‘Live in the moment’: Get to know Tom Herman

Read how other people from Coach Herman’s past feel about him, including a sit-down interview with the man himself.


Nicholas Windfelder

Tom Herman, FAU footballs new head coach after the release of Willie Taggart, takes the stand at the Owls’ Nest to formally introduce himself and his excitement for the next season.

Maddox Greenberg, Business Manager

It was a warm, bright Saturday afternoon day. The Florida Atlantic University Owls had a shot to clinch their first bowl game in two years— their first since former head coach Willie Taggart’s inaugural season back in 2019. The Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers stayed alive in the nailbiter that came down to a last second field goal, which was missed, sending the game to overtime.

The Owls won the coin toss, and opted to start the extra period on offense. They needed to score a touchdown and prevent Western Kentucky from scoring a touchdown to win the game. 

Hilltoppers’ quarterback Austin Reed first threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Malachi Corley. Reed then ran for a yard. No yard could have been as important to the entire Owls organization, Owls fanbase, and to the head coach of the team than that one yard. Hilltoppers head coach Tyson Helton kept Reed on the field for a two-point conversion attempt to seal the deal for the Hilltoppers and to end FAU’s season. Western Kentucky defeated the Owls 32-31. Hours later, FAU Vice President and Director of Athletics Brian White announced Taggart had been fired after three seasons as head coach.

On Dec. 1, 2023, ESPN was one of the first to report that former University of Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman will be the new head coach for the FAU Owls. 

But even two months after his hiring, questions still remain: who is this guy? And why should the students and “Owl Nation” care about him?

Herman’s career started by playing football at California Lutheran University from 1993 to 1997. After his playing career ended, Herman was hired as the wide receivers coach at Texas Lutheran University in 1998. After a single season there, he spent the next two years at the University of Texas as a graduate assistant while he was earning his master’s degree in education.

He then was hired at Sam Houston State University as a wide receivers/special teams coach where he spent four years—two of those years the Bearkats made the FCS playoffs.

His first big break came when he was hired at Texas State University in 2005, where he served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under head coach David Bailiff. Herman was a part of Bailiff’s staff at Texas State for two seasons before following him to Rice University, where Herman held the same position.

“This was a guy that gave me an opportunity at 29-years-old, young guy that never coached quarterbacks, never called plays,” reflected Herman on Bailiff’s impact on his coaching career. “[He] took a chance on me to be his offensive coordinator and we did some really good things and I just learned about how important truly caring for your players was. I learned that from coach Bailiff and how important people are and that has made a huge impact on me.”

In 2009, Herman got a shot at coaching at a bigger university and conference when he returned to the Big 12 as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Iowa State University. With Herman at the helm of the offense, quarterback Austen Arnaud finished his career third in passing yards in program history. Meanwhile, running back Alexander Robinson finished his career at Iowa State fifth in the Cyclones all time-rushing yards records. 

Herman then won a national championship when he joined Urban Meyer’s coaching staff at Ohio State University. In Herman’s first season the Buckeyes went undefeated, but received no bowl bid  as punishment for previous NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletics Association, violations.  The year after, Ohio State lost in the Orange Bowl. 

Finally, in Herman’s last season it all came together for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes earned the fourth seed in the inaugural College Football Playoff, where they pulled off two major upsets. First over the University of Alabama in the playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, before taking down the heavily favored University of Oregon Ducks in the national championship.   

In each of Herman’s seasons at Ohio State, the Buckeyes never lost more than two games. He got to coach some highly-touted players while at Ohio State, some who are now in the NFL, like Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas.

Another player to have been impacted by Herman’s coaching was former Ohio State quarterback and former NFL quarterback Cardale Jones.

“Just understanding what’s the objective of each and every play, what was the objective of each and every playing scenario, situation that you will be facing throughout the football game,” said Jones on what he learned from Herman during his time at Ohio State University.  “So, really just shaping my mindset on how to approach and break down every single play and Coach Herman’s got a saying: ‘Be one and all in every snap,’ and he really breaks down every game to one snap per game, every snap has an objective and every situation has his objective.”

Jones got his first start at Ohio State during the 2014 Big Ten Championship game against the University of Wisconsin. After starter J.T. Barrett went down with an injury in the second quarter, Jones came in and led Herman’s offense on a  558-yard  performance and 59-0 victory.

“Every play is a learning opportunity, whether you had success on the play or you didn’t,” Heman shares.

After helping lead the Buckeyes to a national championship, Herman finally got the big moment he was preparing for: head coach. In 2015, Herman was hired as the head coach of the University of Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference. In his first year, the Cougars were ranked eighth in the nation at one point and defeated Florida State University in the Peach Bowl.

Herman mentored some players to the pros while at Houston as well, including Miami Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts and Buffalo Bills edge rusher Ed Oliver. 

The following year, he led the Cougars to a record of 9-3 and an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl to play in a game Herman was unable to coach in.

FAU head football coach Tom Herman speaking at a press conference, while at the University of Texas at Austin. Courtesy of The Daily Texan.

In 2017, Herman returned to where it all started for him, Texas. But this time, as the head coach of the Longhorns. 

In season one under Herman, Texas went 7-6 and won the Texas Bowl, while 12 Longhorns advanced to the NFL. Herman coached Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Joseph Ossai. Herman made a habit of inviting former players around as a way of instilling the culture he envisioned for the program, according to Roy Miller III, former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle who played for the Longhorns from 2005 to 2008. 

“As a former player, anytime that you get any message from a coach that’s there that didn’t necessarily coach you, it means a lot,” said Miller. In Herman’s second season, the Longhorns finished the season ranked ninth in the country with a record of 10-4, after taking down the University of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. In his third season, Texas won the Alamo Bowl and finished the season 25th in the nation, after beginning unranked. In Herman’s final year, Herman led the Longhorns to a record of 7-3 and their second Alamo Bowl victory in four years, finishing the season ranked 19th. 

Despite having a solid record on the field, as well as the recruiting trail, Herman was relieved of his duties at the end of the 2020 season. However, his coaching career did not stop there. Herman joined the Chicago Bears as offensive analyst due to an opportunity from head coach at the time, Matt Nagy, who spoke to Herman’s ability as a coach.

“I think all-in-all, you just have a bright football mind and a guy that knows his stuff and he helped out in a lot of different areas,” said Nagy, now serving as senior assistant and quarterbacks coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.

As an analyst for the Bears, Herman’s job was to research what the opposing teams’ defense was doing, and then break it down from a standpoint that was useful to the offense. He also worked with Bears’ special teams coordinator Chris Tabor as part of his duties. 

“I got out of my time my one year in Chicago  exactly what I wanted to get out of it,” recalled Herman. “I was burnt out. I was tired, wanted to take a step back and kind of learn a new way of doing things and did that.”

After a single season with the Bears, Herman then became a stay-at-home dad for a year, while also providing color commentary for CBS Sports Network. Herman mentioned how difficult it was to get all of the information on two teams and only use a fraction of that material in a “three-and-a-half to four hours worth of stuff.”

Herman said that after being gone from coaching for two years, he has both gained and missed a lot. Since his departure in 2021, the landscape of college football has changed with the rise of name, image, and likeness (NIL) contracts and collectives, like the Owl Collective on FAU’s campus. 

“I want them to get everything that they’re worth, that the market deems, in terms of their value,” said Herman. “But at the same time I don’t think we can lose focus on ultimately what wins championships and that’s teamwork, dedication, not worrying about all of those superfluous things.”

Herman is entering a football program that just lost its starting quarterback in N’Kosi Perry, who played his final season of eligibility in 2022, and several key players, including offensive lineman Brendan Bordner, who is entering the 2023 NFL Draft. Since his introduction as FAU’s new head coach, he completed his coaching staff and landed several recruits from high schools and the transfer portal.

Herman brough aboard multiple coaches who he’s previously worked alongside  over the years, and some new faces who have coached at some prestigious programs. 

In his first recruiting class at FAU, a majority of which was set after National Signing Day on Wednesday, Herman felt that he and his staff got the right guys, especially the quarterback. He also mentioned that he expects to see a competition for the starting quarterback job between returners Michael Johnson, Jr., and Tyriq Starks, as well as incoming freshman Carson Cruver and Luke Rucker.

Herman has been coaching college football since 1997. He has been a part of historic moments, and has appeared in, and won, multiple bowl games. He has taken teams that have started ranked to some of the largest stages in the sport. 

Now at FAU, Herman is taking over a program that hasn’t gone to a bowl game in two years. He is joining a football program on the rise, started play in 2001 and going from independent to the Sun Belt Conference to nearly a decade in Conference USA. A program that is 4-1 in bowl games. A program that has gone through their past two coaches in less than six years. A university and program that is quickly on the rise. Herman expects Owl Nation and students to flood the stands on gameday every game, and the best kind of football from his coaching staff and players.

“If you build it, they will come,” said Herman referencing the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams. “If you win games, you will get more and more people. We need their support.”

With a career coaching record of 54-22, Herman will use his experience in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) from his time at Houston, as FAU joins the conference this season.

“That’s a six in the morning on a January thing,” said Herman on his model for a championship program. “You’ve got to continue to build and organize throughout the offseason so that when the season does come, your guys are prepared to go make that run for a championship.”

Maddox Greenberg is the Business Manager for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM via Facebook @maddox greenberg.