaching outside linebackers in defensive coordinator Mike Breske’s scheme.
“In a 3-4 scheme, the outside linebackers are basically defensive ends in space,” Volero said. “So a lot of it is the same.”
Volero didn’t want to specify which of WSU’s linebackers he saw as outside guys – spring practices will help determine that, he said – but he does have a prototype in mind.
“They’ve got to be great athletes, because they’ve got to be able to put their hand on the ground and play as a defensive lineman and then stand up on their feet and go out and play in space,” Volero said. “So they’ve got to be able to be tall, rangy and got to be able to run.”