ELF: Helvetic Guards add NCAA offensive line guru, 4-time Super Bowl champion WR, and veteran import RB to coaching staff

The Helvetic Guards are bringing more NFL coaching talent to Switzerland.

On Tuesday, the Zurich-based ELF expansion franchise announced its first group of assistant coaches, unveiling those who will be working under newly hired head coach and long-time NCAA/NFL coordinator Norm Chow on the offensive side of the ball.

The three coaches include offensive line coach Bob Palcic, wide receivers coach Mike Wilson, and running backs coach Darius Willis. Palcic and Wilson will share responsibilities for the team’s tight ends.

The most veteran coach of the group, Palcic began his career in 1973 as a graduate assistant at Ball State University. He spent time coaching offensive line at Dayton, Ball State and Wisconsin before joining the professional ranks with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts for two seasons, winning the Grey Cup in 1983. From there he returned south of the border, logging successful stints at Arizona, Ohio State, USC and UCLA.

Palcic made the leap to the NFL in 1994 with the Atlanta Falcons. He coached offensive line for three seasons with the team, before taking over tight ends for two years with the Detroit Lions. After spending a year once again coaching offensive line with the Cleveland Browns in 1999, he settled into the tight end role with the New Orleans Saints, coaching another six seasons.

Following the end of his NFL tenure, Palcic returned to Wisconsin for two seasons before spending four at UCLA, where Chow was the offensive coordinator. He last coached at SMU in 2012.

Over the course of his career, Palcic has been responsible for developing a number of all-time great offensive linemen during their college days, including current and future Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden, Tony Boselli and Joe Thomas.

Wide receivers coach Mike Wilson will be familiar to many long-time football fans for his playing days with the San Francisco 49ers, where he played ten seasons primarily as a backup behind the likes of Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice. The Washington State alum won four Super Bowls with the team, racking up 159 receptions for 2,199 yards and 15 touchdowns in 136 games played.

Wilson began coaching in 1992 at Stanford University, serving under his former head coach Bill Walsh. After three seasons with the program, he returned to the NFL as a coach with the Oakland Raiders for two years before joining USC from 1997 to 1999.

He took a brief hiatus from coaching before joining the Arizona Cardinals from 2004 to 2006. Wilson would spend time with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League before another NFL stint with the Cleveland Browns. He last coached in 2020 with the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats, where Chow was OC.

A veteran of the Swiss coaching ranks, Willis arrived in Europe in 2014 following a four-year career at running back for the University of Indiana and three years of experience coaching at the high school level in the US.  He served as both coach and player for the Bern Grizzlies from 2014 to 2020, interrupted by one season with the Zurich Renegades in 2016.

For the past two seasons, Willis has been a member of the Bienna Jets and took over head coach in 2022. He has coached both sides of the ball since his arrival in Switzerland and also assisted with the National Team, serving as interim offensive coordinator from 2017 until 2020.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.