The Redskins announced Wednesday the team has hired Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica, a coach with a list of awards untouchable by most men in the NFL.
During a decorated career as a Combat Attack Helicopter Commander serving in Bosnia-Hersegovina, Korea and Iraq, Kotwica earned the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star.
Kotwica logged more than 1,000 combat hours for the United States Army in Operation Freedom II.
The Star-Ledger profiled Kotwica’s Army experiences in 2009, when he was promoted from quality control coach to assistant special teams coach of the New York Jets, and again in June, when he took over for Mike Westhoff as head of New York’s special teams.
“As a pilot, he escorted presidents and secretaries of defense, flew in war zones amid the constant exchange of fire, and oversaw a daily regiment that consisted of roughly 40 soldiers and 16 aircraft,” reporter Conor Orr wrote.
NFL Network produced a feature on Kotwica that traces his history of leadership back to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, where the linebacker started from 1993-96 and captained the only 10-win team in Army history.
“Some people you don’t have to like hear them raise their voice in a big room,” said Maj. Tony Bianchi, Kotwica’s teammate at Army. “They don’t have to call a team meeting. He was just that guy, that common sense check. He was our natural leader.”
Bob Sutton recruited Kotwica out of Chicago when he was the head coach of the Black Knights. When he was the defensive coordinator of the Jets, Sutton persuaded Eric Mangini to interview Kotwica for his first NFL job. At that point, the pilot’s only coaching experience was coordinating the defense at USMA Prep School.
“If you interview this guy, you’re going to hire him,” Sutton said he told Mangini. “If you hire him, you’re going to promote him.”
The Jets changed head coaches, but Kotwica remained on staff. Rex Ryan promoted him to assistant special teams coach in 2009, and Kotwica took over as special teams coordinator last season.
Kotwica told the Star-Ledger his leadership experience in the military has translated to the NFL.
“Change is inevitable, you have to adapt and you have to overcome,” he said. “Leading soldiers, there’s an assimilation there to football players. You’re leading people from various backgrounds, there’s a lot of carryover, and that’s helped.”
Tags: Bob Kotwica, Bob Sutton, Eric Mangini, redskins, Rex Ryan, United States Army
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