Youth is served: Weis Jr., 25, stands with Kiffin at FAU
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Charlie Weis Jr. has been on the field celebrating Super Bowl wins. He’s worn a headset on the sidelines at Notre Dame games, studied under Nick Saban and interned for Bill Belichick.
He’s learned from the best.
And he’s a mere 25 years old.
Age is just a number to Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin, a former coaching prodigy himself who decided to hire Weis Jr. — the namesake son of the longtime coach probably best known for his stint at Notre Dame — as the Owls’ offensive coordinator this season, letting him oversee a group that is expected to pile up a ton of points in 2018.
“From the time he was a little kid, this is what he wanted to do,” Charlie Weis Sr. said.
That makes sense. Then again, the time Weis Jr. was a little kid wasn’t all that long ago.
When his dad was leading the Fighting Irish, Weis Jr. went to high school literally across the street from campus. After school, he sent to the football office and essentially was right back in class, learning every nuance of football. It didn’t take long for him to decide that he wanted to coach, and that’s the only job he’s ever had. And now he’s believed to be the youngest offensive coordinator in major college football history.
“Coaching, I felt, was my calling to help people,” Weis Jr. said. “You know, not just the schematics and the fun of all that stuff, but helping young players develop and become better people.”
His parents, he said, reacted thusly when he decided to enter coaching: “No, no, no,” he said.
Weis Sr., who dealt with negativity on the way to getting fired by Notre Dame and Kansas, doesn’t remember it quite that way. He said Weis Jr. was encouraged to be something like a doctor or a lawyer, a career that would have kept him off the roller coasters of emotion and scrutiny that most coaches face now after every win and every loss.
“But once it was pretty clear what the path was that he wanted to take, we just tried to help him along that path,” said Weis Sr., who has been to a couple FAU practices this summer and bought a luxury suite for this season’s home games.
As an undergrad at Florida, Weis Jr. was a coach with the offense and was tasked with prepping then-Gators coach Will Muschamp for weekly news conferences, educating him on that week’s opponent. He interned with the Patriots, helping chart the production of Tom Brady and the other New England quarterbacks. He had about a half-dozen jobs at Kansas when his dad was the coach there.
And when he went to Alabama as a grad assistant, he worked with Kiffin.
Weis has been someone that Kiffin wanted to have around him ever since.
“I’m trying to help him not make some mistakes that I made,” said Kiffin, who, like Weis, is the son of a highly successful coach. “But he’ll be fine. He’s a lot more probably balanced than I was at that age and more mature. So we do talk about that, but I don’t think he’s going to have issues.”
Kiffin — also the son of a successful coach, someone who knew very quickly that he was going to follow his dad into the family business — understands how that whiz-kid label feels. At 31, he was the youngest head coach modern in NFL history when the Oakland Raiders hired him in 2007. (Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams now holds that title, after being hired last year as a 30-year-old.)
Kiffin didn’t handle fast fame well.
Weis Jr. doesn’t seem to have that problem.
He’s still boyish-looking. He walks around FAU’s campus unnoticed, largely because he definitely can still pass for an undergrad. He smiles a lot. He’s soft-spoken. He’s only a couple years older than most of FAU’s best offensive players, yet he has unquestioned respect in the locker room.
“I’m not going to say that it’s been the easiest transition,” Weis Jr. said. “But over time, especially in this new role, I’ve gotten better at it and I’m starting to develop with it. And whenever I have questions about it I go to coach Kiffin, because he’s obviously gone through it. He was a coach at a very young age so he’s gone through a lot of the same experiences.”
The Owls might be loaded on the offensive side this season. There’s some questions at quarterback — Kiffin remains undecided on a starter — but running back Devin Singletary led the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns in 2017. It’s also unclear if Weis Jr. will be the one actually calling plays, or if Kiffin will hold that role again.
Either way, Kiffin said Weis makes the Owls better.
“His knowledge is way beyond his years,” Kiffin said.