Nice article in todays gazette about the Chiz.... http://www.crgazette.com/2006/12/02/Home/chizik_saga.htm Chizik: A life tied to football Published: 12/02/2006 11:34 PM Updated: 12/02/2006 11:35 PM By: Jeff Johnson - The Gazette AMES, IA - Gene Chizik went home to Clearwater, Fla., one Christmas for a visit. A young assistant football coach for Middle Tennessee State University at the time, he bumped into this cute blonde who had just graduated from Florida State. He didn't recognize her at first, but she knew exactly who he was. Jonna Nicely's father, John, was Chizik's high school football coach and had pictures hung in his home of his team captains through the years. Chizik was one of those captains. ``I always enjoyed being around him,'' John Nicely said. ``He gave it everything he had, worked very hard. His teammates respected him.'' Chizik eventually remembered Jonna Nicely. She was that hyper little fifth-grade moppet always running around the field back when he played for her father. The two began dating and married. They have 8-year-old twin daughters, Landry and Kennedy, and a 5-year-old son, Cally. Cally is named after a player Chizik coached at Stephen F. Austin, who died of a brain aneurysm. ``I was just flabbergasted when they began dating and got married,'' John Nicely said. ``It was like God's plan. I couldn't think of anybody better to marry my daughter than Gene.'' Gene Chizik is described by those who know him closely as a religious, family oriented man. It's God, his wife and children, and everything else, in that order. That everything else, of course, includes football. It seems most things in Chizik's life have football tied to them. He's the son of a longtime educator and coach, Gene Chizik Sr., a former Marine who died four years ago. He married his high school coach's daughter and has a son named after a former player. He has made a career out of coaching, meticulously working his way up the college football ladder. He began almost 20 years ago as a graduate assistant at Clemson and has reached the top rung, or at least close to it, as Iowa State's head coach. Gene Chizik and football have always seemed to go together. ``I always knew he was going to be a head coach someday,'' said Phillip Lolley, who worked with Chizik at Auburn. ``There was no question in my mind ... It's very unique what he has. It's special.'' ``It sounds like he's got everything he needs at Iowa State,'' said Sam Roper. ``I told him, `It's yours to mess up.' ... I can't imagine him not doing a great job there.'' Roper was the guy who really got Chizik started on this coaching odyssey. Roper was an assistant for Nicely at Clearwater High School back when Chizik was a ``freshman linebacker with this Afro hairdo.'' Roper eventually became head coach at nearby Seminole High School and convinced recent University of Florida graduate Chizik he should try his hand at coaching. Chizik, who played only one year at Florida because of a back injury, was a defensive assistant at Seminole in 1986, then moved up to a defensive coordinator's position the next year. ``I remember Gene gave me a piece of paper before our first game (that year),'' Roper said. ``I asked him what it was, and he said, `Well, this is the game plan I made up for the defense.' I said, `What are you giving it to me for?' He said, `You're the coach.' ``I told him, `No, you're the one coaching the defense.''' It wasn't long after those naive days at Seminole when Chizik got his first college gig. With the help of Roper, he secured a graduate assistant's position with Clemson in 1988. That got the ball rolling. His first true college coaching job came two years later when he was hired by Boots Donnelly to coach defensive ends for Middle Tennessee. ``You never know what you're going to get when you hire a guy,'' Donnelly said. ``But we brought him in, and he picked things up quickly. I remember how well he communicated with the players, how well he recruited.'' From Middle Tennessee, Chizik moved to Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he became a defensive coordinator for the first time in 1996. He went back home to Florida in 1998, serving as DC for four years at Central Florida. In Orlando, Chizik got the opportunity to study with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On his own time, Chizik made 90-minute commute to Tampa just to hang around head coach Tony Dungy, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and other Bucs assistants. He wanted to soak up everything he could, wanted to learn everything he could about their defense. ``He really enjoyed it,'' Kiffin said. ``He was a football junkie who always wanted to learn. He's really taken it to another level. ``I assure you Iowa State hired an outstanding coach. He has great people skills, great player skills. He has a good defensive package.'' Armed with that newly acquired NFL knowledge, Chizik got his first taste of the big time as a coach when he took the defensive coordinator's job at Auburn in 2002. His defenses in 2003 and 2004 ranked in the top five nationally and he was given the 2004 Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. But it wasn't just the ``Xs and Os'' that made Chizik such a hit with his players. He was demanding on the field, but a friend off it. Those are his strengths as a coach, Lolley said. ``He'd tell them, `I want your best, and that's all I'm grading you on,''' Lolley said. ``He is a very direct guy, a very fair guy. You will always know where you stand with him. The players there will love playing for him.'' Lolley said Auburn's players loved playing for Chizik. ``The players here, the seniors who were with him, still ask me about him all the time,'' he said. ``They ask me, `When was the last time you talked to Coach Chizik? Say hello to him for me.''' Chizik helped win a national championship last season as co-defensive coordinator at Texas. He moved to Austin so he could be better prepared for that first, inevitable head coaching job. That job has come at Iowa State, something that surprised a lot of outsiders, who figured he would wind up at a higher-profile program. ``He's a great fit there,'' Donnelly said. ``I was surprised, truthfully, that Iowa State was able to pick him up as quickly as they did.'' But Iowa State wooed Chizik extensively, making him feel wanted. He and ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard hit it off from the beginning and seem to have the same ideals for the program. Chizik is getting the institutional support he needs to take Iowa State to ``the next level.'' Now it's up to him. Those who know him have no doubt he'll get there. ``The thing that's exciting to me is how I've seen him grow up as a coach,'' Roper said. ``I think Iowa State made a great choice.'' ``I think Iowa State is the perfect match for Gene,'' Nicely said. ``Give him time. He'll do very well there.''