When Mike MacIntyre hired Kurt Roper to be the team’s quarterback coach it was a reunion of sorts, having spent two different stints on the same coaching staff. They first coached together at Ole Miss when MacIntyre was the defensive backs coach with Roper coaching the quarterbacks. They crossed paths again at Duke when both got promoted; MacIntyre called the plays on defense and Roper on offense.
Needless to say, MacIntyre felt comfortable bringing in a familiar face to a staff that was looking for a seasoned veteran to coach the most important position on the field. But part of the reason MacIntyre felt so comfortable with Roper was because of the head coach they served under in both stints - David Cutcliffe.
Cutcliffe served as the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Tennessee and helped recruit his younger brother Eli to Oxford. Over the course of his career, he has coached six quarterbacks who have gone on to play in the NFL, and two guys who played in the MLB - including Rockies legend Todd Helton.
At football media day, MacIntyre described the funny and ironic story of how Cutcliffe discovered him as a small school coach when they were competing for recruits many years ago.
“When I was a young coach coaching at UT Martin, he was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, and he recruited west Tennessee and middle Tennessee and I recruited west Tennessee and middle Tennessee for UT Martin, and I would run into him out there recruiting all the time,” MacIntyre said.
After being impressed with the young MacIntyre’s recruiting abilities, Cutcliffe took a chance and hired him to be the wide receiver’s coach at Ole Miss despite his limited coaching experience (he hadn’t coached a position on the offensive side of the ball, or at the power five level up to that point).
A surprised MacIntyre then asked him why he would hire a guy he never worked with on a coaching staff that featured many guys he had experience with. But the longtime Duke head coach’s rational for taking the leap of faith was simple.
“I saw how you recruit, I’m going to hire you, and then I’ll figure out if you can coach,” Cutcliffe said to MacIntyre upon hiring him.
Even after MacIntyre left his second go around with Cutcliffe at Duke for his first head coaching opportunity at San Jose State, they stayed in touch. The two didn't just talk about football related stuff, either. They stood by each other’s side through tough times in one another’s lives.
All these years later after both have enjoyed successful coaching careers - both of which included time at the helm of power five programs - MacIntyre see’s Cutcliffe as one of his biggest influences not just in coaching, but in life.
“He is my biggest mentor, when my father was going through all the illnesses and stuff he was there for me, and he would always contact me, and it meant a tremendous amount to me. He’s truly kind of like a father figure to me for sure.”