Widenhofer Announces Retirement from Football
by NMSU Athletics
Las Cruces, N.M. – New Mexico State defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer announced that he will retire following the game against Fresno State this coming Friday, November 30. Widenhofer retires after 40 years of coaching football, which started in 1967.
“I’ve been a part of football and coaching football for about 40 years,” Widenhofer said. “I feel like this is the right time for me to retire. I will miss my fellow coaches and especially the players I worked with everyday. I appreciate everyone’s support over the years and during my time in Las Cruces.”
“First of all I want to thank coach Widenhofer for his outstanding service to New Mexico State University,” NMSU Athletics Director Dr. McKinley Boston said. “Obviously we are all disappointed in the season but at the same I know football is special to him and I have enjoyed our conversations about defensive football. I want to give a special thanks to his family for being as supportive as they have been over the years. We are going to miss Woody and his knowledge of the game.”
“I think Woody Widenhofer after 40-plus years of coaching has proven that he is a tremendous football coach,” Mumme said. “I have been privileged for the last decade to be associated with Woody first as a competitor when I was at Kentucky and he was at Vanderbilt, then when he we started the program at Southeastern Louisiana together and for the last three years here at NMSU. I got to see Woody as great man and not just a great football coach. I’ve enjoyed my last six years with Woody and we will miss him a great deal and I wish him and his family the best and I’m sure we’ll meet up on the golf course somewhere in the near future.”
Widenhofer brought his exceptional knowledge and talent of the game to New Mexico State University as the team’s defensive coordinator back in 2005.
From his playing days, to his stint as defensive coordinator of the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers, to his head coaching days at Missouri and Vanderbilt, Widenhofer has always been a defensive-minded leader.
After playing for College Football Hall of Fame coach Dan Devine at Missouri in the mid-1960’s, Widenhofer began his coaching career at Michigan State. After stops at Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, he began a magical career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973. He served as the team’s linebacker coach, mentoring such greats as NFL Hall of Famers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham.
After four years and two Super Bowl titles, Widenhofer became the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, guiding the famed “Steel Curtain” defense to two more Super Bowl titles.
In 1984, Widenhofer got his first head coaching job, joining the upstart United States Football League and coaching quarterback Doug Williams and the Oklahoma Outlaws for one season.
The following season, he returned to his alma mater as head coach of the Missouri Tigers. Widenhofer had many close calls against some of the top teams in the nation at Mizzou. He lost a 28-20 decision to #9 Nebraska, a 21-19 game to #10 Oklahoma State and a 17-13 heartbreaker in 1987 at #1 Oklahoma that kept his Tigers out of a bowl game. He did make the hearts of Tiger fans happy in his final two years by beating rival Kansas 19-7 and 55-17. His best player during that time was offensive lineman John Clay, one of only 23 players at the time to have earned first team all-America status at Mizzou.
Widenhofer returned to the professional ranks as defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions in 1989. He spent four years in Detroit and two more with the Cleveland Browns before newly hired Vanderbilt coach Rob Dowhower invited Widenhofer to oversee the Commodore defense in 1995.
Widenhofer was the Commodore’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming head coach in 1997. His 1999 squad finished 5-6, tied for the most number of wins since the 1982 Vanderbilt squad posted the school’s last winning record at 8-4. His defense was one of the best in the nation, holding Florida to just 13 points, South Carolina to 10 and Hal Mumme’s Kentucky squad to only 19. That season the Commodores ranked 24th in the nation in total defense, allowing only 315 yards per game.
Two Vanderbilt linebackers earned All-America honors with Widenhofer as head coach, Jamie Winborn and Jamie Duncan.
Widenhofer had several of his former Commodore players advance to the NFL including veteran NFL cornerback Fred Vinson, safety Ashley Battles, cornerback Corey Chavous, linebacker Jamie Duncan, running back Corey Harris and linebacker Shelton Quarles.
He then joined forces with Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana in 2002, building a program from scratch and posting a 5-7 record in 2003 and 7-4 in 2004. In 2005 at NMSU, Widenhofer coached the nation’s leading tackler Jimmy Cottrell to a school record 179 tackles, 14.9 tackles per game. Cottrell broke the single-season tackle record for the Aggies and finished his career as the Aggies third leading tackler in school history with 463. Cottrell was also drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Widenhofer also coached free safety Matt Griebel, who was third in the conference and ninth in the nation in tackles per game (12.4).
Widenhofer’s strangling 3-4 defense lived up to its reputation in 2006, as the Aggies ranked third in the nation in opponent third-down conversion percentage at 28.1%. He also guided linebacker Tim McManigal and defensive back Courtney Bryan, who both earned second team all-WAC honors. McManigal was the Aggies’ leading tackler in 2006, collecting 91 tackles and two sacks on the season, ranking him fourth in the WAC and 52nd in the nation in tackles per game (8.25). Bryan led the Aggies in interceptions (4) and pass break-ups with 15. He ranked fifth in the nation in pass defending and first in the WAC.
In 2007, the Aggie defense has tallied 23 sacks, a team high since the 2003 season. The Aggies have also held their opponents to 266 yards passing a game, ranked fourth in rushing defense in the WAC and first in opponent fourth-down conversions. Woody also guided linebacker Dante Floyd to a 100-plus tackles season and a rank of six in the WAC and 40th in the nation for tackles per game with 9.6.