CHAPPEL HILL, NC – For the past five years, every now and then, Mac Brown has been asking Jane Chesick a version of the same question.
“Are you ready to train again?”
Brown asked her four years ago, before returning to training in North Carolina. At the time, Jizek told him he wasn’t ready yet. Then in the spring of 2021, when Chizik had a few opportunities, Brown told him, “You have to decide if you want to train again.”
Jezek had a simple answer.
“I do,” he told Brown. “I have another one in me.”
Neither of them knew at that moment that “one more” meant his reunion with Brown, who had served under him as defensive coordinator at Texas in 2005 and 2006. They’ve remained close friends over the years, whether Chesick was Auburn’s head coach or coordinator Defensive at UN Command or TV Analyst.
But when Brown called him in January, he asked the same familiar question, only with a little extra weight: “Are you interested in training again?”
It didn’t take long for Chezek to say yes, putting him back in the Tar Heels boots for a second stint as assistant head coach for the Defensive Coordinator and Coordinator.
Ten minutes after the call was cut off, Brown received another call from Jizek. Confused, Brown snapped.
“I want to tell Jonah I’m going to do it,” Ciesic told him, referring to his wife.
He chuckles with the intention of remembering the story. It certainly looks like Chizik decided the time was right to get back into training after spending the past five years as a college football analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network.
As a result, Chizik became one of the most prominent assigned coaching assistants in the entire off season.
“It had to be the perfect scenario, just right,” Chesick said. “Because I could be selective if I were to do it again. That was the only proportion that made the most sense. If I was going to be coordinating somewhere, I had to be with someone I knew and understood. I wasn’t willing to roll the dice with someone else” .
Cesek last trained in 2016, long ago considering all the changes that have occurred across the board in college football, from the transfer window to nothing. When he walked away from North Carolina after two years as defensive coordinator at the time, he didn’t really know if he’d take up coaching again.
But every season he made phone calls with job offers.
“Every year for the past five years,” he said of the shows. “Now when you’re starting to go into years four and five, and they realize you’re kind of retired and you’re not coming back, there’s less [calls]But I said no to every one of them because they had to be perfect for me.”
That includes interest from new USFL team Birmingham Stallion earlier this year. Jezek confirmed in January that he had had several discussions about joining as head coach, including one about two days before the official announcement of his return to North Carolina. Once again, here’s the familiar rule when it comes to tar heels – the perfect fit.
Within a few months, Chisick re-acquainted with what he often missed: teaching, competitiveness, and the ability to influence the young people he coaches. (Definitely not sleepless nights).
On a personal level, the experience this time around will be completely different. Although Chizik cited family reasons when he left office in 2016, few knew how difficult the situation was for everyone in his family.
It started in Auburn, where Chesick was head coach from 2009 to 2012. When Chesick took over, he promised his three children that they would never have to move again – no matter what.
After he was fired in the wake of the 2012 season, they all stayed in Auburn so the kids could stay in school and keep their lives as normal as possible. Chesick also stayed on, working as an analyst for ESPN until then-North Carolina coach Larry Fedora called and offered him a job as defensive coordinator in 2015.
Chizik knew the only way he could accept it was for him to live alone in Chapel Hill, while his family remained. Fedora agreed to let him return to Alabama whenever the schedule allowed. Chizik got an apartment 15 minutes from the football facility. Although they visited and FaceTimed whenever possible, the stress of living apart from his family for two years took an increasingly heavy toll.
“I’ll never forget, I was on the bus after we played Stanford at the ball game in El Paso, and you had time to think, and I remember I went, ‘You know? It’s time to go home. “That’s when I made the decision,” Jezek said.
His twin daughters, Landry and Kennedy, were heading to Auburn, and he missed her last year of high school. His youngest son, Callie, sustained a neck injury while playing soccer, a moment that made Chisick re-evaluate everything. Although Cale had never asked for his father to be more than that, Chezek felt that he needed to be there as a father.
“It’s really important for your family to be there and watch you play,” Chesick said. “I know when I went to the football matches, one of the first things he did was he always looked up to see where we were sitting. I just wanted to be a dad and enjoy this part of his life and let him know that it meant enough to me to realize I wasn’t what I was up to. Enough for him, and I wanted to be there for him.
“For two years, we did our best. But when you think about basically not being there, in the things that really matter, which is baseball and football and all the other things, the dances and the proms, it’s different when you’re ‘I don’t come home to the same house every night’ . Completely different “.
Cizek felt peace in his decision, and understood one truth: he might not train again. So he returned to television work and went to support his children, turning down the opportunities that came his way.
But now that he’s back, he and his wife have already bought a house and will be living with him in Chapel Hill for the first time. Kali is a cornerstone of Foreman and his daughters are settled with their own lives. With concerns dispelled off the field, Chizik can focus on his new team. There is plenty of work ahead of the UNC defense, which has struggled to deal with and prevent big plays in the 2021 season that didn’t go as planned.
The Tar Heels gave up 6.1 yards per game last season—to finish third among all FBS teams. North Carolina has given up less than 400 yards per game over an entire season just once in the past five years.
Stacks of volumes lined up at Chizik’s office in the spring, because there’s been so much re-acquaintance with him. But Chizik also knew that if he was going to take the job, he’d have to bring in Charlton Warren, who was close to him during his first stint with North Carolina.
Warren had risen through the coaching ranks after dropping out of the tar heels, and he was the Indiana defensive coordinator when Chasick called. Warren agreed to leave a job as sole defense coordinator to take up a job as joint defense coordinator for the opportunity to work with Chesick again.
The two had no prior history when Chesick interviewed him in 2015 for a job as a defensive back coach, but the job interview itself laid the foundation of their relationship. They met early one morning in Atlanta, in a nondescript building in an industrial complex so they could keep the interview a secret.
For eight hours, it was just Warren, Chezek, and a whiteboard. Chizik not only asked Warren to run in plays, he asked him to explain every scenario he put in place. The more they talk, the more connected they are.
That association remained even after iesek stepped down. Chizik called Warren frequently to review concepts and plays — including hours-long Zoom calls that detail specifics from games to new concepts he’s been running.
“Don’t study and meet up if you’re not going to train again,” Warren said. “The depth he went into, the details, the notes. He would go to visit the NFL teams. I knew eventually he was going to be a football coach again.”
Without a doubt, this is a big season for North Carolina as it heads into its fourth year under Brown. What appeared to be a program on an ascending trajectory – with pre-season ranked 10th a year ago – suffered a setback after being instead 6-7, with an entire team underperforming.
Although the midfielder lost at the start Sam HowellThere are talented players coming back – especially in defense, with a deep range along the defensive and secondary line.
“I think we can play really well in defense because we are talented,” Brown said. “We are still young. We made a lot of mistakes last year. We had a lot of penalties, wasted a lot of tackles. We will make sure not to give up many explosive plays, because sometimes we played great. That’s what made me. It’s my fault when it’s You have a team that can play great, but they don’t. This is my job, which is why I felt like a failure. We have better players than we scored. We will never do that again.”
The goal, of course, is to get to the ACC Championship game, something that has eluded Brown so far. As it happens, there’s an assistant head coach on staff with ACC Championship game experience: Chizik.