When he walked off the field for the final time in 2003, Erik Losey never thought he’d be involved with East Tennessee State football again.
Yet here he is, the offensive line coach for the resurrected program where he starred for two seasons more than a decade ago.
“Words can’t explain what it means to get an opportunity like this because it doesn’t come around much,” said Losey, who was hired by head coach Carl Torbush a couple of weeks ago.
Losey originally came to ETSU from Hixson and started two seasons worth of games at center. He was a sophomore when the school announced it was dropping football because of financial difficulties.
“Of course there were some irritable feelings,” Losey said. “But we really didn’t understand. Whoever was in charge at that time and made the decision thought that was the best thing for the university. There’s a whole bigger picture and we were a little biased.
“You get over it. With age, you always mature.”
Even though it’s considered the darkest period in the history of the ETSU athletic department, the 2003 football season still holds some positive memories for Losey.
“The thing that sticks out the most is the fact that we only had 43 guys doing what it takes 105 to do,” he said. “We went through two-a-days and if you understood Coach (Paul) Hamilton, he wasn’t gonna pull any punches. You were gonna practice like you had 105 guys. The term ‘special’ comes to mind because there’s nobody that’s ever done that at the collegiate level.”
The ETSU players learned during the 2003 season that there would be no 2004.
“We always talked about it during the season,” he said. “We said if this was going to be the last season, let’s do it right.”
They certainly did the last game right.
Jonathan Godfrey kicked a 22-yard field goal with two seconds left to beat the Citadel, 16-13, and close a sad chapter in the school’s history with at least one happy moment. The Bucs finished their last season with a 5-7 record.
“I don’t know if it could have ended any other way,” Losey said. “I was over on the sideline. I think I was on a knee. John nailed that thing, shoot man ... For years, anybody who has asked me my favorite moment, it was when we beat The Citadel that year. It’s my favorite game and I’ve been part of some fun ones.”
With no more program at ETSU, Losey and his teammates were forced to look elsewhere to play. At first, Losey appeared set to head to Ohio. Then Western Kentucky made a better offer and he wound up in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Two years later, he was a first-team All-American.
“I was one of the fortunate ones,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to have a good career. Everything fell in place for me.”
Losey’s seven-year coaching career began at Western Kentucky and has included stops at Campbell, Webber International and Florida State, where he was offensive line quality control coach in 2009-10. He spent last season at Alcorn State.
“I bounced around in my 20s because in this profession, you’re supposed to,” he said. “You need to get the experience.”
Now that’s he’s back at ETSU, the 30-year-old is hoping to put all that experience to good use.
When Losey returned to Johnson City when he was being considered for the position, he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw.
“To see not only where football has come and is going, but to see where the university has come and the city of Johnson City has come is great,” he said. “It’s been fun to see how much we’ve matured as a university and a city.
“You’re seeing the support that we didn’t have and it’s really encouraging. I’m excited for these young players coming in.”
Torbush has a list of criteria that he wants in his offensive line coach, and Losey met every one of them. He’s familiar with East Tennessee. He’s played the game at a high level. He has the kind of personality needed for recruiting and he knows how to teach his players.
Once Losey got offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain’s approval, it was a done deal.
“He’s everything you want in an offensive line coach,” Torbush said. “He’s got to have an ability to be a tough and a loving coach because that’s a unique group. That’s the hardest place in the world. A lot of the other positions, it’s fun to practice. Offensive line, it’s not fun to practice.”
For his part, Losey says he is at a place where he belongs.
“This is an experience that only comes around once,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”comments powered by Disqus