Valparaiso University head football coach Landon Fox has announced five additions to his staff as the program prepares for the 2020 season.
Former Valpo football player Fred Gladney ’14 has returned to his alma mater to accept the position of wide receivers coach, while Brad Bustle has been hired as the program’s offensive line coach. In addition, Jackson Smith has taken over as defensive tackles coach, RJ Ghilarducci as nickelbacks coach and Shane Heston as quality control.
Gladney comes back to Valpo after spending the last year at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., where he served as the wide receivers/tight ends coach in addition to coordinating the program’s social media efforts and on-campus recruiting. He previously worked as the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin Lutheran from March 2016 to March 2019.
“Coach Gladney has a significant sense of pride in Valparaiso and what we’re trying to accomplish with our program,” Fox said. “He bleeds brown and gold, and that is going to come through in a variety of ways. He can share his experiences as a player at Valpo with our current team. He understands where this program has been and where he wants it go. We want our players to have one of the best experiences of their lives at Valpo, and he’s going to be able to share his memories with our student-athletes.”
Gladney played in 30 games with the Brown & Gold spanning from 2011-2014. During that time, he accrued 974 receiving yards, 89 receptions and six touchdown catches.
“It was very appealing to come back home to a familiar place and have the opportunity to join the staff at Valpo,” Gladney said. “The energy and enthusiasm surrounding Coach Fox and the program stood out to me. I’m excited to challenge and push myself in my new role at Valpo.”
Bustle comes to Valpo after serving as the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Holmes Community College, a post he had held since 2018. He previously occupied the role of co-offensive coordinator at Cumberland University in 2017. He has twice tutored offenses that have finished in the top 25 in the country in scoring, three times guided his team to the top six in the nation in rushing, three times coached an offensive line that was in the top 10 in the country in fewest sacks allowed and twice instructed an offense that finished in the top seven nationally in yards per completion.
Bustle also spent three months as the interim head coach at Cumberland, where he led the offensive line from 2013-2017 and was also in charge of running backs and tight ends from 2015-2017. Bustle worked as a defensive graduate assistant at Virginia Tech in 2011 and 2012, instructing both linebackers and the defensive line. He started his playing career as a walk-on at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he turned into a four-year starter at guard and center and eventually signed a contract with the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League.
“Coach Bustle related extremely well to the players in our interview process, which is very important to me,” Fox said. “The relationships that we have with our players as a coaching staff are important, and the relationship-building component comes naturally to him. His experience and knowledge combined with his history of building strong relationships made him a great fit for our position.”
Bustle has football in his blood, as his father Rickey coached from 1979-2017 including 2002-2010 as the head coach at Louisiana and stints as the offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech and South Carolina. Valpo offensive coordinator Chris Limbach was a graduate assistant at Louisiana when Bustle played there.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Limbach, and he was the one who contacted me about this position,” Bustle said. “When I came to campus and got to know Coach Fox and the other coaches, I recognized that Valpo would be a good fit for me. As a player, I always had the ability to exceed expectations, and I’ve carried that over into my coaching style. I bring a lot of intensity to the offensive line, which I believe is important for that position group.”
Ghilarducci spent the last three seasons at the University of San Diego, where he served in multiple roles including assistant defensive backs coach, assistant defensive line coach and specialists coach. While at San Diego, he was part of three Pioneer Football League championship teams and multiple FCS playoff appearances. His position groups produced seven all-PFL performers, including FCS all-time sacks leader Jonathan Petersen. In addition, Ghilarducci was part of the first nonscholarship program to win a playoff game in FCS history.
“Coach Ghilarducci comes from an established program in our league and understands the PFL,” Fox said. “He has an ability to recruit students who excel both academically and athletically. He understands who we are as both a football program and a University. We hire good people first and foremost, and Coach Ghilarducci is another example of that.”
Prior to San Diego, Ghilarducci worked as a defensive line and outside linebackers intern at the University of Oregon, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2015 and was an all-conference rugby player. He graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 2010 in his hometown of El Dorado Hills, Calif.
“I’m excited to become part of the Valpo football program because I recognize the team’s potential,” Ghilarducci said. “I can see the progress being made and Coach Fox’s vision for the future of the program. I’m looking forward to doing my part to make that vision a reality.”
Smith previously worked on the staff at Elmhurst College, where he served in a variety of capacities over the last three seasons. He instructed Sam linebackers in 2017, the defensive line in 2018 and outside linebackers and defensive ends in 2019.
“During the interview process, Coach Smith seemed like someone who would fit well at Valparaiso,” Fox said. “He presents himself in a first-class manner and is a great communicator. He’s a very likable guy. He understands the Chicagoland area and played defensive line, so he’ll bring fundamentals and techniques to our players.”
Smith’s playing days at Elmhurst spanned from 2012-2016, culminating with a year as a team captain as a senior. He earned his bachelor of science in May 2017 and is expected to finish his master of business administration in May 2020 at Elmhurst.
“Joining Valparaiso’s staff was a great opportunity to not only progress my career at an excellent institution with a sterling academic reputation, but also to learn from a well-traveled, experienced and successful staff,” Smith said. “I could not be more excited to get to work here as we continue to elevate this program.”
Heston joins Fox’s staff after previously serving as the recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach at Adrian College, a role he had held since July 2019. He helped two of the team’s wide receivers finish in the top five in receiving yards per game in the conference, including one who led the conference in yards per game, yards per reception and total receiving yards.
During his time at Adrian, Heston also served as the punt return coach, hands team coach, offensive practice film coordinator, study table director, recruiting coordinator, on-campus visit coordinator, camp coordinator and media/social media director.
Heston played cornerback at Olivet College from August 2012 to April 2013 before becoming a student operations manager for the Michigan State football program from March 2014 to January 2017. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts and sciences specializing in interpersonal communication in December 2016.
What They’re Saying About Coach Gladney
“This is a great hire by Coach Fox and his staff. Coach Gladney will bring great energy and enthusiasm as an accomplished alum who will work like it all depends on him.” -Kasey Teegardin, Indiana University Special Teams Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach
“I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Fred as a player along with the opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with him beyond his playing days. As a player, Fred was a very reliable playmaker, but more importantly he was a worker who earned everything that he got. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be successful in developing wideouts who play hard, understand offensive football and make plays when they are available to them.” -Alex Bailey, Ball State University Wide Receivers Coach
What They’re Saying About Coach Bustle
“Valparaiso hired an outstanding man and football coach in Brad Bustle. Brad is a rising star in the football coaching profession. He will be a tremendous asset to the Valparaiso football program.” -Bud Foster, Former Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator
“Brad has been around football his entire life. He is a smart, hard-working football coach. His players love playing for him. Brad will be a great asset to the Valpo program.” -Donnie Suber, Tennessee Tech Defensive Coordinator
What They’re Saying About Coach Ghilarducci
“RJ has three qualities that you always want in a coach. He’s smart. He’s passionate. He’s a worker. He is going to do a great job at Valparaiso.” -Six-time NBA All-Star, 1989 NBA Finals MVP and NBA Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, 1985-1999 Detroit Pistons
“RJ is a tireless worker who will do whatever it takes to make sure the job is done right. Valpo has hired a good one.” -Jacques Cesaire, Buffalo Bills Assistant Defensive Line Coach
“We were very fortunate to stumble upon RJ quite some time ago. He came here as an intern and was one of the best we’ve ever had. He is extremely intelligent and does a great job with breakdowns and working with computers. He’s one of those guys who has a feel for coaching and is able to see the big picture and the small parts that make it all work. We were fortunate to have him here and we hope that he has a wonderful coaching career. We think he’ll go far.” -Dale Lindsey, University of San Diego Head Coach
What They’re Saying About Coach Smith
“Jackson is extremely intelligent and hard working. He coaches football for the right reason, which is to develop student-athletes in a positive manner. Jackson has a bright future and will be a valuable asset for Valpo Football.” -Nathan Bell, Aurora University Associate Head Coach
“Coach Smith is a young and upcoming coach who has a fiery passion for the game of football. He not only works hard on the field, but he is also a very strong recruiter and relates with the players well. Valpo got a great one.” -Jordan Huxtable, Rutgers Defensive Quality Control
“Coach Smith is an extremely hard working, knowledgeable and loyal coach. He is very focused on being an extremely effective coach, recruiter and a mentor for student-athletes. Throughout his time at Elmhurst, he forged great relationships with coaches and student-athletes and will be a great asset to any coaching staff that he is a part of.” -Glen Brittich, Elmhurst College Assistant Director of Athletics
What They’re Saying About Shane Heston
“Shane responds to the call of leadership with hard work and intellect. His remarks and comments are well received by the players and his peers. It is evident that Shane has distinguished himself through his leadership and superior work ethic. He has earned much respect for his willingness to go the extra mile for coaches and players.” -Dave Warner, Michigan State University Co-Offensive Coordinator
“Shane has done a really good job with the players, and additionally, he’s been doing a really great job recruiting for us.” - Adrian College Head Football Coach Jim Deere