Courtesy of UA Media Relations
Ansley rising with the Tide
By Graham Dunn
Former Tallassee High School star Derrick Ansley could be considered opportunistic.
At the young age 34, there seems to be a pattern to his success – where he goes, he is successful.
Take last winter. University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops announced that he would promote Ansley to co-defensive coordinator after seeing a marked improvement from the Wildcats’ secondary. The group went from 64th to 32nd in pass defense nationally.
A few days later, Nick Saban and Alabama announced Ansley would be a part of their coaching staff, returning to the Capstone where he had spent time as a graduate assistant in 2010-11.
He is now one win away from being part of a national champion – again.
“When it happened, I had to take everything into consideration,” Ansley explained during the Peach Bowl Media Day prior to Alabama’s battle with Washington. “The chance to be a defensive coordinator was big but the chance to work with Coach Saban, with him being a defensive back coach, it was an opportunity you can’t turn down. I think those (defensive coordinator) opportunities will come again but right now this is where I believe I belong.”
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt played a large role in getting Ansley back on the staff and not just because of his coaching ability.
“You look at what he has done in recruiting and it’s hard to ignore that success,” stated Pruitt, who also returned to the Crimson Tide coaching staff just a couple of months prior to Ansley’s return.
“He was familiar with what we do here and had a great reputation as a recruiter. Coach Saban was glad to get him back and he continues to show what a hard worker he is.”
Ansley made coaching stops at four different programs, first in Montgomery with Mike Turk and Huntingdon College where he spent five seasons as the defensive backs coach.
Turk had been an assistant at Troy when Ansley was one of the top defensive backs in the Sun Belt, finishing third nationally in interceptions his junior season.
After his two-year stint at Alabama as a grad assistant (which included a national title in 2011), he was hired by Central Florida but would be nabbed by Tennessee before the season began.
Following one season in Knoxville, he moved on to Kentucky, continuing to build his resume with three seasons as the Wildcats’ secondary coach.
Despite the high accolade of being named a co-coordinator at a young age, the opportunity to return to Alabama was too great to pass up.
“Anytime you can get back home and work at the home university with the caliber of Coach Saban and Coach Pruitt, you can’t give that up,” Ansley said. “They are two of my biggest mentors. To work with them with the type of team we have, you can’t blink an eye at that.”
Throughout his ascent, Ansley has never forgotten where it all started. He played on Tallassee’s 13-win team that reached the Class 4A semifinals in 1999.
He remembered the team that had just 28 players on the roster.
“Playing back in ‘98-‘99, playing for coach (Mark) Rose and those guys, you don’t know what the future holds,” Ansley said. “You want the chance to move forward. We had good teams back then and had a lot of team players. That prepared me for a lot of this.”
Where Ansley goes from here is anybody’s guess but chances are, it will be up.