Jay Norvell was hired as the 26th head football coach in Nevada program history on Dec. 9, 2016, ushering in a new era of Wolf Pack football.
“I want to thank University president Marc Johnson and Doug Knuth for this tremendous opportunity,” Norvell said. “Our family is humbled and honored to lead the Nevada football program. It is our charge to make this the flagship program of the Mountain West Conference.”
The appointment marks the first head coaching tenure for Norvell, but he is certainly well versed in the game of football with a 31-year coaching career that spans college football’s top levels and the National Football League. Norvell, 53, has coached in both the BCS National Championship Game with the Oklahoma Sooners and Super Bowl XXXVII with the Oakland Raiders.
“I am thrilled to hire Jay Norvell to serve as our head football coach,” Nevada athletics director Doug Knuth said. “Coach Norvell is known throughout college and NFL football as a man of great character and integrity. He is highly respected for his knowledge of the game and ability to teach his players. He has incredible relationships and an army of friends in high school, college and professional football. Lastly, and importantly, Coach Norvell is known for his passion and love for his players. He will set a very high standard for excellence and work tirelessly to achieve our goals academically and athletically. I am excited to watch Coach Norvell build Wolf Pack football into a championship program.”
Throughout his three decades of coaching, he has stops at Iowa, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Iowa State, the Indianapolis Colts, the Oakland Raiders, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, UCLA, and most recently, Arizona State.
An All-Big 10 defensive back during a stellar playing career at Iowa, Norvell has made his coaching mark on the other side of the ball, coordinating offensive schematics while at Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State. He’s tutored a number of top players, including NFL wide receivers Kenny Stills, Sterling Shepard and Marvin Harrison as well Ryan Broyles, who left Oklahoma as the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader.
“What became apparent during the search and interview process was Jay’s career-long commitment to many of the values that define our University and Wolf Pack Athletics,” said University president Marc Johnson. “Jay has a reputation for demanding excellence and accountability from his athletes, and also in providing a supportive, positive atmosphere that helps those coached by him achieve their goals, whether it is playing football or achieving success in academics and in reaching graduation. He is a passionate, personally dynamic and energetic person who knows how to build strong character in athletes.
“And, through more than three decades of earning a well-deserved reputation nationally as a top-quality coach, Jay knows how to build a successful program that stresses excellence through performance and through personal integrity. These are qualities that our community will rally around as Wolf Pack football begins an exciting new chapter. We are very excited to have Jay as our football coach, and to welcome Jay and his family to northern Nevada.”
Throughout his career Norvell has had a hand in postseason football as well with 14 bowl game appearances, including the 2009 National Championship, four NFL playoff games and the Super Bowl appearance.
He spent the 2016 season with Arizona State, his only year with that program, before coming to Nevada. Prior to his time with the Sun Devils he served the 2015 season as the wide receivers coach at Texas and took over play-calling responsibilities for the Longhorns at the beginning of the season, helping to produce two wins over top 15 teams.
Before his one year at Texas, Norvell spent seven seasons at Oklahoma, which included three as the assistant offensive coordinator and receivers coach (2008-10), and four years as co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach (2011-14). While with the Sooners he coached three of the top four players on OU’s all-time receptions list, including Broyles, Stills and Juaquin Iglesias, oversaw five of the program’s top six single-season reception marks, and helped his receiving corps earn 10 all-conference and three academic all-conference first team honors. In 2014, Oklahoma ranked 20th in the nation in scoring offense and was 23rd in total offense.
Under Norvell, the Sooners also had a strong rushing attack as the team ranked 10th in rushing offense in 2014 and was 18th in 2013, which were the program’s highest averages since 1990. He worked with a number of talented running backs at OU, including All-Pro Demarco Murray and All-American Samaje Perine.
Prior to his appointment at Oklahoma, Norvell served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both UCLA in 2007 and Nebraska from 2004-06. The Cornhuskers were one of only two teams in the nation to rank in the top 25 in total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense and passing offense in 2006. That same year Nebraska totaled nine wins and finished the regular season as Big 12 North Division Champions.
Aside from the college game, Norvell coached for six seasons in the NFL, four of which were with the Colts and two with the Raiders. While with Oakland he coached tight ends for two seasons and worked alongside an offense that included Hall of Fame receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. His trip to the Super Bowl in 2002 was led by an offense that led the NFL in total yards and passing yards per game. Norvell joined the Colts coaching staff in 1998 as the wide receivers coach and mentored Harrison to 385 receptions, 5,376 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns during his tenure. His time with the Colts was also the first four seasons of two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning’s career.
Norvell was assistant head coach at Iowa State from 1995-97 where he worked with quarterbacks and receivers, including Sage Rosenfels, who went on to play with the Minnesota Vikings. From 1989-94, Norvell coached offensive line, receivers and special teams at Wisconsin, which followed his first full-time position as receivers coach at Northern Iowa in 1988.
A 1986 graduate of Iowa, Norvell was an All-Big Ten defensive back and recorded a league-high seven interceptions in 1985 as he helped the Hawkeyes put together a 10-2 record, a conference championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl. He was a member of the Chicago Bears in 1987 before he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater.
Norvell, who hails from Madison, Wis., has a wife, Kim, and son, Jaden. He is the author of a book, “Complete Wide Receiver,” which was published in 2012.