Gold Rush: Back to His Roots
Sept. 21, 2012
This article was originally published in the August 2012 issue of Gold Rush.
By Sam Walker, Gold Rush
When it comes to football, Jonathan Himebauch, Wake Forest's new offensive line coach, says he was a spoiled kid growing up. Although his professional resume lists West Coast and Midwest connections, Himebauch actually was raised in the ACC. His father, Jack Himebauch, was a longtime assistant under Dick Crum, so Himebauch watched through the eyes of a coach's kid from the sidelines of practices and knew what the game was all about.
"I actually grew up in North Carolina, so it's nice for me to be able to get back," Himebauch said. "I was here for 11 years when my father was on staff at that `other' school in Chapel Hill, so I grew up around ACC football and have familiarity with the conference. I watched some great teams when my dad was on staff with Dick Crum years ago at Carolina, so it's special for me, my family, my brothers. We all have friends here so it was an easy move."
Following Crum's departure from UNC, Jack Himebauch went to work at Southern Cal for John Robinson, who was beginning his second stint at USC. Despite some initial reservations, Jonathan ended up becoming a Trojan and started 22 games at center, winning a Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl over the course of his collegiate career.
But it wasn't until his playing days were over that he realized just how lucky he was to be so close to the game he loved, to have the benefit of learning from legendary coaches and playing at USC, one of the most successful programs in NCAA history. Himebauch, in his first year at Wake Forest, hopes to convey how precious every moment his players have to get better are and what it takes to win through practice, hard work and mental preparation.
"You really don't think about it until it's over, and for me I was spoiled growing up as a coach's kid and getting to watch when I first started out," Himebauch said. "I really did not want to go to USC when I first started the recruiting process because my dad was working there, I had a brother going to school there, and once I looked around at some other schools and took some recruiting visits I knew that USC was home for me.
"Playing in the (Los Angeles) Coliseum and playing in the Rose Bowl was something I expected. So I was pretty spoiled. That's a great experience and a tremendous opportunity to play there. I played for John Robinson, won a PAC-10 Championship and a Rose Bowl and had some really good years there, and I played for a legendary coach. In fact, he gave me my start in coaching at UNLV (as a graduate assistant)."
Once his collegiate career ended, Himebauch played in the NFL, NFL Europe, CFL and XFL.
"When my playing days were done and nobody was looking for me to play the game anymore I got into coaching, and so I've coached high school ball to college at San Diego State all the way up to professional ball in the Canadian League, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to get back out here at Wake," he said. "It's a great situation. Lobo (offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke) felt like he needed another California guy on staff with him since he has some California roots."
What Himebauch brings to the staff are high expectations, intensity and the experience of winning championships at every level. The line is fine between simply winning and losing, but to win championships takes a certain chemistry on many levels and Himebauch has experienced that first hand as a player, assistant and head coach.
"I think probably the greatest memory and experiences I've had was winning two championships in the Canadian (Football) League, winning two Grey Cups, but being a high school coach and having my father on staff with me was really a unique experience," he said. "Harvard-Westlake High School is a small private school in California. That was just such a neat experience. A close friend was the athletic director there, and I was looking for a cheap tight end coach and found one in my back yard, and that was my dad."
Himebauch said coaching experiences such as playing Tennessee when he was at UNLV, and playing Notre Dame when he was an assistant coach at San Diego State have given him the game day taste of what he truly enjoys about the collegiate coaching experience. He enjoys the anticipation of game day.
When he was coaching in the Canadian Football League those personal attributes of the game were what he was missing, so the chance to come back to college football, recruit and get back to the personal side of the game was a real opportunity, not to mention a chance to come back to North Carolina.
"My earliest memories are from the Carolinas and being around ACC football," Himebauch said. "It was very much a homecoming for me a great place to raise my family (wife Jessica and sons Walker and Tyler). Southern California is where our families are right now, but we're excited about making this home right now."
BECOMING A DEMON DEACON
Several years ago Himebauch developed a professional relationship with Lobotzke while coaching in Montreal for the Alouettes of the CFL. Offseason meetings were held in Raleigh, and Himebauch came with the Alouettes' coaching staff to Winston-Salem to watch a few days of Wake Forest's spring practices. Lobo and Himebauch stayed in touch over the years, and when Wake Forest was looking for somebody to take over as offensive line coach, Himebauch's name came to the forefront.
"I'm excited to be part of this staff with Coach Grobe," he said. "When I got the job here, my inbox filled up with well wishes and people just congratulating me on joining one of the best programs in the country and working for the best in the business. Coach Grobe's reputation is far-reaching, and a lot of people feel strongly about the success he has had, and it reaffirms the move for us."
Himebauch will be charged with building a line for 2012 that will have just one returning starter in Garrick Williams at center. So right now, no position other than his has been set, and players will come in fighting for starting positions. The line will be young and inexperienced, but Himebauch thinks that may be the perfect time for a coaching change. The line has been criticized in recent years for its in ability to produce a consistent run game, but Himebauch is not trying to force his line to be something it isn't.
"They've been throwing the ball a lot and setting a lot of records around here, and in the past they ran the ball and set records, so I think the thing I'm excited about working here is that we're going to do whatever it takes to win football games and give our kids chances to be successful," Himebauch said. "If that means running it 40-plus times or slinging it 25-plus times, we're going to do it. But the thing I want to mold in this group is that they play hard, they play physical, they get after the other team whether that's running the ball or passing it. We want to be a team that comes off the ball and the other team knows they have their hands full.
"My expectations for them? They're all young and a lot of them haven't played since high school, so we're going to find out real quick when we get into camp which guys are ready to play because there are a whole of opportunities out there. It might be five guys we go with the whole time, or it may be six, seven guys we rotate in there until we find the right group."
As the lone veteran, Williams is looking forward to playing for his new coach. "Coach Himebauch definitely brings intensity," Williams said. " I like him, and he's bringing in a fresh perspective for the O-line. He's been a great teacher. (With his playing and coaching experience) he brings a lot to the table because he knows what he is talking about. With him, he always breaks it down to tempo, taking to the other guy. The transition with Lobo is Lobo is more thought out and Coach Himebauch is more intense, but they're both great coaches."
Himebauch said that this is a good time for him to come to Wake "It's a blank slate with a lot of these guys with a new coach coming in," he said. "It's nice to have a fresh voice and new ideas, but what is nice is that Lobo and I see eye to eye on so many facets of our offense, which is great. It's helped with the transition."