Moving 450 miles across three states to the southwest in a week’s time wasn’t something former McKenzie Rebel and Tennessee Vol football player Max Arnold had planned. But that’s exactly what happened.
Arnold, who was serving on the football staff of Alabama-Birmingham, wanted to check his marketability. He saw where a job for special-teams graduate assistant coach was posted at University of Louisiana. He looked into it, but didn’t know a soul on the coaching staff. But he did know people who knew people. Soon, they started pitching Max to the Louisiana staff.
“They asked me to send a resume. They gave me a call shortly afterward, and that was a surprise,” said Arnold. “I talked with Louisiana for a while and had a really good conversation just talking with them. It just seemed to be a good fit from the first conversation.”
And just a bit over three weeks ago, Arnold was hired as a special teams assistant. He said he started getting calls from people on his reference list saying they had fully endorsed the coaching candidate. Pretty soon, he heard from Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, whose name is often mentioned as a star on the rise for a Power 5 job.
“He offered me the job and I took it, Arnold said.
Within a week, he packed up his stuff and moved from Birmingham to Lafayette, which is about as far as McKenzie to Chicago.
While at Tennessee, Arnold played on defense, but also saw a lot of time in special teams, which is why he thinks he got the job.
“The time I played at Tennessee and with the success we had, we were actually, my senior year, ranked No. 1 in the nation in cumulative special teams. That experience will help me,” he said, adding that part of his duties at UT involved blocking for Alvin Kamara, who currently plays for the New Orleans Saints and is regarded as one of the top running backs in the league.
Arnold said he was reluctant to leave Birmingham and was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue his college coaching adventure there.
“The past two years, I worked with (head coach) Bill Clark at UAB and that place was phenomenal,” Arnold said. “I wasn’t necessarily excited to leave, but this was just a good opportunity. We won a conference championship there and two western division championships.”
But the former Rebel and Volunteer says he really likes the vibe he gets from Napier.
“Napier seems to have a lot of character and high standards for work ethic and has a lot of respect for his players. When I got there, he met me himself, gave me a tour around the building,” Arnold said. “It was pretty cool that the head coach gave me a personal tour. The next two weeks were kind of like a blur just getting everything going. The coordinator is new and we’re both coming from different places. We’re getting accustomed to the Louisiana way.”
Arnold also said the players have respect for the coach and it shows on the practice field.
“Everyone has bought into the culture. We’ve had six practices and it’s been impressive seeing players flying around,” he said. “One of the most important things is that players buy in. There isn’t a lack of that. It’s good to learn under another successful coaching staff. God has put me around coaches who have had a lot of success. Louisiana was co-champions of the Sun Belt and we’re expecting to win another one. That’s a goal of ours.”
Anyone who knows Arnold recognizes how big his faith is in his life. He feels making the move to to Lafayette is part of God’s plan.
“UAB has a great staff. They don’t come any better. I never worked somewhere where I felt so appreciated. I grew a lot in Birmingham as a person and as a coach. It was really special,” he said. “I think this is where God was leading me.”
Arnold said he really isn’t concerned about a five-year plan or a 10-year plan as it pertains to his coaching career.
“Really, I just want to take it one day at a time and go where God leads me.”