LOGAN —Mark Orphey strives to add value not only to his life but to other people's lives too. Orphey was officially announced as Utah State's cornerbacks coach on Jan. 22.
Orphey has eight years of collegiate coaching experience, including four seasons at South Carolina. Prior to his appointment with the Aggies, the former cornerback at Texas Southern spent two seasons at Montana State as the secondary coach, where he coached four players to all-conference honors, and also served as a quality control coach and graduate assistant at South Carolina from 2013-16.
Orphey has been a part of multiple football postseasons as he helped the Bobcats to an 8-5 record last season, including a 5-3 mark in the Big Sky Conference, and an appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2014. MSU also advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012. With the Gamecocks, Orphey helped the team to three bowl games (2013 Capital One Bowl, 2014 Independence Bowl, 2016 Birmingham Bowl) and the team’s third-straight 11-win season in 2013.
Following one of the team's practices earlier this week, we caught up with Orphey for a Q&A.
Q: Talk about your first few months on the job?
Orphey****: The first few months have been quite a roller coaster. It took me a while to let the job settle in and realize that I'm at a Division I program, which was always a dream of mine. The adjustment has been great for me and the people around here are awesome, which I didn't expect anything less than that. The transition was really smooth for me. It's a lot like Bozeman, to a certain degree. Me getting adjusted didn't take much. I got here, found a place and went right to work. I've enjoyed it so far and I'm looking to expect more big things as time comes.
Q: Were there any connections between you and Coach Andersen or anyone else on this coaching staff?
Orphey****: It was weird how it happened. I knew a couple of Coach Andersen's past defensive backs coaches. I knew one of the coaches that left here. I kind of knew the right people to get my name in his ear. That got back to him, he researched me and called me that next day. The rest was kind of history at that point. Once I sat down and talked to him on the phone, I told myself, "If this guy offers me the job, I'm going to take it," because I felt how genuine he was. We believe in the same thing which was the guys and just how passionate he was about the players. He always reverted back to the players and the relationships. That's who I am and that's what I stood for. I felt comfortable right off the bat and once I got here, I sat down, had a meeting with him and it was an awesome opportunity.
Q: You worked for a former Aggie assistant at Montana State in head coach Jeff Choate. What conversations did you have with him about coming to USU?
Orphey****: I told Coach Choate that once Coach Andersen reached out to me, he said, "I'm going to be honest with you, that's something you have to take and check out." He also said that it was going to be a lot like in Bozeman and that I would do fine adjusting to the roll. He encouraged me to go and experience it. If anything, just go and put myself in another network of people. He was all for it and he knew if I got the job, I was probably going to take it, which wasn't a big surprise for him. He was supportive and that's who he is too.
Q: What have you seen thus far from the backend of the Aggie defense during spring practices?
Orphey****: The work ethic is awesome and the guys don't complain. We have a workman-like mentality and that's what I love about those guys. They hold themselves accountable and that's a big piece for me. I don't have to address a lot of things because the chances are, they've addressed it with each other before it even gets to me. If you have that, that just shows the maturity of your room. I've been very pleased.
Q: You return six letterwinners within the cornerbacks group this year. Talk about that group and what you are working on this spring?
Orphey****: We've just tried to be technicians. We wanted to have a certain DNA and demeanor when we attack the field. I tell the guys all the time, teams are going to turn on the tape and how physical and how well we play on the outside is going to determine how good we are as a team and as a defense. They've stepped up to the challenge. We struggled with consistency at times, which is always going to be expected, especially with a new system, schemes and coaches. Those guys have balled in, they do everything I ask them to do and they want to be better each and every day, which is what I admire about those guys.
Q: DJ Williams had a very good first year for USU last season. What are your expectations of him this fall?
Orphey****: He's a phenomenal player in my book. He plays the game the right way and when I say the right way, he's physical and he plays the technique of what you're teaching him. My very first meeting with him, he was like an open book. He said, 'Coach, I can't wait to get on the field, do the drills you've been teaching and I'm excited to learn new techniques and this system.' He's hungry and if you didn't know DJ, you would've never known he had the year that he had because of the way he carries himself. He's the leader of that group and his job is to make sure those other guys are matching his practice habits. DJ practices different and that's what I love about the kid. The guys see that and they do the same thing to try to push themselves, practice with the same intensity and play the same level he plays with.
Q: What did you know about Utah State football before accepting this job?
Orphey****: I wasn't far away, so I was pretty in-tune. I had a couple of buddies that coached previously that was on the staff. I was very familiar with how good they were defensively. I knew that they had a good quarterback, just from recruiting California, as well as a good offense. I talked with these guys probably every weekend after our games where we had a weekly recap. It all seemed to fall into place that if I got this job, if was the right situation.
Q: What has surprised you about USU football since you arrived on campus?
Orphey****: Football is important here. You don't get that everywhere. I was at the University of South Carolina and football was very important, it's no drop off here. I think that's huge from the players, coaches and community. That's an awesome thing to be at a place where they value you as a person, coach and as a football program.
Q: How did you get into coaching?
Orphey****: I didn't play my last year of football (at Texas Southern). I tore my knee up my very first play. I was always a guy that had to be around football and my coaches knew that. After my surgery, my coaches told me, "You're graduating, come try this thing out." I did it and I fell in love with it. It's funny because I never saw myself being a football coach. I said if I didn't play football, I would be a firefighter. I got into it and started to see how I was a mentor to these kids and how I had an effect. I'm big on adding value to my life and other people's lives. It just happened naturally and the rest has been history.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you are not coaching football?Comment on this story
Orphey****: I love to be at home. I'm a home-body when I'm not in the office. I love to get out and if I'm out of town, get out and explore and experience different things. I always talk about adding value to my life. I like interacting with people and I love to fish. If I can do that every day, I would do that. I would say I play golf, but I'm not very good at it. I'm usually out there just killing time. I don't do too much and I try to hang back, talk to my family as much as I can and try to stay out the way.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents?
Orphey: I'm a pretty good fisherman. I've always said once I got done coaching that I'm going to start a fishing charter. That's something I've had since I was 5 years old. From my dad, to my grandfather, my great-grandfather, that's all we do. It's something I really do enjoy. I love doing outdoor things, like when I'm not in town or if I'm back home and I'm around some water. I love doing outdoor water sports activities.