Zach Nyborg happy to return to BYU, tackle director of football operations job
“Did I think I would be here in this position? No, not at all,” he said. “I’ll call it luck, but I also recognize that a lot of hard work is involved with this business. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time and work with great people. The people I’ve been around have prepared me to take on the task that I’ve been able to assume.”
Nyborg credits the start of this career path in college football to his mission in Nashville, Tennessee. Nyborg served with former Timpview coach Louis Wong’s son, Ryan. When Nyborg returned from his mission, he was offered a job as the freshman team coach at Timpview by Louis Wong.
Later, in 2010, Nyborg took a volunteer job at Utah State under Andersen, then the Aggie head coach. Nyborg started as a defensive and recruiting administrative assistant before becoming assistant to the head coach and recruiting coordinator.
“(Andersen) didn’t know my name for the first three weeks I worked there and I sat outside his office,” Nyborg said. “I kept working hard and tried to be at the right place at the right time. Coach Andersen kept giving me opportunities and took the best advantage of them that I could.”
And when Andersen was hired at Wisconsin, Nyborg went with him. “It was a quick whirlwind,” Nyborg recalled.
His introduction to Wisconsin football was at the Rose Bowl, where the Badgers were playing at the end of the 2012 season.
“Lots of things happen when you take over a program. It’s a program that hadn’t seen change in 25 years because (former Wisconsin coach Bret) Bielema had been with coach (Barry) Alvarez previously," Nyborg said. "Not that we changed everything, but we had our own ways of doing things. It was a long process. I learned a lot, going from being a graduate assistant to being the DFO there. It was learning on the go, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way because now I understand a lot of processes that are involved.”
Nyborg said the best way to describe the duties of a director of football operations is to put it in business terms.
“You look at a football program, or an organization, you have a head coach, who’s essentially the CEO. The DFO is the CFO and COO of an organization. All of the operations and finances run through the operation side of things. From a day-to-day basis, there’s team travel and logistics. You want to take care of kids academically, socially and athletically. The first two parts are the head coach’s responsibilities, so for me, being the right-hand man of the head coach, it’s taking care of these kids, putting them in the best positions so that athletically, they have everything they need as well. People think the behind-the-scenes things aren’t directly tied to performance, but I disagree.”
After spending five years with Andersen at USU and Wisconsin, Nyborg figured they’d be together for a while longer.
“He’s a father to me,” he said of Andersen. “But this job and opportunity was at home, at my alma mater, a place that I love. To be able to have that opportunity to come home and to be a part of it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Both teams and programs have the same goals in mind. That’s another reason why I came here to BYU. At Wisconsin, we were trying to take a national team, a national brand and take it to an elite level, and that’s what we’re trying to do at BYU. That challenge is exciting to me. I look forward to the independent structure here and attacking it.”
As for the BYU football program, Nyborg believes that despite the shifting landscape, the Cougars can compete at an elite level.
“With the change in the College Football Playoff, there’s a great opportunity for BYU to be in there. If we weren’t making that our goal and striving to achieve that, we shouldn’t be there,” he said. “It’s absolutely possible. BYU has the prestige and the tradition. But we also have the people in place to do that. We need to be able to recruit at the highest level and match up the goals and plans with the people in the program. Once that all comes together and you make a run at it, special things will happen.”
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