By David Fong
URBANA — Tyler Haines grew up in Urbana, playing football for the Little Climbers from the second through seventh grades.
He played high school football just down the road on State Route 36 at Piqua High School, earning armfuls of awards as a linebacker and quarterback on several powerhouse Indian teams.
And yet, somehow, Urbana University never once made a recruiting pitch for Haines. No visits, no letters … not even so much as a phone call.
“I honestly don’t remember ever hearing from them,” Haines said. “They never recruited me. If they ever came to Piqua, I never heard about it.”
Now that he’s in charge of the Urbana University football program, Haines promises he’ll do his best to ensure such oversights never happen under his watch.
Haines — a 2002 Piqua High School graduate — recently was named the Blue Knights’ new head football coach. Haines said one of his first priorities as head coach will be locking down commitments from area recruits.
“It’s good to be back in the Miami Valley,” Haines said. “We want to recruit the whole state of Ohio, obviously, but particularly the Dayton area. That’s our home turf. If other schools want to recruit kids from the area, we want them to have to come through us. We want to be visible in all of the schools in the Miami Valley.”
Although he’s less than a decade removed from his playing days at Defiance College — where he was a two-time All-Heartland Conference selection at linebacker — Haines brings a wealth of coaching experience with him to Urbana.
Following his graduation from Defiance, Haines took a position at Piqua High School, working with defensive backs at wide receivers. He would spend one year at his high school alma mater before moving on to Adrian College in Michigan, where he would spend five years in a variety of positions, working with linebackers, running backs, quarterbacks and the special teams units. He spent his final two years at Adrian College as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Haines was instrumental for the Bulldogs, helping the program win its first outright conference championship since 1983, while setting four single-season records in 2012. In 2011, Haines coached the Adrian offense to a school-record 77 points in a win at Husson University and the Bulldogs ranked as high as 16th in the AFCA Division III national poll.
Following his five years at Adrian College, he would move on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for two years.
Under his guidance, the Crimson Hawks offense averaged 31.0 points per game and 396.0 yards per game. Haines helped IUP collect 15 wins during his tenure, including a 9-2 mark and No. 24 national ranking during the 2013 campaign.
“I’m very excited to have Tyler Haines join the Urbana athletic family,” Urbana Director of Athletics Larry Cox said. “He is a passionate coach who believes in our philosophy to expect excellence in competition, the classroom, and in the community. Tyler met all of our qualifications and did an outstanding job articulating his vision for the football program and what it means to be a Blue Knight.”
Although the Blue Knights struggled to a 3-8 record last fall, Haines said he feels all the pieces are in place to make a quick turnaround. Prior to last season, the Division II program had three winning seasons in a row.
“They’ve had success recently,” Haines said. “Sure, they only had three wins last year, but they had a couple of seven- and eight-win seasons right before that. The key is going to be getting the right staff in there with me. We’re one of the only Division II programs in the area — we’ve got Findlay to the north and Ohio Dominican to the east — so we feel like we can do a lot better.”
For Haines, the opportunity to become a head football coach fulfills a lifelong dream.
“This is something I’ve known I wanted to do since I was a little kid,” he said. “At first I thought I wanted to be a high school teacher and coach, but eventually I decided I wanted to coach at the college level instead. I’m excited about the opportunity to be a head coach — and to be able to do it so close to home just makes it even better.”
Haines was quick to give credit to Piqua coach Bill Nees not only for all he learned as a player, but also in the year he spent on Nees’ coaching staff.
“Coach Nees was always on my reference list when I was applying for jobs,” Haines said. “He’s been instrumental in my career. He gave me my first coaching job right out of college and made a lot of calls on my behalf when I applied for jobs. I owe him a lot.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong