Coach Profile of the Week: Zach Watkins

Washburn has a history of former players coming back to Washburn to coach. Remaining at the top of MIAA, this method has proved to be successful. A perfect example of this is Zach Watkins.

Watkins is the co-defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator for the Ichabod football team and was an All-American during his time as an athlete. He graduated from Washburn in 2009 with a degree in business administration. Then, he went on to Fort Hays State and received his masters degree in sports administration.

Watkins and his wife of four years, Amanda, live in Lawrence. He understands everything that wives of coaches go through, and what they give to let their husband coach.

“My wife, Amanda, and I have been married for four years now. Don’t have any kids yet, but definitely want them soon,” Watkins said.

He said as a coach, you put a lot of hours in and you do a lot of different things than a normal 9 to 5 job, so your wife, kids and family have a big understanding that you’re gonna sacrifice some things, and that they are gonna have to sacrifice too.

“She’s unbelievable, she’s the perfect wife and the perfect person for me,” Watkins said. 

Being a football coach, Watkins does not have a large amount of time to have hobbies, but he loves spending time with family, golfing, playing guitar and playing basketball. 

“Football coaches do not have a lot of hobbies, but I think it is important that you have stuff outside of football,” Watkins said. “Family is big for me. My wife, Amanda, is my rock… I just try to make sure that I do some things outside of football, and still have a personal life.”

Watkins grew up in Independence, Missouri, where he attended Truman High School. After graduating in 2005, Watkins came to Washburn. He had a prolific career for the Ichabods from 2006-2009 as a linebacker. Watkins was the MIAA Freshman of the Year in 2006. From 2007-2009 he earned first-team All-MIAA honors. His senior year, Watkins was named the MIAA and Daktronics Regional Defensive Player of the Year. Likewise, from 2007-2009 he earned multiple All-American honors. 

Outside of his success, Watkins has positive things to say about Washburn’s football program.

“All my best friends, the guys at my wedding, were my teammates here at Washburn. I walked on here in 2005 after one of my friends from high school got recruited by Washburn,” Watkins said. “I came on an unofficial visit, so I kind of followed him here. I was lucky enough to start all four years and to play for Coach Schurig. It was exactly what you wanted your college career to be on the field, off the field and academically.”

In the classroom, he earned Academic All-MIAA honors three times. In 2008, he was an ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American and was a Ken B. Jones MIAA Student-Athlete of the Year Finalist. 

“I think if you are a former player at all, you get some respect from your current players. I think sometimes those kids can think, ‘you know this coach had success playing so he might know what he is talking about’,” Watkins said. “That stuff aside, it is just good to be able to have a good connection to Washburn. Playing for Coach Schurig, now coaching for Coach Schurig, knowing administrative and support staff, coaches on the staff that I either played with or that coached me, all that kind of stuff involved makes it a fun experience.”

He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Northwest Missouri State. After that, he went to Fort Hays State as a defensive line and inside linebackers’ coach. There, he coached under his former coach, Chris Brown. Even though he loved to coach under him, when a job became available at Washburn, it was a job he could not refuse.

“I was coaching at Fort Hays State in 2013 under Coach Brown who was my defensive coordinator at Washburn when I played. I spent three years there and then one of the coaches at Washburn left so Coach Schurig contacted me about coming back,” Watkins said. “It was tough to leave coach Brown, but it was my alma mater, where I played at, with the guy that I played for, so it meant a lot for me. It was the perfect fit at the right time.”

Eventually, Watkins hopes to move on to become a head coach in the future.

“I definitely want to be a head coach whether that is two years from now or ten years from now. I would like to be able to run my own program and take things from coach Schurig and coach Brown,” Watkins said. “At the end of the day, Washburn has been so special to me and my family.” 

Not only does Zach Watkins love to coach football, his players love to have him as a coach.

“There are so many things that make coach Watkins a great coach. He’s been through the program, he’s done all the things that we’ve done and he brings all of that to the table and then some,” said Austin Tillman, senior linebacker. “He’s very energetic, very passionate and he knows his stuff. He knows football very well and he gets his players ready to go.”

Watkins and the Ichabods’ defense have only allowed 21 points over the past two weeks. As the team looks to improve on the year, keep an eye out for Watkins as he looks to help lead the team to another bowl or playoff game.