It took University of Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch all of five days to make the hire most of the Tiger football community wanted, expected, and all but insisted upon. On Friday afternoon at the Murphy Athletic Complex, Veatch introduced Ryan Silverfield as the new (and 25th) head football coach for the U of M. Silverfield succeeds Mike Norvell, who won 38 games in four seasons at the helm and departed last Sunday for Florida State, the day after leading the Tigers to a victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game at the Liberty Bowl. Silverfield served all four seasons on Norvell's staff, most recently as deputy head coach/run game coordinator/offensive line.
"I'm very proud of the process we went through," said Veatch. "We were very diligent. We met with all the players and I handed out notecards, asking them what they would look for in a head coach. They wanted someone that's real, a winner, a competitor, high energy, someone that truly loves and cares for players. They wanted a Memphian, someone who could continue to provide the discipline and accountability that have become a hallmark of this program. What I wanted was a great leader. Ryan won this job. We went through a process that was fairly grueling, and he won it outright."
Immediately prior to his arrival in Memphis, Silverfield spent the 2015 season as assistant offensive line coach for the Detroit Lions. His longest-tenured position to date came with the Minnesota Vikings (2008-13) where he spent his last three years as an assistant offensive line coach. Silverfield graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in economics.
"To stand in front of our players a few minutes ago and be named the head football coach at the University of Memphis is a dream come true," said Silverfield after taking a few moments to clear his throat. "This is my dream job. I'm honored, humbled, grateful, appreciative. I can't wait to get started. So excited. We're going to do it the right way. Every day is just as important as the last. We will make the city of Memphis proud. I'm excited about this journey, for many years to come."
The 39-year-old Silverfield will make his head-coaching debut on the lofty stage of the Cotton Bowl, to be played in Dallas on December 28th between the 15th-ranked Tigers and 13th-ranked Penn State. In other words, the first game he calls the shots for the Memphis program will be the biggest game in Tiger history.
Silverfield emphasized the positive environment he will require and promote as leader of the Tiger football program. "Everything matters," he emphasized, from academics to "the way we respect women." He saluted his predecessor, noting that he wouldn't be in Memphis — could not have fallen in love with the city as he has — had he not been hired by Norvell.
"If current and former players believe in me," said Silverfield, "then maybe I've been doing it the right way. This is the job I always wanted. If you love Memphis, the city loves you back. We wear 901 on our sleeves and on our hearts."