Air Force receivers coach Stubblefield excited to be part of "something special"

March 2, 2017 Updated: March 2, 2017 at 9:34 pm
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Air Force wide receiver coach Taylor Stubblefield coaches during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Air Force and its run-heavy offense might seem a curious destination for a receivers coach with a history of searching for the next rung on the profession's ladder.

But Taylor Stubblefield has his reasons for taking the job. And chief among them is his 2 ½-year-old son, Jagger.

"I'm excited for my son to learn what it's like to be respectful, learn what it's like to respect your elders, respect authority," Stubblefield said. "And he's going to learn from these guys. He's going to see it."

Air Force has been on Stubblefield's radar since he spent a year with longtime Falcons assistant Jim Grobe at Wake Forest.

With the Demon Deacons, Grobe brought Stubblefield onto an offensive staff that included Air Force graduate Steed Lobotzke, who is now the Falcons' offensive line coach.

Stubblefield paid close attention to the way Grobe and Lobotzke talked about the academy.

"They talked about being a part of Air Force and said it's something special," Stubblefield said. "So it's always kind of been a place where I was like, 'I wonder what it's like?'"

This is not to say Stubblefield chose the Falcons over an array of options.

Stubblefield posted a record-setting career at Purdue, leaving in 2004 with 325 catches - an NCAA mark that stood for seven years. But his coaching career hasn't matched that level of consistency.

He was with five programs in five years - Illinois State, Central Michigan, New Mexico, Wake Forest and Utah - between 2010 and 2014. The Utes brought him back for 2015, but did not retain him after that. He interviewed at Air Force prior to the 2016 season, but head coach Troy Calhoun opted instead to rehire Jake Moreland. Stubblefield instead went to Canada as the Toronto Argonauts receivers coach.

When Moreland left Air Force in January for his alma mater, Western Michigan, Stubblefield interviewed again and landed the job.

"Couldn't be more fortunate to have him be a part of our staff. Just has instant credibility as a human being, as a leader," Calhoun said. "Being able to see the improvement our receivers have made in a short period of time. He's a guy who's going to show them how they can be a lot better than they currently are."

Added offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen: "He's probably one of the best wide receiver technicians we've had as a coach. He played it, can teach you, did it at a high level. I think he's got a lot to bring to the table from a skill-development standpoint, which we need here. We're always going to schematically come up with things, but the skill development of being able to win one-on-ones and catch and separating as receivers, it's going to be a huge asset for us."

The receivers are too young to remember many details of Stubblefield's playing career, but sophomore Jake Matkovich said he quickly looked up that history after learning of the hire.

Stubblefield said his introduction to the team didn't include talk of his exploits as a player, but rather details of the players he has coached.

"At the end of the day I know that my guys want to know, 'What can you do for me?' and 'What can you teach me?' So I'm proud of the guys I've coached and have seen be successful," he said. "That's what I'm proud of."

And he's proud to be at a place that should help his career climb - "I'm just trying to be a sponge and try to learn as much as I can, because I know if I run an offense I would want a piece of this in it" - and also help him, and his family, in ways he can't yet anticipate.

"To be honest, this is a chance to be part of something bigger than just winning and losing," he said. "This is the first place I've been a part of that."

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