LEXINGTON, Ky. – For Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, the decision to hire Greg Nord as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach was as simple as 1-2-3.
“There are three things I look for when hiring a coach -- the ability to teach, the ability to recruit and ‘juice,’ a passion for what he does,” Phillips said. “Greg has all three of those. His knowledge of special teams is extensive and he has been involved with special teams at every school he’s coached. He has shown the ability to recruit the state of Kentucky and the South. And, he has a passion for the University of Kentucky.”
A UK player, alumnus and assistant coach under coaches Jerry Claiborne and Fran Curci, Nord’s career path has returned to Lexington following stops at East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Illinois. Nord had joined Illinois last winter as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator after spending the previous 15 seasons at U of L.
Nord was at Louisville from 1995-2009, serving at various times as assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and running backs coach. He helped the Cardinals advance to nine bowl games, including a championship of the 2007 Orange Bowl, and win three Conference USA championships and one Big East title.
Nord’s tight ends at Louisville had remarkable accomplishments. Ibn Green earned All-America honors in 1998 and ’99 while setting the NCAA Division I career record for most pass receptions by a tight end (217). Ronnie Ghent became the first player in C-USA history to earn first-team all-conference honors for four-straight seasons. Ghent and three other Cardinal tight ends, Richard Owens, Gary Barnidge and Breno Giacomini, went on to play in the National Football League.
With Nord serving as running backs coach in 2004, the Cardinals set school records with 3,005 rushing yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. Eric Shelton tied the school record that year with 20 rushing TDs and went on to play for the Carolina Panthers. In 2005, Michael Bush led the nation in scoring, was a first-team All-Big East performer and now plays for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Two more of Nord’s backs are also in the NFL, Kolby Smith with Kansas City and Brock Bolen of Jacksonville.
In 1997, Nord was coaching the running backs when Frank Moreau set an NCAA record by scoring four touchdowns in one quarter vs. East Carolina. Moreau went on to play in the NFL as well.
Prior to Louisville, Nord spent three years (1992-94) as the running backs coach at Georgia Tech. He guided Dorsey Levens and William Bell, each of whom earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors and played professionally. Levens enjoyed an 11-year NFL career and earned All-Pro honors. Nord also coached the running backs at East Carolina in 1990-91, highlighted by a victory in the Peach Bowl following the ’91 campaign.
A native of Louisville, Nord played center, tight end and long snapper for the Wildcats from 1974-78 under Fran Curci. He was a three-year letterman and a member of the ’76 Southeastern Conference championship team and the ’77 squad that posted a 10-1 record. He entered the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at UK in 1979-80. He was a part-time assistant in 1981, the same season that Joker Phillips arrived as a player at UK.
Nord was promoted to full-time assistant in 1982 when Jerry Claiborne took over as head coach. Nord coached the running backs all eight years that Claiborne led the Cats, including a pair of appearances in the Hall of Fame Bowl. By the time Nord departed following the 1989 season, he had coached four of the top seven rushers in school history, Mark Higgs, George Adams, Marc Logan and Ivy Joe Hunter. All four went on to play in the NFL.
“Greg was the leader of the great running backs we had – George Adams, Mark Higgs, Marc Logan, Ivy Joe Hunter and Andy Murray – and I watched how he handled them,” Phillips said. “When I talk to those guys, they always talk about how much they liked playing for him (Nord).”
Nord is happy about his return to UK.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to come back and coach at my alma mater,” Nord said. “The electricity with the Kentucky football program led me to come back with Coach Phillips. I’ve been following his career since his time as a player. I’m excited to work for someone whom I believe will become one of the top head coaches in the country.”
Nord and his wife, Donna, have two daughters, Amy and Angie, and four grandchildren.