By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (July 11, 2014) – Even when Bob Fraser was 1,100 miles away in Tampa coaching in the NFL the past two years, Rutgers was never far from him.
He said he helped “coach” the Scarlet Knights via TV then, experiencing the same post-game emotions after a victory or defeat as if he was still on the Scarlet Knights’ staff.
Now he is. Again.
Fraser is back for a third stint in Piscataway after being a graduate assistant at Rutgers in 1987-88 and then serving on Greg Schiano’s staff from 2006-11. He was the Scarlet Knights’ co-defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010 and defensive coordinator in 2011 before leaving to spend the past two seasons as an assistant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, again under Schiano.
He returns to Rutgers this time as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach – and with a reputation as one of the game’s best technicians during a 29-year coaching career.
Scarletknights.com sat down with Fraser in his office recently for this interview:
Q. What did you learn from your two years in the NFL after having only been a college coach before that?
BF: “I tell people all the time: When I came from Colgate to Rutgers, because I came from 1-AA to 1-A, did I automatically become smarter? No. I was the same coach going from there to there. When I went from here to the NFL was there any change in me? No. What changes when you go from college to pro is you’re not working with young people. You’re working with grown men. And the difference is that everyone in the NFL is their own business. They’re their own brand. And how they choose to do it is going to affect them for their rest of their lives.
“Think about it. I was not going to coach Ronde Barber. I was going to learn from Ronde Barber. But Ronde Barber needed to know what we do and fit it into what he knows. So that’s the interesting part.”
Q. Has it been a smooth transition back to college?
BF: “I actually really like it. The thing I’ve learned is how I know I can help our guys. We’ve always had guys who have had goals. All of our guys have goals to go to the NFL. Now I can help them even more because I know what that league is looking for and I know what they’re doing there. So that really is the greatest benefit that I have from there back to here.
“Now, I think we do as good a job as anybody preparing our guys for the NFL, just from the offensive schemes that we run, the defensive schemes that we run. So when a kid comes from our system he’s going to do the things every day that are going to prepare him to go to the NFL and be successful. We’re teaching the skills every day that they’re going to need.”
Q. This is your third go-around as a coach at Rutgers after serving as a graduate assistant with the school in 1987-88 and then returning from 2006-2011 as an assistant before going to the NFL. Is it strange being back again?
BF: “It’s not like I was fired. I went to the NFL. But having worked with Kyle Flood before, he knows me. And I’ll tell you this: For the two years I was at Tampa I lived and died with Rutgers. I `played’ every game watching. My wife would constantly say `would you quit yelling at the TV (during Rutgers games)?’ My kids were yelling at the TV. I lived and died those (Rutgers) games. So I was never that far away from here.
“But it was easy for me to come back here. I only have a couple of friends. I consider Kyle a friend. So it’s great to come back and help this program to go where we think it can go. I’m excited about our kids this year and the resolve they have, the work ethic they have and the leadership they’re showing. It’s a neat group. It’s like some of the groups I was around before I left. They have a want-to, they have a desire, they have the work ethic, they have the leadership. Now, I can’t tell you that means we’re going to win every game. But I can tell you this: If they didn’t have that I know where we’d go.”
Q. How did you develop your reputation as a tactician and teacher?
BF: “I don’t know what I see myself as when it comes to coaching. Do I see myself in the top five percent of my profession? Yeah, I do. When I started out I was around good coaches and the philosophies they had. When I came here as a graduate assistant I was around a wonderful staff with Dick Anderson. So I learned a tremendous amount of football from them. When I left here I went and worked for Ken O’Keefe, who is (now) the wide receiver coach for the Miami Dolphins. (Current Dolphins head coach) Joe Philbin was the offensive coordinator at the school I was at (Northeastern). So I worked around great people. I go to Holy Cross and work around great people like Ed Pinkham, who coached here. I think Ed is as good a coach as there is out there. So I was able to learn from those people. One of the things that I would always drive people crazy about – and I probably still do – is I always want to know why. Not just that we do something but why we do it.”
Q. Are you comfortable with your responsibilities now as the special teams coordinator in addition to being the linebackers coach?
BF: “Joe (Rossi) is an excellent defensive coordinator. But when I was the defensive coordinator here and even when Greg Schiano was the defensive coordinator we did it all, we all had a hand in helping out. We have an excellent defensive staff here and I think every one of those guys will help with the defensive game plan. Joe will call the game and I think that’s excellent.
“As far as special teams I’ve always been a part of the special teams. I was a special teams coordinator all through my young career. And even here, when I came here, I had a lot to do with special teams. Even if I was defensive coordinator I still had a lot to do with special teams. So I think it’s going to be fun.”
Q. Since you came back to Rutgers in 2006 what has been the biggest change in the football program?
BF: “It’s the rise to prominence nationally. You can’t discount that. But take a look back two years ago. We had seven players drafted. The ability to go out and recruit the type of athletes and people that we’ve had here, getting the right players for Rutgers University, that has been the biggest change. And Kyle does as good a job as anybody developing those guys.”