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Experience helps Wilks land Irish job

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Sometimes knowing the right person helps in getting a job. Just ask new Notre Dame coach Steven Wilks.The Notre Dame secondary coach replaces Trent Walters, who accepted a job to coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wilks met Walters at a coaching convention last year and kept close contact with the former Notre Dame secondary coach. When Walters left for the NFL, he told Wilks to apply for the open position and recommended him to Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham.”Based on past experience, he’s a bright coach,” Willingham said. “He has the ability to articulate what we need to do on defense to our young men. He has experience which really belies his youth so we think it’s a good combination.”Now that he’s been hired, Wilks is excited to be a part of Notre Dame’s tradition-rich program.”This is, without a doubt in my mind, the best place in the world for college football,” Wilkes said. “The tradition here, the history, the fan base the excitement and enthusiasm is what college football is all about. Just having the opportunity to be a part of the Notre Dame family is great.”Wilks brings an array of experience to Notre Dame. He was the head coach at Savannah State University in 1999 and is a former defensive coordinator at Savannah State, East Middle Tennessee State and Johnson C. Smith University. He coached defensive backs at Bowling Green University last season and had a player lead the MACC in interceptions and another in forced fumbles.Willingham said the fact that Wilks’ had been a head coach and a defensive coordinator is one of best attributes.”There is no substitute for experience,” Willingham said. “There is no substitute for having a total perspective of the total game and not just an individual segment.”Wilks said one of his goals for his players is to mold them into not just good football players, but good people.”[I] know what it takes to get young men to the next level and not just on the football field. I am trying to develop them as young men,” Wilks said. “That’s what’s important to me – developing the overall person.”Wilks’ job will be trying to find ways to improve a secondary that loses former starters Vontez Duff and Gerome Sapp. The Irish do return experienced players in Dwight Ellick, Preston Jackson and Quentin Burrell for the 2004 season.