After getting fired as Eastern Michigan’s head coach for using inappropriate language in a team meeting, Ron English felt he needed to chill out, step back and take a little time off.
So, for two years (2014-15), that’s what he did. The veteran coach left the grind behind and assumed the role of an every-day husband and father.
He drove his kids to school and attended their basketball games. He played some golf and smoked and grilled a lot of meat. He got more involved in his church. He studied nutrition and learned how bad processed food is for you.
It was a nice, and needed, break.
“I was one of those guys that football was all day every day,” said Florida’s new safeties coach. “I’m at home, but I’m not at home. I’m thinking about something or I’m on the phone recruiting or whatever and it’s kind of disrespectful to your family.
“I was one of those guys. I want to be more balanced and I learned to be more balanced. You can still be intense about what you do, but demonstrate an ability to be varied, if you will, and do multiple things.
“The time that I had was not wasted. At all. It was a wonderful time as I look back on it. I’ve been blessed.”
During his time away from the game, there was no doubt that he would come back to it. He’s a football coach; that’s what he does.
And so he returned in 2016 as the defensive coordinator at San Jose State.
A year later, the former defensive coordinator at Michigan got back into big-time college football when Dan Mullen hired him to coach the safeties at Mississippi State.
English said his time off only reaffirmed his passion for coaching.
“I still love it,” he said. “I love everything about it. I love teaching in the classroom, I love coaching on the field, running around, recruiting, I like that too. So I still love coaching and nobody had to convince me to get back into it.”
It didn’t take a lot of convincing from Mullen to get English to make the jump from San Jose State to Mississippi State a year ago — or to follow him to Florida a year later.
While he was away from the game, English was watching what Mullen was doing at MSU.
“It’s unbelievable the job he did there,” English said. “Back when he went there people forget that nobody wanted that job. It was a very difficult job, one of those graveyards for coaches.
“That is a legitimate program. Those are players that expect to win, they play hard, they work hard. And I really enjoyed it. I was really impressed when I went there last year, so I enjoy working with Coach Mullen. I think he’s excellent at what he does. I think he’ll win here and win big.”
English is eager to play a role in it.
He said it’s almost like his career has gotten a restart since the two-year layoff. He’s gone from defensive coordinator to head coach, back to being a position coach again.
He says he’s a better coach now because of what he learned while he was away from the game.
“I just learned balance. Balance,” he said. “If I can be balanced I’ll be a better coach, better person, better father, better husband. I just learned to be balanced.
“Coming from where I’ve been and doing some of the things I’ve done, it humbles you (being a position coach again). But it’s a good thing. It’s a blessing to be able to display humility.”
English was involved in a big defensive turnaround in his one year at Mississippi State. Led by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the Bulldogs went from 110th in the nation in total defense in 2016 to 10th last season.
“Todd and I really have similar philosophies in terms of aggressiveness, what we want to do,” English said. “I’ve learned a lot from Todd. I’ve been around some very good coaches and he is excellent and will do a wonderful job here. I feel very blessed and fortunate to be here.”
Who knows, if the UF defense has a bounce back similar to MSU’s, maybe it will lead to a rise in English’s coaching career that could see him become a defensive coordinator or head coach again.
It’s a thought. But English said he’s not thinking about it.
“What I’m interested in right now is winning a national championship,” he said. “I think Florida can win a national championship. They’ve done it multiple times before.
“I coached against them in between two national championships, so I know it can be done here. I’m excited about the opportunity to help Florida get back where they should be.”