Cox seeks to create a positive culture in FLC football – The Durango Herald

New coach busy building the program

Fort Lewis College’s new head football coach, Johnny Cox, was introduced to the community Feb. 11 at Wells Group in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

When Fort Lewis College’s new head football coach, Johnny Cox, was a player at Overland High School in Aurora deciding where to play college ball, he said, “Durango seemed like a natural fit for me. “

“When I came here I really liked the coaching staff – they were very friendly and bonded really well with the guys,” he said. “I met some of the players, and they all seemed like-minded and really positive people.”

Newly appointed Fort Lewis College head football coach Johnny Cox speaks February 11 as he is introduced to the community during a rally at the Wells Group in Durango. Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

The beauty of Durango, he said, is something he didn’t really understand until he arrived, but he remembers looking up from the cabinet and looking at the mountain ranges surrounding the town. .

He called Durango “one of the top five Division II destinations in the country.”

“When you compare our city to others we play against, it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “The city and the setting, I feel like it’s a diamond in the rough.”

On the field, Cox started four years for the Skyhawks as a wide receiver, earning All-American honors in 1992 and 1993 while setting school records that still stand in receiving yards (3,611) and receptions. touched (33).

Cox has coached since then, including in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Before returning to lead Fort Lewis, Cox coached at UNC Pembroke since 1994, most recently as the team’s associate head coach.

Now that he’s back in Durango, Cox says he feels right at home. He also reunited with his former quarterback, Thad Trujillo, who works with Wells Group.

Fort Lewis College head football coach Johnny Cox, left, longtime friend and coach Steve Thyfault, center, and Thad Trujillo, who was the quarterback when Cox played at FLC. The three met on February 11 at the Wells Group office in Durango. Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

“Thad was so precise and had good timing,” Cox said. “He made my time as a receiver here easy.”

Trujillo, however, gave Cox the credit. “I could throw it anywhere, and he’d get it,” Trujillo said, calling Cox “elusive.”

Trujillo and Cox also partnered with Spades on the team’s trips to games in Montana, Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

“We like to say we were undefeated in seven states,” Cox said. “When you spend 12 hours on a bus with guys, you end up becoming really good friends.”

These experiences are a big reason Cox feels Durango is home.

“I don’t know if it’s nostalgic, but I had a really good experience at Fort Lewis College with the students, faculty and staff,” Cox said. “I remember having a good time going to Purgatory. Home is that period of time of being in college; I felt comfortable and safe here.

Now, as he builds the program, he tries to convince other players that Durango can become their home too.

“I think (rookies) can see my passion and authenticity in bringing in the right kind of players,” Cox said. “I want to do things well. I have a passion for Fort Lewis, and that drives me to work harder. It’s not just a job; it is a place that is very close to my heart.

Cox expects to complete the selection of a coaching staff within weeks. He also worked with the Skyhawks an hour a week, teaching team outlines and drills and giving players a foundation as they prepare for Spring Ball on March 14.

“I really like the attitude of our football team,” he said. “The guys who come back, they really listen and they are really hard workers. I feel like everyone wants to make the season the best it can be, but it will take discipline, energy, execution and effort.

His time in the NFL, he said, helped him develop a solid plan to execute. “It’s solid and tested, allowing players and staff to believe in what we’re coaching,” Cox said.

Cox also said a lot of Division II players want to get to the NFL but feel they don’t have a path to get there.

“I tell them not to worry, just be the best you can be and it will all work out,” Cox said. “If you focus on being the best player you can be, (the scouts) will find you. What you can control is your best effort.“

He said he hopes to recruit guys who not only can play college football, but are also good students and good people, people who cherish what Durango has and love the outdoor environment.

They must also accept accountability.

“I’m not just here to win football games,” Cox said. “I am here to mold young men to be better employees and employers, better fathers and husbands.”

The college also hopes the community will support the Skyhawks under Coach Cox.

“One of the biggest things I liked about Coach Cox is that he will be able to rally this community,” FLC chairman Tom Stritikus said. “He’s a cultural guy. The coach is aligned with building a positive culture, and his ability to connect with the community will be a strong asset.

Stritikus called the response to Cox’s hiring from the wider FLC community “overwhelmingly positive”.

“I’m so excited,” Trujillo said. “I think this is a crucial point for Fort Lewis at a time when it really needs a boost.”

Cox said his goal is to make FLC one of the best teams, but he understands getting there will be a process.

“I feel like we can be competitive; that’s the focus right now,” Cox said. “I’m really excited about this opportunity. I consider it a blessing to be here.

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