Jason Michael is known as a driven individual, but one anecdote in particular about the former Lawrence County quarterback, shared by former Bulldogs coach Billy Goldsmith, stands out.
“His daddy told me his goal was to be an offensive coordinator in the National Football League at age 35,” Goldsmith said.
Michael is exactly that. The former Bulldog was named the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator under new coach Ken Whisenhunt last week.
“This kid’s a goal-oriented, special, special kid,” Goldsmith said.
Michael, 35, called his new position “the job I dreamed about” in a release on the Titans’ website.
“This is a great situation,” Michael said. “The opportunity to work with Whiz and follow him there to Tennessee is exciting both professionally and personally. In the one year working with Whiz, I learned a great deal and we worked really well together. His ability to create an offense that is built around the strengths of the players led to success for us in San Diego and it will be fun to come there and create an offense that is built around a new group of players.”
Goldsmith, now an assistant coach at Boyle County, coached Michael in eighth grade. He tells another story about Michael’s collegiate career at Western Kentucky that, he said, further illustrates what Michael is about.
“They had 120 kids or so on Western Kentucky’s football team,” Goldsmith said. “They’re doing wall sits, you know when you squat on the wall and see how long you can sit there and it burns? Everybody drops when they can’t take any more, and it comes down to (Michael) and one other kid, and he looks at that boy and says, ‘I don’t know how long you’re prepared to be here, but I’m gonna be here all day.’
“That tells you right there all you need to know about Jason Michael.”
Michael graced the cover of The Independent’s football preseason preview tab in 1997. He earned the starting signal-caller’s job at Lawrence County as a sophomore in 1995 and led the Bulldogs to a 31-6 record over three seasons in coach Chuke Williams’ belly option.
The Bulldogs started his senior year 13-0 and knocked off heavyweight Breathitt County in the 1997 Class AA playoffs, 36-28, regarded as the greatest win in school history. Lawrence County was upset by eventual state champion Bourbon County in the state semifinals.
Eddie Michael, Jason’s father and a former Bulldogs coach and Lawrence County school superintendent, noted his son is one of several Bulldogs from that era who have entered the coaching profession.
Gerad Parker, Michael’s teammate at Lawrence County, is Purdue’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Phil Ratliff, who played at Marshall, is UNC Charlotte’s offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, and Dontae Wright is Morehead State’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
“He played with some great kids around here and we had a top-notch program at the time that had a lot of emphasis on football, and it worked out great for him,” Eddie Michael said.
After departing Louisa, Michael went to first Army and then Western Kentucky, quarterbacking the Hilltoppers to the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA national championship. He was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2003.
An attempt to obtain further comment from Michael through the Titans’ media relations office was unsuccessful before press time.
Michael has 11 years of coaching experience, including eight seasons in the NFL. He joins the Titans after spending the last three seasons as the tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers.
“Jason really impresses me with his knowledge of the run and pass game and he was a big part of putting together our plans last year in San Diego,” Whisenhunt said in a release. “He is very familiar with the offensive system that we want to implement here, which includes bits and pieces from a number of offensive systems. He is intelligent and a good communicator. He was responsible for presenting a couple of game-plan packages to our offense each week and he was impressive.”
While working with the tight ends in San Diego, Michael helped Antonio Gates to the fourth-most receptions (190) among NFL tight ends over that time period. He also totaled 2,188 yards and 18 touchdowns. Gates led the Chargers in receptions (77) in 2013, while second-year tight end Ladarius Green posted 22.1-yards per catch. In two of his three seasons in San Diego, the Chargers offense ranked in the top 10 — fifth last season and sixth in 2011.
Eddie Michael said Jason was preparing to enter the engineering field after graduating from Western Kentucky, but that he got an opportunity to serve as a graduate assistant for the University of Tennessee under coach Phillip Fulmer in 2003, and “that’s the whole thing that turned him.”
He entered the NFL ranks in 2005 as a quality control coach for the Oakland Raiders and then became an offensive quality control coach for the New York Jets in 2006. In 2007, he was promoted to tight ends coach for the New York Jets.
Michael returned to the University of Tennessee to coach tight ends in 2008, Fulmer’s final season, and he spent 2009-2010 back in the NFL as a San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach.
Michael graduated from Western Kentucky with a degree in civil engineering technology and was named a I-AA Athletic Directors Academic All-Star and a second-team Verizon Academic All-District IV honoree.
Michael is married to Jamie and they have a newborn son, Wyatt.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.