In order to understand what newly-anointed Valparaiso University football coach Landon Fox will bring to the program, you have to understand where it all began.
Not the beginning of his preparation for the Valpo job or the beginning of his time at Dayton or even the beginning of his life in football. We’re talking about the very beginning for the Defiance, Ohio native.
“I grew up on a horse farm,” Fox said at Tuesday’s introductory press conference. “I had to get up in the morning and do chores on the farm before I got on the bus to go to school. That’s where the work ethic came from. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’m a grinder. One thing that I’ll always do is work. I want to help young men grow. That’s going to be important to me as we teach the game of football. We need to take on our commitment and responsibility to teach more than just a game. That’s very important to me.”
Part of that work ethic is a fourth-and-goal mentality that will define the approach of Fox, his staff and his players on a daily basis. And if there’s one play in recent Valpo football memory that exemplifies a fourth-and-goal mentality, it’s one that Fox witnessed in person from the opposite sideline. If you’re a Valpo fan, you know the story of Jarrett Morgan throwing a two-point conversion pass to Ryan Clarke to beat Dayton 8-7 and clinch the program’s first winning season in 15 years in 2017.
“It’s funny how it has come full circle,” Fox said. “I knew I wanted to be a head coach, and you’re always molded by your experiences. When I talk about the fourth-and-goal mentality, the Valparaiso football team had it that day. On a play like that, you’ve got to do everything right. It’s all about your attention to detail, your stance, your communication and your first step. That’s how I want to approach everything we do.”
When Fox interviewed with Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera and President Mark Heckler, he presented a comprehensive and specific plan for leading the Valparaiso University football program.
“While the quality of the Dayton football program was notable, what really stood out to me during the search process was Landon’s knowledge,” LaBarbera said. “He has drawn his knowledge from serving under some outstanding coaches. I was impressed by the depth of his understanding of the Pioneer Football League, his passion, his genuine excitement to assume a leadership role and his enthusiasm for Valparaiso University and our football program.”
That enthusiasm was evident from the moment Fox walked into the room for Tuesday’s introduction.
“I wish somebody could come up and feel my heart,” he said. “This is so exciting; it’s so fun. To be able to do something I have such a passion for and know this is my purpose gives me goosebumps. This is about way more than just one person. It’s not about me. It’s about our players, our University and our community.”
During the interview process, it didn’t take Fox long to realize that Valparaiso University was the right place for his passion to meet his purpose.
“When I had the opportunity to meet with President Heckler, I could see and feel the value he placed on football at this University,” Fox said. “I’m a teacher at heart, and our staff will represent that. I could tell he wanted this football program to continue to develop young men through the game of football. Mark LaBarbera and I had a shared vision. Part of the mission of this University is to develop leaders, and we’ll do that within the football team. We want to serve each other, serve the University and serve our teammates. We are going to help these young men develop into good fathers, good husbands and good people.”