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Catching up with former Arizona lineman Jacob Alsadek, now a GA at Toledo

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jacob-alsadek-arizona-wildcats-toledo-rockets-ga-interview-offensive-line-2020 Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jacob Alsadek recently changed his Twitter handle to @CoachAlsadek, a title he hopes will stick for a long time.

The former Arizona lineman is currently working his way up the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at Toledo, where he tutors the offensive line.

Before that, Alsadek spent a season at Albany as an offensive assistant, coaching up the offensive line as well as serving as a recruiter and video coordinator for the Great Danes.

“Going down to the FCS level was definitely humbling to see how much those coaches (do),” he said.

But he loved it.

“I just think it’s such a good sport for teaching,” Alsadek said.

Before coaching, Alsadek was a four-year starter (2014-17) for the Arizona Wildcats, anchoring an offensive line that twice led the Pac-12 in rushing and thrice reached bowl eligibility.

The San Diego native started in 46 games at right guard and was a freshman All-American in 2014, proving to be one of the steadiest players on the team, both on and off the field. Alsadek was a team captain as a senior in 2017.

After going undrafted, Alsadek had training camp stints with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys before giving coaching a shot.

I caught up with him to discuss that, his UA career, his coaching aspirations and more. Here is the Q&A, which has been lightly edited for clarity.

Ryan Kelapire: What do you like about coaching?

Jacob Alsadek: “There’s a lot of things. Obviously you get to stay close to something you love. I think the biggest thing was before college I really wasn’t the greatest human being. I didn’t work very hard. I was just okay with being average. Coach (Rich) Rodriguez, Coach (Calvin) Magee, Coach (Rod) Smith, and Coach (Jim) Michalczik, all the coaches at Arizona, they changed my life so much. I really couldn’t put into words how much they mean to me as a person. I would take a bullet for all those guys. I know it’s not something people say lightly but they changed my life and turned me into who I am. Obviously my parents helped a lot but they showed me what it takes to be a man and being accountable for who I am and everything like that.

“For them to do that for me was something I wanted to do for other people and these kids now. Football meant so much to me and it means even more to me now. Football is the biggest teacher in life and I definitely want to keep that going. It shapes young men into great husbands and fathers.”

RK: What’s your ultimate goal in coaching?

JA: “That’s a good question because sometimes I go back and forth if I’d want to be a head coach or not. Sometimes I just want to be an o-line coach where all they care about is o-line play, but I think eventually I want to be a head coach. I definitely want to be a coach at a big-time program. And not because of money. That’s not why I do this. I don’t make any money. This is just what I love to do. I just think on that stage there’s a lot more riding on it, and that competitive atmosphere is what you get addicted to. You get addicted to competing, and the more levels you go up, the more intensely competitive it is. And I’m an intense person. When I was playing, I was extremely intense. I would literally not talk to anybody before a game. I had that look on my face like I was gonna kill somebody.”

RK: How would you describe your UA career?

JA: “Fun. That was definitely the best years of my life, for sure. No doubt about it.”

RK: You guys led the Pac-12 in rushing a couple times, what did that mean to you and your unit? I know when people think of dominant o-lines in the Pac-12, they probably think of teams like USC and Stanford.

JA: “That’s a good point. Obviously I put that on my resume. It’s really important. One thing I hold true to my heart is that Coach Rod preached to us about how people would expect USC, Oregon, Stanford, those types of teams to lead the Pac-12 in something. We weren’t the best players, but we just played hard and we played fast, physical. I took pride in that for sure. We set so many records at that place— like national, Pac-12, school records. We did a lot of good things there and I think it all started up front. A lot of it had to do with rushing.”

RK: Speaking of rushing and records, what do you remember from the ASU game in 2016 when you won 56-35 and your team rushed for a program-record 511 yards?

JA: “That game I remember being on the sideline and I looked at (center) Nate Eldridge and he looked at me, and he was like ‘dude, this is fun.’ No passes, an o-lineman’s dream. Just running the ball, playing fast. I think the biggest thing was you lose so many games in a row and you almost forget what winning feels like. And so I thought that that aspect was a good way to end the year but obviously wasn’t the year that we wanted. And then we came back the next year, won seven games, which is okay, but nobody expected us to be good at all and we kind of shocked them.”

RK: Did you expect your career to go the way that it did, redshirting then being a four-year starter?

JA: “Not at all. I thought I was gonna redshirt then not play for a while, just kind of get bigger and stronger and just work. But obviously I was doing every single thing I could to get on the field. Every single day I was going in to get an extra lift. Every single day, I was going into the film room. Even when I was redshirting. On scout team, I would go and I’d watch the offensive line that we were playing, just to try and be the best that I could be for our team. That was something that I just did. Nobody told me to do it. Like what Rich Rod always said, do what no else was willing to do to get where you want. I knew I had to take that to heart.

“I legitimately worked out seven days a week for a long time. I’d go and talk to Coach (Michalczik) and sit in his office and just see what he was doing. If I sat there for three hours a day and there was like 10 minutes of something that I thought was beneficial for me, then it was successful. I wanted to play so bad that I was willing to put everything in my life on hold just to get on the field. And I wasn’t expecting to play at the end of the day, but it turned out that I did and feel like I had a good career for sure. It didn’t end the way that I wanted it to, I wish it could have ended better and I was still playing, but I think coaching is kind of just like playing again, but it’s in a totally different atmosphere. I love it.”

RK: Do you tell the players your coaching about your habits as a player?

JA: “All the time. When you get into this, you kind of see now what [the coaches] were saying on a totally different level, and it just makes you appreciate them even more. But I do. The seniors this year are only two years younger than me. We have one kid that’s a year younger than me. I’m not that much older than these guys, and obviously I had a good career in Arizona so I can tell them, ‘hey, I know what I’m doing.’ So I think I bond with them on a different level than other people. I’ll pull up my old film and I’ll show them things that I did to try to help them.

“It’s just little things. I try and do as much as I can for them. Obviously, I can’t tell them, ‘Hey, you gotta go into the weight room every day.’ But I tell them I wanted to play so I did every single thing that I could. And it’s cool to see them try and do that too. We got some kids here that are trying to do that. They’re getting a lot better.”

RK: What did you take away from your stint in the NFL?

JA: “The biggest thing I took away from all that was when you’re in college and you’re playing football, you think that’s what life’s gonna be like forever. But then once college is over, you kind of realize football doesn’t last forever. Having to learn how to deal with that was such a hard thing for me to understand. I put everything into that sport. I still do to this day but it sucked having to be done playing. But it is what it is.

“I signed as a free agent with the Packers, I was like one of the first free agents signed after the 2018 draft, so that was really cool. I went out there and got to learn from James Campen, who’s a really good offensive line coach and he kind of taught different things than what I was taught in college by Coach Michalczik. It was cool to see a different way of teaching, to see a different type of aspects of offensive line play and what he believed in, and the foundation of fundamentals and everything.

“And then to see really good players that you grew up watching was cool. Like being in the same locker room as Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews. It’s like, ‘whoa, that’s really the guy you watch on TV do the interviews, do the commercials.’ It’s almost like fanboying. It’s kind of crazy to think these guys make millions of dollars and you’re sitting right next to them or you’re talking to them. Then you go home at the end the day, you turn the TV and they’re there in a commercial.”

RK: You mentioned how important Arizona’s old coaching staff was to you, so how do you feel about Rich Rodriguez no longer being at the UA?

JA: “It just sucks because in my true honest opinion, he is such an amazing guy. He worked so hard. When we were practicing at 7 in the morning, we were all tired, but he was in the weight room working out. I would show up to the facility at like 4:40 because I’d go watch a little film and then go in the hot tub and get warmed up, stretch, do all that. This guy was in there at 4:40 in the morning, working out every single day. He was always the first one there no matter what. The man would be on the stairmaster for hours, and would be dripping sweat, and then he’d do sit ups. He grinded, and it was cool to see he was there before anybody else.

“Like I said, I would take a bullet for that man. He means so much to me. Obviously doing this (coaching), I keep in touch with him. All those guys meant a lot to me, like second dads or role models. If I could be half the human being that they are I’d be pretty proud of myself. He came from nothing. He grew up in like the middle of nowhere and he like turned himself into this guru of football. And I think the biggest thing that I took from him was the culture that he created and just how good it was.

“Like, we’re not the highest-recruited guys. USC didn’t offer any of us. Stanford, we probably couldn’t get into school there. But we’re at Arizona, we’re just a bunch of misfits and that’s what I take with me through life—yeah, I’m probably not the smartest dude but I’m gonna work so hard. And that’s what I want to preach throughout my life.”


This article is part of an ongoing Q&A series that will highlight former UA student-athletes. The rest of the editions are linked below. If you are a former UA student-athlete and would like to participate, please email me at rrkelapire@gmail.com or message me on Twitter at @RKelapire.