Marcus Herford, Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in 2007 and a member of KU’s victorious Orange Bowl team that season, is, more than a decade later, living his best life, coaching football and winning championships. That much is, more or less, going to script.
The part he never saw coming? Most of Herford’s players, fellow coaches, team ownership and fans speak English, if at all, as a second language. Turns out, coaching—or, more precisely, teaching—American football in Italy, Germany and Brazil offers unexpected joys.
“It’s football at its purest moment,” Herford says from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, shortly after joining Galo Futebol Americano as offensive coordinator. “They play with passion and enthusiasm. It definitely makes coaching that much more fun.”
Herford, c’09, a Dallas native, was in his first coaching job, at Valdosta State University in Georgia, when he was introduced to overseas football while watching clips posted by former KU teammate Jocques Crawford, ’10.
“He was tearing it up,” Herford recalls. “I’m like, man, where is this? He told me everything, as far as getting overseas and how to get looked at.”
Herford’s overseas playing career didn’t last long, with brief stints in France and Turkey in 2011 and ’12. He was newly married at the time, and carrying too much weight, so he returned stateside and accepted a job as passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College. When he heard the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, a dominant team in Germany’s pro league, were looking for an offensive coordinator, he made a snap decision to apply.
Herford landed the job, but, three days before arriving in Germany, he learned that Baltic’s head coach, Dan Disch, had resigned to become defensive coordinator at Southern Miss. Baltic promoted Herford to the top job and he led the Hurricanes to within one game of the championship in consecutive seasons.
When Herford three years ago joined Seamen Milano, a powerhouse in the Italian league, as offensive coordinator, the club was coming off its third championship in four seasons. Seamen has since twice defended its title, including a 28-point fourth-quarter rally to win Italian Bowl XXXIX last July.
Shortly before that game, Herford was contacted by an international football talent scout who was helping the Galo Roosters hire an offensive coordinator. Rather than drift back to Dallas in the offseason, Herford accepted the gig; not long after he joined Galo, Milano announced it had promoted Herford to head coach for the 2020 season.
“It’s definitely been a blessed ride. My whole coaching career, how things have gone, it’s been pretty awesome. If I complain, I’ll be lying. I’m definitely excited about what’s going on.”