Meet the Michigan State Football Staff Weekly Profile: Brad Salem

Publish date:


Brad Salem in his short time back at MSU has proven to be a invaluable asseet to Mark Dantonio and the Spartan Nation.

Brad Salem in his short time back at MSU has proven to be a invaluable asseet to Mark Dantonio and the Spartan Nation.

One of the newest members of the Spartan football coaching staff, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem has already established himself as a great coach and even better teacher.

           Like fellow coach Mike Tressel, Brad Salem has coaching in his blood. His father, Joe, was the head coach of South Dakota, Northern Arizona, and even of Minnesota for four years. His brother Tim coaches at Central Florida, and his brother coaches high school football in South Dakota. Brad Salem followed in his father’s footsteps to Northern Arizona for college. However, after two years there, he transferred to Augustana College in South Dakota, where he played at wide receiver and quarterback from 1990 to 1992. 

Two years later, Salem got his first real taste of the Big Ten when he became a graduate assistant at Michigan State. While working there for two years (with the quarterbacks and wide receivers), Salem met his future boss: Mark Dantonio. In 1996, though, Salem left the college game for high school football. He served as the defensive coordinator at Everett High School in Lansing, Michigan. After only one year there, he headed for a small school in Iowa: Luther College. Salem was the offensive and recruiting coordinator there for two seasons before heading for the University of South Dakota. Salem settled down there for three years as the passing game and recruiting coordinator. Following the 2001 season, he once again joined a high school coaching staff, this time at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The high school game did not satisfy the coach long, as he joined the Augustana College (in Illinois) coaching staff, where he quickly ascended the ranks. Salem served one year as the quarterbacks coach, and the next as the offensive coordinator before claiming the head coaching job. In his five years as the team’s head coach, Salem led Augustana to a 31-26 record. In 2010, Salem traded in his gig at Augustana for the running backs coaching slot at Michigan State. John Van Dam (a former MSU QB and the tight ends coach during Salem’s tenure) described him as a “player’s coach”, a “road warrior”, and a “great recruiter”. Said Van Dam when Salem was hired: “I believe Coach Salem will do an excellent job at Michigan State.” Van Dam was definitely right: his words have already come true.

Like Coach Dantonio, Salem believes in three things: effort, toughness, and knowledge. Salem believes that if a player has these three things, he has the potential to be a great player. As far as teaching his running backs, he requires three things on each play: “I want assignment, execution, and finish.” Salem explained: “The assignment piece of do they know what to do. The execution part- do they know how to do it physically and where you’re supposed to go and get it done. And then the finish comes back to the effort. Do you finish and know how to play physically as far as blocking your opponent or running through the shoulder pads and great pad level and finishing with strength.”

Salem has done a great job at teaching this, according to both the statistics and his player’s testimonies. Last season, Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Larry Caper combined for 1, 950 yards and 23 touchdowns. These three backs ran over the competition many times over the course of the season. More important than producing statistics, though, Salem helps his players to truly grasp concepts. As Larry Caper put it: “He [Salem] is such a great teacher and makes things so simple.” Edwin Baker also had this to say: “He is a great teacher of all the little things.” Salem even managed to impress 2012 RB recruit Nick Tompkins’ father Reggie (former Wisconsin WR): His knowledge of the game and watching film and showing us drills and all the technical things that the fan doesn’t see really stood out,” raved Reggie Tompkins. “He showed us how the training, the coaching, and all that goes into a play. He could show us film and then what drills he taught to make it happen. He showed us what he could do to get my son to the next level if he can take his game to that level. That stood out a lot. Coach Salem is an excellent teacher and disciplinarian.”

Above all, what makes Brad Salem a great coach is that he understands that his first and foremost job is to teach his players. “I think that what I do best is teach. Football isn’t about the screaming coach,” Salem affirmed. “It is about breaking things down to their simplest form and showing the guys what is expected of them and those they are playing with.” In that case, Salem is among a group of like-minded men at Michigan State. Coach Dantonio and his staff know that football is not about yelling and screaming and carrying on about just football: “We want to teach our guys the big picture; especially here in this room and not just have tunnel vision of here’s what I do, but why I do what I do. It takes eleven guys.”

As his second season rolls around, Salem is excited to be a part of the MSU coaching staff: “They’re fun guys to be around: great coaches, great teachers, great communicators. It’s been an interesting experience, and it’s really been fun to be back here in East Lansing.” Salem feels as if he is a very lucky man: “I’m very fortunate to be in this position and work for a coach like Coach Dantonio… Just the day to day, really having a joy about your job and coming in and you feel like you don’t work a day in your life”