MOBILE, Alabama – The past two weeks have been full of new opportunities for the Coombs family of coaches.
Just nine days before Ohio State announced the hiring of Kerry Coombs as its new defensive coordinator, the Detroit Lions hired Kerry’s son Brayden – who was previously an assistant special teams coach for the Cincinnati Bengals – as their new special teams coordinator.
Both of them have had to hit the ground running in their new jobs, as Kerry Coombs is already out on the recruiting trail for the Buckeyes while his son has spent this week at the Senior Bowl, where he and the rest of the Lions’ staff are coaching the North squad in this year’s game.
They haven’t had much time to settle in yet, but it has been an exciting month for their entire family.
“It’s been real exciting,” Brayden Coombs told Eleven Warriors after Senior Bowl practice on Wednesday. “We both were very lucky to be in positions that we were happy with. I loved working with the Bengals, and I know he loved working for Coach Vrabel and the Titans, great experiences for both of us. But obviously, you get opportunities. Been fortunate enough, we’ve had good players that made us look good, and everybody’s excited. Our family’s excited to get an opportunity to go on to kinda new levels and get to be closer to one another.”
Although Brayden Coombs is just 33 years old, he’s already been an NFL coach for more than a decade, having joined the Bengals as an intern in 2009 after completing his collegiate playing career at Miami (Ohio). So when Kerry Coombs left his first stint at Ohio State to become the Tennessee Titans’ secondary coach in 2018, he was able to turn to his son for advice.
Brayden has been turning to his father for advice, though, for the past three decades. He remembers drawing up plays with his dad as a kid and was coached by his dad at Colerain High School, and he continues to ask him for guidance to this day.
“When he came to the NFL, there was a lot that I could help him within that transition, just because it’s a different business a little bit, and he had a lot of questions about that,” Brayden said. “For me, as a younger coach going through things for the first time, there’s been a lot of times where I’ve asked him, ‘Hey, how would you handle this? How should I do this?’ Interview process and things like that. He’s a great resource for me. He’s always the first person I go to any time I’m uncertain about anything like that.”
The younger Coombs said “everything” he does as a coach can be tied back to the lessons his father taught him growing up.
“I’ve been around a lot of very good football coaches and I’ve tried to learn something from every single one of them. But when it comes to my foundation as a coach, that all goes back to what I learned from my dad, starting when I was probably three or four years old,” Brayden said. “There isn’t one aspect of the way that I coach that doesn’t have some tidbit of influence that came from him as part of it. So I owe him a lot for that, and I’m really proud of him.”
Hard to imagine anything better as a parent than to see your kids achieve their dreams! Really proud of you Brayden, because you are a good husband and father, and not a bad coach either! #only1waytomaketodaybetter #TitanUp https://t.co/SaxMSPERp4— Kerry Coombs (@DB_CoachCoombs) January 11, 2020
At times, Brayden said, his father was hard on him when he was a kid. But now that he’s older, he's grateful for those lessons – lessons that aren’t all that different than the ones Kerry will now be teaching his players at Ohio State.
“Growing up, he was probably a lot more similar to the coaching persona (as a father) than what he is now,” Brayden said. “It’s not always fun. None of us are always in love with our parents when we’re 7-8 years old, teenagers. But he pushed me. He made me go further than I thought I could outside my comfort zone. Now, it’s a little bit different, obviously. We have a lot more of a friendship now. Help each other when we need help, need advice.”
Like his father, Brayden’s energy is apparent on the football field. During this week’s practices in Mobile, he could be seen actively participating in drills with his players and coaching them up with enthusiasm, often running from place to place.
Kerry Coombs son, Brayden, among the coaches leading drills at Senior Bowl practice. Brayden Coombs just became the special teams coordinator for the Detroit Lions, who are coaching the North team; the Cincinnati Bengals, his previous employer, are coaching the South team. pic.twitter.com/lx0bAv9yms— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 21, 2020
At the same time, Brayden’s personality is a bit more subdued than his father’s, and you won’t see him tweeting out extra-long hashtags like his dad. As much as his coaching style has been influenced by his dad, he doesn’t try to be exactly like his dad; he’s his own man, and that all goes back to what he says is the biggest lesson he’s learned from his father: “Fearlessly be yourself.”
“I think without question, I got a lot of him in me. That’s kind of how that works, right? But I don’t ever really make a conscious effort to try to be like him,” Brayden said. “One of the things he taught me growing up was always be yourself. Don’t worry about what anybody thinks. So I try to do that, and I think it’s just natural that a lot of him is reflected in me. That’s what people say at least.”
“There isn’t one aspect of the way that I coach that doesn’t have some tidbit of influence that came from him as part of it. So I owe him a lot for that, and I’m really proud of him.”– Detroit Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs on his father, Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs
While Brayden said he enjoyed watching his father help lead the Titans to an AFC Championship Game berth earlier this month, he’s happy that Kerry had the opportunity to return to Ohio State, knowing how much that opportunity means to his dad and how excited the Buckeyes and their fans are to have him back.
“To see him going back, to see how excited not just that program but that whole fan base is, you know that’s real, because he was there for (six) years. It’s not like they’re just really excited to get some big name. They’re excited because he loves Ohio State the same way that they love Ohio State, and I think that’s really cool to see,” Brayden said. “We always talk about enthusiasm being contagious, I think that’s been huge for him there. I think that rubs off on a lot of people up there. I think that’s part of what’s so attractive to the guys that he’s recruiting is they see how much fun he’s having, and they want to be part of that.”
Because of his NFL schedule, it’s often difficult for Brayden to have the opportunity to watch Ohio State games, though he still has fond memories of attending the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship game win over Oregon and celebrating that moment with his dad and the rest of his family.
They are hopeful that they’ll be able to spend more family time together now – time that Brayden says he and his three children always enjoy having with their father and grandfather – since Detroit is a little closer to Columbus than Cincinnati is to Nashville.
“He’s an awesome granddad to my kids,” Brayden said. “They love him to death. Obviously don’t get to see him nearly as much as I wish they did, but I love watching him in that role. He doesn’t have to worry about the discipline. He just gets to go crazy with them and then give them back to me when they start wearing him out, so that’s a lot of fun for us, too.”
They won't be helping each other move to their new cities, though, because they're too busy with their new jobs to spend much time worrying about that themselves.
“We’ll get some guys from U-Haul to do that,” Brayden said. “He’s already on the road recruiting, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready in Detroit, so we’ll find somebody else to take care of that.”