Ravens coaches remember Utah

By David Driver

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 13 2010 10:53 p.m. MST

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jim Zorn, the former offensive coordinator at Utah State, fondly recalls the mountain biking at Moab. Craig Ver Steeg, who had two stints on the football coaching staff at the University of Utah, remembers hiking and skiing with his wife.

California-born Zorn and Ver Steeg have moved on from their days in Utah to the coaching staff of the Baltimore Ravens, a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations. They are part of a staff that includes tight ends coach Wade Harman, who played and coached at Utah State, and former Weber State strength coach Bob Rogucki.

The Ravens' coaching staff has had ties to Utah for many years. Brian Billick, a former player at BYU, was the head coach for the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl 10 years ago. Harman is the only remaining coach on staff from that Super Bowl team.

What are the best memories of Utah for Zorn, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins?

"There are many," said Zorn. "It was a great place to live. To be in that area and like the outdoors like I do, there is so much to offer. The local ski areas are tremendous. Everything there is to do outdoors is right there. We did so much outside."

"Some of the most beautiful sites to see are in Utah," added Zorn, who played in the NFL with Seattle and also coached in college at Minnesota and Boise State. "I am a big mountain biker and Moab was a huge part of what I did. We maximized our opportunities when we lived there."

"The things that stand out was the setting I got to live in and the people,"?said Ver Steeg, a former Logan resident. "I made great friends with that staff, and that really turned into the second stint (at Utah). My wife, before we got married, she spent nine years of her life in Salt Lake, and she grew up in the Midwest. My wife got to go back to Salt Lake. She loved it there as much as I did."

Zorn got to know Ravens head coach John Harbaugh when the former was head coach of the Redskins from 2008-09, while Ver Steeg and Harbaugh were on the same staff at the University of Cincinnati in the early 1990s. After leaving the Bearcats, Ver Steeg joined the staff of Utah and worked with record-setting quarterback Scott Mitchell, who played 12 years in the NFL.

And what about football while they were in Utah? Zorn noted that he was part of a Utah State team that beat BYU in 1993. That was the last time that happened until this season. Utah State also won the Las Vegas Bowl that season.

Ver Steeg was in his second stint at Utah when the team recruited Haloti Ngata, a standout at Highland High who is now an All-Pro defensive lineman with the Ravens.

"We recruited the heck out of Haloti. We were trying to get Haloti," Ver Steeg said. "I always tease him. "We were so close. We were so close. I have known Haloti since he was in high school."

Ngata ended up playing in college at Oregon. Ver Steeg said Harman, who was not available to comment, has great memories of his time at Utah State.

Paul Kruger, a second-year defensive player from Utah, said that Ver Steeg introduced himself when Kruger joined the team last year.

"You can feel more comfortable when someone has had the same experiences,"?Kruger said.

Zorn said that Harbaugh helps create a family atmosphere with the Ravens, though that can be a cliche.

"The hard thing about football is knowing that a lot is given up," Zorn said. "With the right family goals and foundation, this is a doable job when your family is not suffering. If your family is suffering since we are coaching ... it is time to move on. There is nothing more important to John or myself than when you walk in this building it is 100 percent focus on Sunday's game."

But sometimes coaches Zorn, Ver Steeg and Harman enjoy reflecting on their days in Utah.

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