Chris Ault Has the Milano Rhinos Flying High In Italy

When Chris Ault accepted the job as head coach of the Milano Rhinos in Italy, he was not quite ready for the adventure he is having.

“I’m doing what I love to do, coach football, and enjoying the unbelievable history of a city and country that has stood the test of time…not sure if it gets any better.”

Not only has the legend of college football and father of the Pistol Offense enjoyed his first few months in Italy, he has taken his team to the top of the Italian league North standings with a 3-0 record.

The Rhinos finished the 2015 season with a 6-6 record although they were within 30 seconds of playing in the Italian Super Bowl. A last minute touchdown by their crosstown rivals the Milano Seamen in the Italian semifinals kept them out of the final.

Italy - Milano Rhinos - Chris Ault-2pic

They have come roaring out of the gate in 2016 though defeating the Parma Panthers who have been to the final for the past seven years, winning it five times, as well as the Bolzano Giants and the Torino Giaguari.

However, Ault has not made any dramatic changes according to him:

“Most of the changes are pretty obvious, practice habits and effort,  adding the Pistol Offense and a multiple defense. I spend a lot of my time coaching the coaches, who have been a lot of fun to work with and very willing to learn more about American football.”

Quarterback TJ Pryor has returned and the athletic signal caller has obviously picked up the Ault’s signature offense without a problem. Linebacker Jonathan McNeal, who played for Ault at Nevada, also joined the team as one of only two imports.

He is happy with the progress of the Italian players on his team and is seeing improvement almost every game.

“The Italian players have really been receptive to all the changes, additions and adjustments we have made. Each game a new face has emerged to make some big plays. I simply tell them that each game I expect us to improve and get better. Most importantly we need to create competition at each position when possible.”

Italy - Milano Rhinos - Pryor-Mcneal

TJ Pryor and Jonathan McNeal. Photos: Mara Telandro

Ault enjoyed an unforgettable career with the Nevada Wolfpack finishing with an amazing 233-109-1 record over the course of 28 years at the school. He had spent 41 years―all but seven years of his adult life―at Nevada as a player, coach, or administrator. He retired in 2012 and served as a consultant with the Kansas City Chiefs for three seasons before signing with the Rhinos for the 2016 season.

Ault and Mike Leach holding clinic

He has obviously acclimatized. He is teaming up with another legendary college coach, Mike Leach to hold a coaching clinic in May.

Whether he decides to return to Italy or not at the end of the 2016 season, it is too early to say, but suffice it to say that he is enjoying life coaching in Italy:

“My wife and I love Italy. The Italian people have been just awesome. As you probably know I have coached for a long time and when I made the decision to coach in Europe we had several other opportunities. In Reno, Nevada where we live we have many Italian friends, so in the end the decision to come to Italy was pretty easy to make.”

Photo credits: Mara Telandro, Milano Rhinos

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.