SE: Wolford Continues Path of Coaching Success

July 15, 2015
By Kelly McHugh

Since entering the world of coaching after his days playing football for the Wildcats, Eric Wolford’s resume has only continued to grow. 

The talented center was a member of Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder’s first recruiting class at K-State in 1989 and, after his four-year playing career, he stayed in Manhattan as a graduate assistant coach for the Cats.

Wolford learned valuable lessons coaching under Snyder during his time as a graduate assistant – lessons he carried with him throughout his career. Now entering his second decade in the coaching business, following his time at K-State, Wolford spent 19 years coaching in the collegiate ranks before making the move to the NFL not long ago.

In January 2015, Wolford accepted the position of Assistant Offensive Line Coach with the San Francisco 49ers. 

“I’m excited, I really am,” said Wolford about coaching in the NFL.  “I’ve embraced this opportunity; it was time for me to make the move. I’m 44; I’ve been a head coach, I’ve coached in the SEC, the Big 10, I’ve been to a Rose Bowl. I’ve done all these things, so it was time.”

Wolford’s coaching career began in 1996 as the offensive line coach for Emporia State University. Following his time at Emporia State, Wolford led the offensive line at the University of South Florida (1997-99), the University of Houston (2000-02) the University of North Texas (2003), the University of Arizona (2004-06) and the University of Illinois (2007-08) before taking over as the offensive line coach under Steve Spurrier at the University of South Carolina in 2009.

Wolford spent one season with the Gamecocks before taking over as the head coach for Youngstown State where he spent 2009-14 coaching the Penguins. 

After spending so many years coaching college ball, Wolford said while coaching in the NFL has been different, he’s enjoyed every second of it. 

“It’s been a learning curve; it’s a little bit of a different style of game than it is in the college game, but I really enjoy the players,” explained Wolford. “I think the perception sometimes you have of an NFL player isn’t always what it really is. Our organization has a lot of pride in working hard, doing things right; it’s a no nonsense place.” 
Just last week Wolford returned to K-State for the annual Wildcats for Charity Weekend hosted by his former Wildcat teammates and players from over the years. Every year these former players gather together for a banquet, auction and day of golf at Colbert Hills Golf Course in support of Wolford’s No Stone Unturned Foundation.

(K-State Sports Extra recently posted a story about the No Stone Unturned Foundation and the Wildcats for Charity Weekend, to read that story and to learn more about No Stone Unturned, please click here)

Wolford returns every year for the special weekend, and he enjoys every second he spends back in his college town. 

“Manhattan is a place unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in my whole life,” said Wolford. “I’ve lived all over the country, coached all over the country. I’ve been a part of great programs, I’m in the NFL with a great organization now, but Kansas State is as nice as anywhere that I’ve ever been. Manhattan, this community, it’s a phenomenal place. It’s a great town made up of a lot of great people.”

During Wolford’s time at K-State (1989-93) he started in 34 games and helped lay the foundation for the greatest turnaround in college football history. He was a part of K-State’s first football win in more than three seasons (Sept. 30, 1989 vs. North Texas) and the program’s first-ever bowl victory (Dec. 29, 1993 Copper Bowl vs. Wyoming) – memories he looks back at with fondness.

“I remember when we won our first game out here, people went absolutely crazy,” laughed Wolford, “and we only beat North Texas! I mean, it was unbelievable. Mitch Holthus was going crazy on the radio – you would have thought we won the Super Bowl.  Then to go and win the first bowl game and to see all the players come through and continue to win and continue to have success, it’s been exciting. It’s a compliment to Coach Snyder, to his staff and what he’s done.”

Wolford said he is proud of his K-State roots. He’s proud of the legacy he is a part of and proud of what the Wildcat football program has become since his days both playing and coaching at K-State. 

“Every time I come back here and I see Coach Snyder and visit with him, I look around, see the facilities and see how things have changed – it’s breathtaking.”

“It’s an honor, to say you went to Kansas State,” he continued. “It’s an honor to say you were a part of something special, and we (former players) take pride in that. Coach Snyder always talks about family, and it’s something that we live. We walk the walk; we embrace it.”