LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley remembers all about telling his father his future was going to be in football.
Wes Kittley was okay with that, even though his life’s work was on the track and he coached the first NCAA tag team championship in men’s track and field with the Red Raiders.
Dad is delighted now because he shares a dining room in the sports complex with his youngest son and can attend football practice whenever he wants.
“It’s just a dream come true for me, his mom and his brothers,” Wes Kittley said. “Zach is beloved in this town. We kind of say this in the Kittley family: “We will die for you if we know you are for us. »
There has been Kittley training at Texas Tech since 1999, when 8-year-old Zach watched Kliff Kingsbury play quarterback for the Red Raiders.
When Kingsbury was hired as a coach ten years ago, the young Kittley recalls where he was when he heard the news – and what this Texas Tech student said to his father, sitting next to him in a restaurant .
“I said to him, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to go work for this guy and learn from him,” said Zach Kittley, who was helping his dad with the track program at the time. “He said, ‘It’s your deal and you have to get close to it and attack it.'”
Wes Kittley gave his son the phone number of Texas Tech assistant Sonny Cumbie, another former Red Raiders QB. But that’s all. Dad wasn’t going to ask favors for his son.
Before long, Zach Kittley was the graduate assistant whose only job was to help Kingsbury. Dad says his son arrived at the office before Kingsbury, a famous early riser who was usually there at 5:30 a.m.
“And they noticed it,” Wes Kittley said. “And Kingsbury just said, ‘Wes, this kid, I have to have it for myself. I knew he would learn a lot, but I hadn’t realized he would learn so quickly.
Zach Kittley had a full-time offer in an off-field role with the Red Raiders when his allotted time as a graduate assistant expired. Instead, he went to Houston Baptist, a lower division, to call plays.
The highlight was a 35-33 loss to his alma mater in Lubbock with the Huskies as huge underdogs, when Bailey Zappe threw for a school-record 567 yards with four touchdowns.
“Part of the take on this job for me was, ‘Hey, let’s call the games at 26 and make a lot of mistakes while I’m really young,'” Zach Kittley said. “I still don’t know what it is now, but there aren’t many Division I offensive coordinators at 26.”
The chance to return to his alma mater came at age 30, after three years at Houston Baptist and one at Western Kentucky. Cumbie had agreed to be McGuire’s first offensive coordinator, but later took the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech.
McGuire’s next move was obvious, given that he had been suggesting to Zach Kittley for a year that he might want to hire him if he became head coach. Then there was the introductory press conference.
“I didn’t really have a relationship with Joey,” Wes Kittley said. “I never did until the press conference and then I just walked up to him, never met him, I said, ‘Hi, I’m Coach Kittley.’ He said: ‘Your son is a rock star.’
The legend will grow with a few more Saturdays like this, when McGuire had enough confidence in Kittley’s offense to go for it four times, converting six in a 37-34 overtime win over rival Texas.
“Where I fell in love with him, we talked a lot the last two years, but in the interview he said, ‘Coach, I’m going to find our top 11 players, I’m going to have them on the pitch, and we going to score a lot of points,” McGuire said.
Zach Kittley said Kingsbury was the first Texas Tech player he remembers watching after his father was hired to coach the track. He wanted to work for him because Kingsbury had just been at Texas A&M with 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
It didn’t take long for Kingsbury to start pairing their Texas Tech quarterbacks with young Kittley.
“He’s the first one I’ve really let take over the quarterback room,” said Kingsbury, the Arizona Cardinals coach who was hired by the NFL club shortly. after being fired from Texas Tech in 2018. “He was 22 or 23, and we had Patrick Mahomes and all these guys, but he was so good at his job.
Leaving Lubbock has never been easy for Zach Kittley. He was miserable trying to start a college basketball career at Abilene Christian, where his father ran and coached for 15 years. It didn’t last long.
“You’d think I sent him to New York,” said Wes Kittley, who led the Texas Tech men to the 2019 NCAA track title. “He just wanted to get back to Lubbock.”
When he took over as Houston Baptist, Zach Kittley said he was choking back tears as he left his office for the last time.
He was at his parents when McGuire called to offer Zach Kittley the job that brought him home. Shortly after, Zach Kittley took a Sharpie on a Texas Tech football helmet for his 63-year-old father, who has a picture of it on his phone.
“What a blessing to be able to work together again,” the son wrote. “Let’s make a lot of memories.”
On game days in Lubbock, some of those memories come from the athletic coach’s office in the southwest corner of Jones Stadium. Maybe it should be called the Kittley Family Suite, since her mother, Linda, is in there.
“Just being able to see him more and my mom more…is very special,” Zach Kittley said. “And just being able to say there are two Kittley coaches here at Texas Tech is a really good deal.”
Doesn’t even need to be tracked everything.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2