Exclusive Interview: D.J. Hernandez - The Coach [Part 2]

Photo: Matthew Holst/Getty Images

D.J. Hernandez is a well-known name among everyone who follows college football and some may have heard of him as Aaron Hernandez's brother. However, how many of you know D.J. as the coach/import in Europe?

Now, we had a great talk with D.J., who shared his football journey with us - from playing at UCONN, coaching at University of Miami, Brown, Iowa... To playing and coaching in Austria. The passion and genuine love he has for football swept us off our feet instantly. And, guess what! He may be returning to Europe!

In case you missed the part 1: D.J. Hernandez - The Player


BECOMING A COACH

When you play at Division 1A program, you have all the resources necessary right in front of you, and when I was in Austria – I had to figure out ways to accomplish certain tasks. I remember we used to have meetings on the bus while headed to an away game. I'd sit with the linemen in the back, we had lineman who couldn't come to practice, yet he was a big part of our team for the reasons I understood.

While accountability is important, if you care for a teammate or players personal life they are more willing to work for you and try to see eye to eye with your expectations. They all did a great job commuting to the organization while I was there and when they do that football really becomes fun for everyone because of the different things we can now do.

On long bus trips we'd stop twice for breaks and we'd do walkthroughs. It taught me patience. Patience to take your time and make sure everyone understands what they're doing – that way you have the best opportunity to achieve success. I learned a lot from Austria and the players and families involved with the organization. It helped me become a better man and made the transition to Brown university as well as the university of Miami and Iowa much easier.

Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

CLOSE TO NOTHING AGE DIFFERENCE

It all comes down to your commitment to the team. If they know you're invested... Players just know. They know when you know and they know when you don't know. The first thing I learned while coaching is that you don't always have to know. And that's what's great about football – you always have the ability to find the answer.

I have been fortunate enough to been mentored by some really good coaches, who are just one phone call away. If I'm having a difficult time with something, I can just pick up the phone and ask, and they'll help me, or at least guide me in the right direction to find that answer.

Never be afraid to ask someone else. I don't have all the answers, no coach does, but in terms of players respecting you – if you're committed and invested in them as a person, not just on the field, but off the field as well; they will respect you and buy into your system or philosophy.

LIFTING UP THE SPIRIT

In terms of motivation, I think that's done through the preparation. If you, as a coach, do a good job expressing the importance of the game, how you're going to attack the opponent and in what ways they're going to be a part of that particular game – and if your players are passionate enough the game, they will be self motivated.

Winning, losing, or ending up with a tie – that's all just part of the game. There's a learning experience through all those, learning is never over. You can't carry a game to the next week whether it's a win or loss. You have to move forward, every game is its own, and that should be motivation within itself.



COLLEGE COACH HEADED TO EUROPE

After Brown and Miami, I transitioned to be the Tight Ends coach at The University of Iowa. I coached C.J. Fiedorowicz, who's is currently playing for the Huston Texans. I'm so thankful for The University of Iowa, those were the best coaches I've ever been around. They really invested in the players and being great teachers of the game.

After coaching several positions and becoming a better teacher of the game through my experience including my past Head coaching and coordinating experience in Europe, I'm very excited to go back to Europe. Understanding Europe, and much more about the game, technique, and planning makes everything much more enjoyable and I am excited to prepare, teach, and have an enjoyable experience with an organization.

It all comes down to being a better teacher. The reason I want to go back to Europe is wanting to help the guys be better players, and the ones who are interested in coaching – to help them become the best coach they possibly can.

After talking to my former teammates, and possible new teams, both my fiance and I are even more excited. We're hoping to make a permanent move to Europe, where I could help build the program during the season, as well as off season, and not just the seniors, but U19 and so on. We are fully invested!

I do believe I have a few more years left as a player too, so I'm excited to be on the field if needed if it's wise for both parties. I'm excited for a challenge! I'm excited to take what I've learned and apply that to coaching in Europe. At the end of the day, I'm going to give it my all, whether I'm a coach and/or player.


BUILDING THE TEAM BRAND OFF THE FIELD

Success is contagious. If a team can generate success and excitement, it will get fans in the seats. Then you take those fans and get them involved with the organization. It comes with time and dedication of the people who are currently involved with the organization.

Understand your crowd. Understanding your target group is really important. We can go to a middle school where we should be having fun, getting them to ENJOY FOOTBALL. And when you're talking to elders – it's probably the safety, concussions or education behind the game. You can create interest in all age ranges, you just have to understand what is appealing to each individual.

Football is a beautiful game and it has the ability to bring so many people from so many different age ranges together if approached properly. It's always a challenge but it's done everyday!


PLAYERS, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO...

Being patient while continuing to fight for your dreams. Things will not always go the exact way you planned, but use it as a learning opportunity. Try not to be and stay discouraged. Getting discouraged will happen, just make sure to understand that you can overcome it. Success and talent doesn't happen overnight. It's a process and everyone, even myself, has room to grow.

Don't be afraid to seek out to other people who have more success, and just ask the right questions.
It's important to create discussion throughout the team. Guys also need to work together on how to make adjustment during halftime for example, based on how someone is playing or what they're doing on the field on play by play basis.

All comes down to practice, trust and spending time together each and every week.

It's important to teach the guys how to watch film. I remember me being a young athlete, and then being a young coach – I didn't necessarily know what I was looking for. Also, creating an atmosphere where analyzing film is fun. We used to have homework assignments where we'd split up the work, and that way everyone a part of the planning process, and most importantly, doing it while understanding and learning together.
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