Over the past five years, every now and then, Mack Brown would ask Gene Chizik a version of the same question.
“Are you ready to coach again?”
Brown asked it four years ago, before he got back into coaching at North Carolina. At the time, Chizik told him he was not ready just yet. Then in spring 2021, when Chizik had a few opportunities come his way, Brown told him, “You’ve got to decide if you want to coach again.”
Chizik had a simple reply.
“I do,” he told Brown. “I’ve got one more in me.”
Neither knew in that moment that “one more” meant reuniting with Brown, under whom he had served as defensive coordinator at Texas in 2005 and 2006. They remained close friends over the years, whether Chizik was head coach at Auburn or defensive coordinator at UNC or a TV analyst.
But when Brown called him in January, he asked him that same familiar question, only with a little added weight: “Are you interested in coaching again?”
It did not take long for Chizik to say yes, bringing him back to the Tar Heels for a second stint as assistant head coach for defense and defensive coordinator.
Ten minutes after hanging up, Brown got another call from Chizik. Puzzled, Brown picked up.
“I need to tell Jonna that I’m going to do this,” Chizik told him, referring to his wife.
Brown chuckles recalling the story. It certainly seems providential that Chizik decided now was the right time to return to coaching after spending the past five years as a college football analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network.
As a result, Chizik became one of the most notable assistant coaching hires of the entire offseason.