A native of Fort Collins, Colorado, new offensive line coach comes to Provo after having coached at 14 other schools for more than 30 seasons
Famous musicians such as Johnny Cash, Hank Snow and Lynn Anderson have crooned the familiar Australian song “I’ve been everywhere, man” since the 1960s, but when it comes to the real thing, few of those singers have anything on new BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk.
The native of Fort Collins, Colorado, has more than 33 years of coaching experience under his belt, with stops even the most ardent college football fans have probably never heard of, like Muskingum College in Ohio and Mesa State College in Colorado.
Funk has also been at some of the better-known programs in the country, such as Michigan, Illinois, San Diego State and his alma mater, Colorado State.
“I’ve seen a lot of this country, lived in a lot of beautiful areas,” Funk told the Deseret News recently in an exclusive interview. “I certainly look forward to seeing a lot of the state of Utah that I have never seen before.”
So how did BYU get this guy with few, if any, ties to the school and the Beehive State?
Many coaching hires happen because of relationships, but that’s not how Funk landed in Provo. BYU coach Kalani Sitake tasked new offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick with finding an offensive line coach to replace Baylor-bound Eric Mateos. Roderick was familiar with Funk’s work, but had never met him personally.
“I didn’t know him,” Roderick said in February, shortly after Funk was hired. “But I wanted a guy who has been coaching a long time, and can go into that offensive line room and just take it over and pick up where we left off with (Jeff Grimes and Mateos) and not someone who was still in the training phase of their career.”
And that was Funk.
He’s now the oldest coach on a relatively young staff by about 10 years, and Roderick, realizing that, says he felt like the staff could use more experience and made Funk a somewhat surprising pick. His name never really came up when pundits speculated on who might replace Mateos.
“We had a lot of candidates for that job,” Sitake said in March. “I wanted to pick a person that A-Rod felt really good about. … I think offensive coordinators really need to have their own O-line coach. That’s with any team. You really want them to feel comfortable with it.”
For Funk, why BYU?
Having played for Colorado State from 1983-86 on both the offensive and defensive lines and at tight end when the Rams were in the old Western Athletic Conference with BYU and Utah, Funk says he “always admired BYU from across the field, from the other sidelines” and that admiration continued when he coached at CSU and San Diego State when the schools were members of the Mountain West Conference.
“I knew what a great school it was, academically, for sure, but I also knew what a proud tradition it had in football,” he said. “The WAC champions went to the Holiday Bowl every year back then, and BYU always went because they were the best team. I have known about them ever since then.”
Funk says he was familiar with Roderick and Sitake by coaching against them when he was at CSU (2003-07) and SDSU (2009-10) and realized they put together outstanding game plans, but could also motivate players to execute those game plans.
When he interviewed for the opening, “it just worked out that we had a lot of the same visions, a lot of the same experiences, and it was a good fit for me, and apparently for them as well, and I am just so excited to be here,” Funk said.
It is no secret that BYU is not the most popular football program in the West, especially after the way the Cougars dominated their leagues and then left the Mountain West for independence in 2011. Funk couldn’t be blamed for holding some of that same animosity toward the school, but he says he doesn’t.
“You know, the team that is the best in a conference year in and year out, people act like they don’t like them, or they hate them, or whatever. It is just competition. It is just about wanting to beat the best,” Funk said. “My whole thing is, I can’t say I hate anybody. … I’ve never been into that.”
When he was at CSU, Funk was supposed to hate Wyoming, he said. When he was at Michigan, he was supposed to hate Ohio State. He found it difficult to generate that kind of disdain for an opponent, and that always held true when he faced BYU.
“For me to say I would ever hate another school or something, it really hasn’t happened,” he said. “When I was at Michigan, did I dislike Ohio State? You had to there (as part of the culture). But I have a really good friend on the Ohio State staff now and I am not going to all of a sudden dislike him.
“But it is competition. It is about rivalries more than anything else.”
When it comes to Intermountain area schools hating BYU, Funk surmises it is as much about jealousy than anything else.
“I would bet a good number of those coaches or players that dislike BYU just got run over by them at some point. Or they can’t beat them,” he said. “That is what it always was for me. I always had a great respect for them — not only as an academic institution and as a program as a whole, but for their players and coaches.”
Moving during a pandemic
For 25 of his 33 seasons in the coaching profession, Funk has coached offensive lines. BYU is the 15th school for which he has coached, but there’s one distinction about this move that he will never forget. He did it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That means finding a place to live in Utah County has been ultra-difficult. The housing market has been crazy all around the country the past few months, but especially along the Wasatch Front in Utah.
Funk was able to find temporary housing “through a friend of the BYU program” that will suffice for now. His wife, Teresa, is still living in San Antonio (Funk coached at UTSA in 2018-19) and will join him in Utah later this summer.
“It has been pretty crazy, for sure,” he said. “When I was looking to buy or rent or whatever at first, it was like another full-time job I had. By the time I could get up to a showing or an open house or something, the houses were gone (rented) or sold. … It is really no fun shopping for a house in this market, for sure.”
Adding to the craziness is the fact college football recruiting started up again in June, after no visits were allowed the past 18 months or so. Also, his oldest son, Tyler Funk — the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Indiana State — is getting married at the end of June.
The Funks’ second son, Dustin, is finishing law school in Ohio and will be coming to Utah to do some work while he studies for the bar exam. Their daughter, Courtney, just got a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, where Darrell Funk was the offensive line coach from 2011-14 under Brady Hoke.
“So we are kinda spread out, but we hope to get together here soon and see a lot of Utah,” he said.
‘He connects with players’
Sitake said Funk has already put his stamp on the offense, making an immediate impact in spring camp last March.
“He’s done an amazing job so far,” Sitake said. “His ability to connect with kids and the experience that he has had in so many different places allows him to be able to personalize his coaching for each guy. I am looking forward to great things from him. He’s already fired up that position group.”
Roderick said Funk has a different personality than Mateos and Grimes, but a similar approach.
“One thing I really have enjoyed about him is that he knew we have a good offense and a good system already established, and he came in and did not change a single word for the offensive linemen. All the offensive calls those guys make, all the play calls, all the techniques we use, he came in and learned our stuff,” Roderick said.
Funk said he has done it both ways — kept everything the same or made drastic changes — and he figured that because BYU’s offensive system is working well, from the linemen to the receivers to the running back to the quarterback, why change it?
“It is easier for one man to learn a different terminology than 18 guys,” Funk said. “I might tweak a thing here or there, but I thought that was the right thing to do. … They already have a high anxiety level with the new coach. Why make it more difficult?”
Funk says he sensed “almost a collective sigh of relief our first couple of meetings when these kids didn’t have to learn 13 new terms and 12 new plays and everything and just re-invent the wheel just so I was comfortable. It just didn’t make sense to change it. So I thought it worked really well and made for a smooth transition.”
‘More to life than football’
In terms of outdoor activities, Utah is a lot like Funk’s home state of Colorado, so he is excited to get out and enjoy all the state has to offer.
“I grew up in a hunting and fishing family, so the outdoors, or camping, or whatever, I grew up that way,” Funk said. “Hunting is a little harder for a college football coach, I have found. You know, you can sneak a winter hunt in here and there. But you won’t find me out deer or elk hunting in October or November, I can promise you that.”
He still does his “fair share” of fishing, and enjoys that, along with golf.
“Both of my boys are good golfers,” he said. “I am not, but I am good enough to at least enjoy the day with them, so we do that a little bit.”
Funk also likes to read — mostly historical stuff — or “take the easy way out” and watch history documentaries on television or Netflix.
Most of all, Roderick said, Funk has the experience the program needs to continue the momentum it picked up last year.
“He has coached at so many different places and been in so many different systems that there hasn’t been an issue or a problem come up where he hasn’t said, ‘Well, when I was at this school we solved that problem like this.’ He has like three solutions for every problem that has come up so far. He is very good coach,” Roderick said.
And he’s been everywhere — which is never a bad thing.