Brian Schneider figured he might have a future in the family business. Growing up the son of a high school football coach and teacher will do that.
But it took sitting through a 10-hour seminar on the finer points of coaching by Dallas Cowboys assistant Dave Campo for Schneider, then a senior at Colorado State, to realize the obvious. That was in 1993, and Schneider was sold before Campo had completed his presentation.
“I went into it always wanting to be a (high school) teacher and coach,” said Schneider, who was Pete Carroll’s special teams coach at the University of Southern California last season and followed Carroll to Seattle when he was hired to coach the Seahawks.
“But after I sat through 10 hours of Campo speaking, it was crystal clear to me what I wanted to do. I went home that night and told my wife, ‘This is over. This is what I’m supposed to do. There’s no question, I want to coach.’ ”
And coach he has, for the past 16 years – and just listening to Schneider talk about the labor of love that is his job it’s obvious it has been a sweet 16.
But the plan to follow in the footsteps of his father, Don, took a detour when some of his coaches at Colorado State convinced him the best path to follow was becoming a graduate assistant for the Rams.
“It was my junior year, and a couple of coaches told me, ‘You should try to be a graduate assistant in college, because it’s a lot easier to go and tryout in college and you can always go back to high school,’ ” Schneider said.
Schneider not only took that advice, he ran with it – for what he considered obvious reasons.
“I was a coach that was a player,” he said with a laugh. “I had a coach’s brain, and a coach’s body.”
Seahawks.com will feature the new coaches on Pete Carroll’s staff during the coming weeks:
But altering his original plan of becoming a high school teacher and coach to coach at the college level also played into the nomadic lifestyle that can come with it – even if the Colorado native did spend his first nine seasons at his alma mater.
“Once I started in this profession, you look at coaches’ bios,” Schneider said. “It’s one year, two years, three years – maybe. So you’ve got to be ready to move around.
“I was at Colorado State for 14 years, as a player and a coach. So it was really nice to have that stability. But once I made that first move, it was clockwork – three years, one year, two years, one year. That’s life.”
Stability: After spending three seasons as a grad assistant at Colorado State, helping with special teams and the defense, Schneider was hired in 1997 to be Sonny Lubick’s special teams coordinator and also coach the tight ends.
Reality: In 2003, he moved to UCLA for three seasons – again as the special teams coordinator, but he also worked with the linebackers and safeties. In 2006, he was off to Iowa State as the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. That led to his first stint in the NFL, as the special teams coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2007-08.
Notice a trend forming? No matter what positions he coached, Schneider always has been involved with special teams. It happened at USC last season. It has happened again with the Seahawks.
It’s a strange twist for the former linebacker from Pomona High School in Arvada, Colo., and Colorado State, because he had not played special teams since his freshman year in college.
“I remember saying to my wife, right after I was hired, ‘I’ve got to find a way to motivate these guys,’ ” he said. “Because it’s something I hadn’t done a whole lot of. But my outlook changed really fast from where it was in terms of the importance of it.
“So I knew from my perception a lot of the players had that perception. So I tried to change that. I knew I had to change it in me. So I tied to change that in the way I coached, too.”
Rather than viewing special teams as drudgery, Schneider began to preach that it was an honor to be selected to cover kickoffs and punts – or block for them.
“You’ve got to find something to motivate them, and something that they get excited about,” he said. “When the head coach not only talks about it to the team but he reinforces all the things you’re doing, that helps us.”
Only two of his previous 16 seasons were spent in the NFL, but it was time well spent – and a situation Schneider knew he wanted to revisit.
“It was such a great learning experience – to be able to pull up any tape, to be able to just do football,” he said. “It was amazing how much I grew just in terms of understanding techniques better, being able to study other coaches and what they were doing and, really, just focusing on the football part of it all day.”
No recruiting. No monitoring of players to make sure they were going to class.
“It was a really cool experience,” he said.
One that Schneider, 39, is very happy to be experiencing again. And it’s not just being back in the NFL, it’s what he coaches – the canopy concept that comes from being involved with special teams.
“Coaching is coaching,” he said. “I’ve coached offense. I’ve coached defense. But I’ve always been involved with special teams, and the thing I really enjoy about it is that I get to coach and I get to be around the whole team.
“Really, you get to coach everybody and you get to have a relationship with everybody. I really enjoy that part of it.”
It’s become a job that has provided a good life for his wife, Kelli, and their four children – daughter Jaden, 11; and sons Jace, 10, Joby, 8, and Joel 5. It’s a job that Schneider doesn’t even consider a job.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s not a real job to me. I’d do this for nothing, because that’s where your passion is.”