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Student and Graduate Assistants Play A Key Role in the Success of UMHB Football

It has been said by coaches that experience is everything. Having guys who know the tradition, who have been there before, is vital to a program’s success.

On this year’s football team, head coach Pete Fredenburg and his staff, have, as usual, assembled a squad with the depth and talent necessary to claim another NCAA title in the fall of 2021. That extends to the coaching staff.

Take one look at the staff, and you’ll see that several names listed as coaches, student assistants or graduate assistants, were in uniform for the Cru just one, two, or even three years ago. This season, the staff includes 10 graduate assistants, and two student assistants.

One of those such grad assistants is Jase Hammack, an Abilene Christian transfer who started at quarterback for UMHB last season. For this year, running through the spring season, Hammack will be working with the wide receivers. Following Saturday’s scrimmage, in which multiple receivers made spectacular plays, Hammack spoke of the knowledge he has gained, and a broader view of the game, now that he has been able to take a step back.

“I definitely see a lot more now,” said Hammack. “I’m starting to learn more of the entire game. I have a great coaching staff to learn from and now I see the game in a completely different way. I see both sides of the ball, what the defense wants to do and all that. It’s been really fun, and very cool.”

The Cru certainly have a phenomenal coaching staff that is raising up the next generation of coaches, grad assistants such as Hammack, and even student assistants like Kris Johnson, who was at UMHB from 2016-2018. In a Q&A with True To The Cru last week, Johnson said, “You come to UMHB to learn how to be a coach”.

The system Fredenburg has put together allows for the family-first atmosphere that UMHB promotes. There is perhaps nobody better for these future coaches to learn from than Fredenburg, and the rest of his coaching staff, which includes Larry Harmon at defensive coordinator, Stephen Lee at offensive coordinator, Jack Johnson leading the special teams units, Steven Thrash with the receivers and JV team, Demo Odems coaching the running backs, Mark Carey with the defensive line, and Bill Bleil with the offensive line. Each of those men take just as much time to describe a specific play to a player as to describe why that particular play was called to an graduate/student assistant. It is a system that has proven itself again and again throughout the years, and has contributed to keeping Texas football at such a high level. Whether it be in the high school, college or professional ranks, UMHB has turned out more than a few great coaches, the majority of whom began as grad assistants on Fredenburg’s staff. In fact, coaches at major Texas high school programs; Southlake Carroll, China Springs, San Antonio Brandeis, DeSoto, and Westlake, all spent time as assistants at UMHB.

For Fredenburg, who built this winning program from the ground up starting in 1997, it is a special feeling to see his former players returning as graduate assistants, and new faces who played for other programs coming in as coaches, wanting to learn from the best.

“Nothing makes me any more proud than to see the success that these guys have [had],” said Fredenburg when talking about his team of graduate and student assistants. “Obviously that’s what we want to do, provide a great opportunity for young guys to learn. It’s been very beneficial for all of us. Sometimes they get a little frustrated because we put some expectations on them, but I think that’s the way you grow as a football coach.”

It certainly is. Each of these 12 student/graduate assistants have dreams of one day coaching a team of their own, and it seems that there is no better place to begin that journey than at UMHB.

Riley Zayas
Riley Zayas founded True To The Cru in November of 2020 with the goal to cover the stories behind the score and give UMHB fans a closer look at the Cru while promoting the student-athletes and coaches that wear the purple and gold every day. He is also a national contributor to and, in addition to serving as a D3 women's basketball Top 25 voter. His byline has also been seen in: Sports Illustrated Kids, Horns Illustrated, College Baseball Nation, and FCA Williamson County. Follow him on Twitter @ZayasRiley.

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