New NC State coach Dave Doeren still stays in touch with many of his former players at Wisconsin.
Former UW safety Aaron Henry was one of Doeren's first signees from Florida in the class of 2007. The Rivals.com three-star prospect from Immokalee (Fla.) High said he picked the Badgers over Florida mostly because of Doeren. Henry was part of a pipeline from the Sunshine State to chilly Madison during Doeren's five years at UW (2006-2010).
"He called me just last week and wished me a happy birthday," said Henry, who turned 24 on Nov. 28. "He's like a father figure to me. He's a great guy and I'm truly excited for him.
"We probably talk once a week. NC State is getting a quality guy. On top of being a standout guy both as a coach and off the field, he's a kind of a guy who is an extremely hard worker. He stays at the facilities for hours and hours to make sure the game plan is in place."
Henry said he's living proof on how outstanding a recruiter Doeren is.
"He opened up to me and made me feel he wasn't just recruiting me to just play football at his school for four years and then leave me hanging," said Henry, who hopes to earn a spot in the NFL this season or next. "He said he wanted to develop a relationship with me and do it for a lifetime.
"The way he went about doing it, he'd sit down and talk to me, but we played a little basketball, met my family and he just did the small things. He would call me within the guidelines of the NCAA rule book every chance he had and checked up with me."
Henry was a small town player and also had offers from Florida, South Carolina, Wake Forest, USF, Nebraska, Ole Miss and Iowa.
"The thing I loved most about him is he got the most out of his players," Henry said. "That is exactly what he did at Wisconsin, and that is why we were successful. It was only a matter of time before somebody picked him up and be a head coach some where. I'm so proud of him."
Henry knows one thing the NC State defensive players will be doing for sure next fall.
"They are going to be running to the football, I can tell you that much," Henry said. "He'd say 'swarm' I don't know the exact scheme that NIU ran this year, but it's obviously a 4-3 scheme. I think Coach Doeren has grown every year as a defensive coordinator. At Wisconsin, he'd do it based on the talent level.
"NC State needs to get ready for a stellar coach."
New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema hired Doeren in 2006 to coach linebackers at Wisconsin, and then eventually made him co-defensive coordinator and then eliminated the partnership for the latter position his last three years. Wisconsin went 49-16 during Doeren's stint, including going 11-2 and reaching the Rose Bowl in 2010. The Badgers were ranked in the top 25 in four of the five years, with two finishes at No. 7 in The Associated Press polls.
Henry was a first-team All-Big Ten performer by the coaches in 2011, and was second-team all-league in 2010, which was Doeren's last year.
"Doeren's success hasn't surprised me a bit," Henry said. "I think it's phenomenal for him to be at an ACC school. I think he has a lot more great things in store for him.
"One of the things that always stuck with me is that he'd say, 'Success is not owned, it's rented, and rent is due every day.' As you can see, he's living proof that is rent is due every day."
Doeren inherited a good group of linebackers his first year coaching the position at Wisconsin in 2006.
Future NFL players DeAndre Levy of Milwaukee, Wis., and Jonathan Casillas of New Brunswick, N.J., were on the outside, and Mark Zalewski of Wausau, Wis., was in the middle. Levy is currently with the Colts and Casillas is on the Saints.
Redshirt freshmen Jaevery McFadden of Riviera Beach, Fla., and Elijah Hodge of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., backed up the veterans.
McFadden ended up starting his last two years, and accumulated 181 tackles in 49
career games at Wisconsin. Hodge played in 35 games and had 101 tackles at Wisconsin before spending his final season at Northern Iowa.
Both McFadden and Hodge had glowing assessments of their former coach and look forward to watching how he does at NC State.
"I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Doeren," said Hodge, 26, who is an athletic director at Phoenix Charter Academy in Boston. "He's a great guy, great coach and great person."
McFadden had planned to play tight end at Wisconsin, but made the move to linebacker.
"Coach Doeren needed some help at linebacker and he went to Coach B [Bielema] and said, 'I think Jaevery can help us out on defense at linebacker.' At the time, I wasn't getting any snaps, and I had played both ways in high school and was first-team all-state as a athlete. Coach Doeren really gave me the opportunity to play on the field quicker."
McFadden started at both middle linebacker and outside linebacker under Doeren.
"He definitely loves what he does," McFadden said. "He is a master of always trying to be prepared for anything. He will go over the opposition, whether it's trick plays, basic plays and run and pass plays."
McFadden and former teammates Lance Kendricks and Daniel Moore are trying to launch a social Web site called www.deanslistu.com. McFadden credits Doeren's tireless work ethic for his rapid rise up the coaching ladder and looks forward to watching the Wolfpack play on television next fall.
"He never knows how to stop working," McFadden said. "He is always watching film and trying to find something else to do. I really don't know how he did it. NC State is going to have a great coach and he's a great motivator and a great recruiter. He's a player's coach."
Hodge loved Doeren's passion for football and that he only accepted the best, whether as an athlete or as a man.
"I have the utmost respect for Coach Doeren and he was very knowledgeable about the game," Hodge said. "He's big on attention to detail and breaking the game down to its simplest form."
McFadden wasn't surprised that Doeren eventually landed the Northern Illinois head coaching job, nor startled by him going 23-4.
"Winning back-to-back championships in the MAC is no slouch," McFadden said. "I definitely kind of saw it coming. You have to have good players to win, but a good coach can get the most out of his players. That is what Coach Doeren does. His players are ready and prepared for every game, and that is half the battle. He's going to be a good look for NC State."
Hodge simply said the Wolfpack defensive players will be playing with grit and will get used to Doeren's "get it done" mentality in a fun atmosphere.
"When he sets his mind to something, he's going to get it," Hodge said. "I've been following Northern Illinois the last two years. He does some of the same things [as in Madison], but not to a T. He has some things where he runs different packages on the defensive side. He'll adjust quickly to NC State and the ACC."
Doeren didn't get to recruit Hodge and McFadden, but both agree that his past success at getting Florida players to cold weather locations showcases how good of a recruiter he is. Doeren's straight-forward approach works well with high school recruits.
"He likes his South Florida boys, and he goes back to my high school [Dwyer High] every year," said McFadden, who played against former NC State defensive end Willie Young in high school. "I'll go back and workout at the high school, and I'll see Coach Doeren, both with Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. I'm sure I'll see him wearing NC State apparel this year. He's an incredible recruiter."
Hodge considered NC State for a little bit out of high school. He expects Doeren to easily sell the Wolfpack to recruits.
"A lot of his success at Wisconsin and at Northern Illinois has been because he has recruited from the South," Hodge said. "There is a great pool of talent in the South. I'm pretty sure he has the relationships and network that he needs. Selling it won't be a problem I think."