Not long after Jason Swepson left his job as NC State running backs coach to take the head coaching job at Elon, Everette Sands sent a text message to his good friend Jim Bridge.
The two had coached together in 1999 at The Citadel, and in the 12 years since had maintained contact. Bridge had moved up to become an assistant coach at NC State. Sands, in his second stint as the running backs coach at The Citadel, his alma mater, was inquiring about Swepson's old job.
Bridge was what Sands called, "my key to get in the door." Sands interviewed formally for the job Feb. 3, a day after signing day. The following Sunday, Sands was preparing to head out to a Super Bowl party when NC State head coach Tom O'Brien called and offered Sands the chance to replace Swepson.
"I was real excited to get that call," Sands admitted. "The rest is history."
Sands, who ranks second all-time at The Citadel with 3,926 career yards and was never once tackled behind the line of scrimmage, could not wait to jump at the opportunity to move up.
"One is it's the ACC," Sands said. "I know North Carolina State has done a good job over the last couple of years. Coach O'Brien has done a wonderful job and positioning themselves to win an ACC championship. It's been one of my goals to win a BCS conference championship and have that opportunity to go on to that BCS title."
Sands was announced as the new running backs coach for NC State Tuesday afternoon. Earlier that morning he met with his running backs for the first time. He knows that building a relationship is going to be one of his first big challenges.
"Getting them to trust me, getting them to believe in my methods and just finding a way to get it done," Sands noted.
Throughout his career that started in 1996 at Elon before moving on his first of two stints at The Citadel in 1999, and also included a stop at Ohio from 2001-04 before returning to The Citadel, Sands has recruited the state of South Carolina. Because of that he has some familiarity with rising sophomore running back Mustafa Greene, a native of Irmo, S.C., who led NC State in rushing with 597 yards and ran for four touchdowns in 2010.
"I'm still learning and trying to figure that out, but I know we have a very young group of running backs," he said. "The only senior is [fullback] Taylor Gentry. Everybody else is pretty much a freshman or sophomore. So it's a very young group, so I have to get in, watch some more film on them and figure out what to get them to work on."
The young running backs will quickly learn that Sands values ball security.
"That is a big deal for me," Sands said. "I know they've done a good job of that over the years, and that is going to continue to be very important. Another big thing is making sure they are a complete back.
"We know they can run the ball, that's why we recruited them, but also to be able to block for pass protection and then we can expect them to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield as well."
Sands will try develop a working relationship with a coaching staff that has been together for a long time. O'Brien has hired only 22 assistant coaches in 14 years as a head coach, and Sands believes he will be a good fit for an O'Brien-led staff.
"Part of it is jumping in with both feet and getting it going," Sands stated. "During the interview process I got an opportunity to make some connections with those guys, who they coached with or who they played for, etc. Of course I know Coach Bridge. We got that opportunity to coach together back at The Citadel back in '99 my first stint there.
"Coach O'Brien is a marine. He's very structured. That's one thing coming from The Citadel that I am used to. Something that I am also looking forward to working with him because he is a very structured and very successful as well, so I am very anxious to get this opportunity to work with him."
Sands, who will recruit the Durham-area in North Carolina along with chunks of South Carolina and Georgia and the Jacksonville-area in Florida, has a work ethic that O'Brien will probably appreciate. Sands has known since he was a senior at The Citadel that he wanted to be a coach because of the impact they have on young men's lives.
"Regardless of where he is, a lot of kids that male impact is going to be their coach," Sands, who called former Citadel coach and current Central Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Taaft his mentor, noted. "That's something that's a reason why I want to have a relationship with those guys. I still am getting calls and congratulations from guys that I coached 10 years ago. That's the kind of relationships I want to build. When you have that then you can have more of an impact."
Sands is in the process of not only switching jobs but moving homes. He joked that getting to know his way around Raleigh means "getting lost."
NC State fans will also be pleased to hear that he already knew well before arriving how important beating North Carolina is to the Wolfpack, thus he will not be bringing many if any of his light-blue Citadel clothes with him.
"My last day in Charleston I wore a Citadel blue shirt, and I was like, 'I got to wear this now because I can't wear this when I go up to North Carolina,'" he joked.