When Lance Leipold was preparing for life after college, he had two career paths he was interested in pursuing. He was either going to get into law enforcement with an eye on joining the Secret Service or stick with what he knew — football.
While he surely would have made a great Secret Service agent, it’s clear Leipold was born to be a coach.
On Monday, in front of a large throng of media members, supporters and fellow staff members, Leipold was introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas.
The man who won six Division III national championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater, led Buffalo to its highest ranking ever in the AP Top 25 and won 100 games faster than any coach ever to do it is exactly where he should be.
The head coach of a Power 5 program.
“If words could really express in any way, shape or form how truly humbled and honored I am to have this opportunity,” Leipold said. “People ask sometimes, what is your dream job or where do you think you’re going? When you’re a small-town guy in the Midwest that plays Division III football, it’s a day at a time.
“Dreams are one thing, and reality is another. Somehow those two have meshed here today.”
Seventy-two hours before reality meshed with dreams, Leipold officially arrived in Lawrence, ready to dig in as the new coach of the Jayhawks. With the Kansas sun shining bright and members of the pep band and Kansas Athletics staff on hand, Leipold, along with his wife Kelly, daughter Lindsey and son, Landon, took his first steps in Lawrence on Friday afternoon on the tarmac of the Lawrence airport.
Hours after he bid farewell to his team at Buffalo and departed a place that he left in considerably better shape than he found it, Leipold made his way straight to the Anderson Family Football Complex to check out his new digs.
Before he entered, he took an extra minute to admire the statues of Gale Sayers and John Hadl, before walking through the front door to start the next chapter of his coaching career. He made his way through the recruiting suite, before checking out the team meeting room, locker room, weight room and athletic training facilities.
The final stop of his building tour fittingly came in the head coach’s office.
With his family by his side, Leipold took a stroll through the office that overlooks the field at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. He then stepped outside with his family and watched his new team take the field for its final practice of the spring.
After checking out the indoor practice facility, Leipold made his way through the stadium, before heading to the field to address the team after practice.
His message there was clear.
He’s here to win. And he’s here to win with the players who have already dedicated themselves to the crimson and blue.
“I could not be more proud to have the opportunity to work with you,” Leipold told his team. “Everything I’ve heard about you, your character, your work ethic and where this program is heading, could not get me more excited…You can control your attitude and your effort, and how you go about it each day.”
He continued: “I promise you this. I’ve been very fortunate over 30 years of coaching to be around some excellent programs, some excellent leaders, some excellent blueprints on how to win football games. It’s not easy. It’s not going to happen like that. But we will win here. I promise you. All I ask is for your best.”
That set the stage for the team’s Spring Game on Saturday night, which Leipold took in from the suites at Memorial Stadium with his family. He watched as much football as he could, while he met some loyal Jayhawk supporters throughout the night.
Following a work day on Sunday, where he rolled up his sleeves and began tackling various assignments in his new role, Leipold woke up Monday morning, ready to make it all official.
He walked into the indoor practice facility just after 10 a.m., along with Director of Athletics Travis Goff, prepared to meet with the media and discuss what attracted him to Kansas.
“Our plan is to win, and win with the players who are here right now,” Leipold said. “This isn’t a situation where we are going to look to get ‘our’ players in. I said the same thing at the last job. And I feel very strongly about that. This university and athletic department have made a commitment to these young men, and we want them here to develop and be a part of that.
“It’s interesting times right now, and there’s a lot that’s going to be new, and everything is going to be sorting through, but again when you have an outstanding university in a great location, playing in a great conference, we have a lot of things that should keep players here and should attract players in the future in recruiting.”
A football coach through and through, despite a flirtation with law enforcement.
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