Just hours after the University of Puget Sound football team had finished its 38-7 drubbing of Lewis & Clark, new defensive coordinator Jeff Ramsey’s cellphone was already blowing up.
He was expecting it. Right on time, his 16-year-old son, CJ, was calling from Ohio the day after.
Except along with hearty congratulations came a full scouting report of the Loggers’ next opponent — Pacific University.
Given the password to the team’s game film-uploading account on hudl.com, the teenager had spent much of Sunday morning breaking down the Boxers’ offense and highlighting its spectacular plays.
“(CJ) wants to be a coach,” said Ramsey with a smirk, his eyes lighting up. “One of my former players is the head coach at Oberlin High School (Ohio), so he is coaching there. He works with everybody.”
In this case, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. It wasn’t all that long ago when Ramsey, then 9, used to tag along with his father, Chalk, to scout some of the top junior college football programs in Southern California. Carmel “Chalk” Ramsey was the coach (1966-69) and longtime athletic director (1972-1984) at Compton College.
“I was the youngest of four (children), so I would go with my dad to his practices, and jump on the bags,” Ramsey said.
“He needed help scouting. He taught me how to call coverages. And the next year, he taught me about fronts and offensive formations — then plays.”
Sure, part of Ramsey’s responsibilities at the time was fetching his father a cup of coffee with two sugar cubes at halftime. But when the action started back up, Ramsey would call out the plays he was seeing, and his father wrote them down as part of his scouting report.
After the game, the two of them would jump back in his father’s Volkswagen coupe and discuss what they saw on the drive home.
A few years later, Ramsey told his parents that his career ambition was to be a football coach.
His father gave him one piece of pertinent advice: Always listen to your assistant coaches, because they will teach you what to do and what not to do.
Ramsey was a wide receiver at Fullerton (California) Junior College and UC Davis, where he held his first coaching position as head coach and offensive coordinator of the freshman team.
He left to take a graduate position at the University of Illinois, then began his slow ascent within the ranks, spending five seasons as the wide receivers coach at Nevada-Reno under former coach Chris Ault, and two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Sonoma State.
In 1999, Ramsey was hired as the new coach to rebuild a failing program at Oberlin College in Ohio — once the home of the famous John Heisman that had endured one of the longest stretches of losing in college football in the 1990s.
When Ramsey took over the NCAA Division III program, it had won just three games in in nine seasons — and was on a 19-game skid. Only 14 players remained on the roster.
“The hole was there — things had already exploded,” Ramsey said. “My first two years, it was doing nothing but building a foundation.”
Eventually the Yeomen would lose another 25 consecutive games before Ramsey led the team to a 53-22 victory over Kenyon College in 2001.
Ramsey never posted a winning record in his 15 seasons, but Oberlin finished 5-5 in 2003, 2006 and 2007. His teams set numerous offensive school records, and placed as high as third in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
But, to the shock of many around the university, especially his players, Ramsey was dismissed a month after the end of last season. His 42 wins are the second-most in school history.
Almost immediately, he became an attractive candidate for other positions around the country. After seeing that UPS posted an opening for a defensive coordinator, he emailed coach Jeff Thomas — whom he had met at the New England Elite Football Clinic years prior — to inquire about it.
“We had a priority from the get-go to find somebody with a lot of experience,” Thomas said. “As a staff, we are energetic. But we don’t have a lot of tremendous been-there-before experience.”
Part of the reason Ramsey accepted the UPS offer was his desire to return to the West Coast. Another part was that he saw much of himself in Thomas, who in the midst of his own reclamation project with the Loggers.
“There are days, like on Fridays, when I get antsy and want to do something with the team,” Ramsey said. “But (Thomas) is the head coach, and he has to handle all of that stuff. I mean, it is nice — he has made it very comfortable for me.”
Thomas knows he might only have Ramsey, 54, around for only a few seasons. But he already sees the impact — and improvement of the Loggers’ defense.
“He has made our players confident in our scheme,” Thomas said. “We are attacking various gaps correctly. And we are not missing tackles. In the past, we would lunge for tackles, but Ramsey has a saying, ‘Put your feet where your hands are.’ We are following through with our fundamentals.”