Pitt faces 'most interesting' challenge with N.C. State defense
N.C. State defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has been a football coach at 12 schools, including Pitt, since 1982.
But he recently gained a bit of notoriety that goes beyond football.
Huxtable, 60, bears a slight resemblance to actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who appeared in the "the most interesting man in the world" commercials for Dos Equis beer.
Actually, it's probably a stretch. Huxtable is 18 years younger than Goldsmith, wears sleeveless, cutoff sweatshirts and drives a Jeep with the top down. But you know how things can get out of hand on a college campus.
N.C. State assistant athletic director Annabelle Myers said someone took a stand-up poster of Goldsmith from a grocery store and put it in Huxtable's office. Suddenly, a promotional campaign was born.
A poster was produced in which Huxtable is sitting on a red velvet couch next to his signature, with the words,
"THE MOST INTERESTING DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR IN THE WORLD. I DON'T ALWAYS BLITZ BUT WHEN I DO I BRING THE HOUSE."
Something else for Pitt to worry about when it faces No. 20 N.C. State on Saturday at Heinz Field.
To tell the truth, Huxtable's defense is known for more than a pass rush, which is triggered by defensive end Bradley Chubb, second in the nation in tackles for loss (14) and third in total sacks (6.5) after recording 22 and 10.5 last season.
The run defense is among the best in the U.S., too, ranking eighth while allowing only 90.7 yards per game and helping N.C. State (5-1) to its current five-game winning streak.
Huxtable is looking forward to his return trip to Pittsburgh where he was Pitt's defensive coordinator in 2012. He'll be able to catch up with his daughter, Shea, and son-in-law, Dr. Philip Prins, a professor at Grove City College who received his doctorate in exercise physiology from Pitt. And, of course, the grandkids.
Some people may not remember that Huxtable led the No. 16 overall defense in the U.S. in 2012 when he was Paul Chryst's first defensive coordinator at Pitt.
That was Pitt's first post-Todd Graham season, and Huxtable remembers it as "rebuilding year with several transitions."
"There was a feeling-out period with the players and the new staff. But I really enjoyed the guys. They loved football. They were tough kids."
He said he has kept in touch with some of them, including Mike Caprara, Andrew Taglianetti and Jared Holley.
His memories include working with All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a year before his breakout season.
"He was always in the film room, watching film, studying film," Huxtable said, "putting in the overtime, with a notepad out in front of him. Huxtable said that work ethic made him "the player he is today."
Huxtable's defense improved as the season progressed, dragging No. 2 Notre Dame into triple overtime before losing and holding Rutgers and South Florida to six and three points, respectively, as Pitt became bowl eligible.
Huxtable, who kept a sleeping bag in his office for the occasional late film session, left after only one season when N.C. State coach Dave Doeren offered him the defensive coordinator job there.
"The timing was right," Doeren said.
Huxtable loved the state — he had previously coached at East Carolina and North Carolina — and Doeren was eager to add a veteran coach to his first staff at N.C. State. After a slow start — the Wolfpack were winless in the ACC in 2013 -- Doeren has led the Wolfpack to three consecutive winning seasons.
"He's a great leader," Doeren said. "He inspires our players, and he gets a lot out of them. Football-wise he's extremely sound. He won't do things that aren't the right things to do. He's not going to copycat somebody else because it worked. He's going to make sure it's something our guys can do, and I just think he's one of the most sound fundamental coaches there is in the business."
There also was a Wisconsin connection. Doeren said they hadn't worked on the same Badgers staff, but "we knew a lot of the same people."
"I had heard great things about him and he had about me, so I think it just came together."