Homegrown Sturdy Brings Experience to Iowa State
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State assistant football coach Todd Sturdy is back in the state of Iowa and it feels like home. For the previous five years, Sturdy had been offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington (2007) and Washington State (2008-2011). Now the Tipton native is home where his roots are deep. Cyclone head coach Paul Rhoads tabbed the St. Ambrose graduate and eventual head coach as his wide receivers coach.
"Todd Sturdy brings us the full package," said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. "His character is above reproach. He has always been the best possible role model for his players. His football coaching skills are excellent but Todd Sturdy is a teacher first. It makes him a great hire."
Sturdy brings four years experience as a Pac-12 Conference offensive coordinator, 12 years as a collegiate head coach and 22 years of coaching. It all began in Tipton.
"I have so many farm and small town memories," Sturdy said. "I enjoyed everything about it, including friendships that last a lifetime. In high school I was exposed to great teachers and administrators. You are around real quality people."
Sturdy was truly a high school athletics all-arounder. He attended Tipton High School, where he played four sports and earned 14 letters. He was an all-state quarterback and started at signal-caller for the South team in the 1986 Iowa Shrine Bowl All-Star game.
"In small town Iowa, you get a lot of opportunities," Sturdy said. "I played football, basketball, ran track and played baseball. The summer component was awesome and unique. It allowed me to compete in track in the spring. We had a strong track program. Then I competed in baseball in the summer."
When Study's attention turned to college, St. Ambrose in Davenport stood out.
"I had some opportunities to walk-on from other programs but St. Ambrose had athletics scholarship money available," Sturdy said. "It was the best choice for me, financially and competitively. It was close to home."
As a player, Sturdy was a quarterback at St. Ambrose from 1987-90, earning a bachelor's degree in history education. On the field he was his team's MVP in 1988. He was team captain in 1989 and received the coach's appreciation award. One of Sturdy's coaches in his final collegiate season was former Iowa State assistant coach Mike Woodley. For Sturdy, Woodley's arrival was fortuitous.
"I was very fortunate that Mike came in my senior year and coached at St. Ambrose" Sturdy said. "We developed a great relationship there. He hired me in spring of 1990. I was the facilities director and assistant football coach as special teams coordinator."
Woodley would tell you that he was the fortunate one.
"He was one of the leading high school passers in the state of Iowa," Woodley said. "He was a real competitor and a smart, smart, smart player. His senior year we switched him to defensive back."
Woodley was so impressed with Sturdy that he hired his former player as a full-time coach soon after Sturdy's graduation. Coaching athletes who are just a year or two younger can be a real challenge. It is even tougher when you are coaching your former teammates. Woodley, who would be St. Ambrose's head coach from 1991 to 1993, had no such worries about Sturdy.
"Some coaches might struggle with coaching your former teammates when they are so young," Woodley said. "Todd was so respected as a leader and a worker that there weren't any problems. He became my defensive coordinator. He was very intense."
Sturdy had also coached on the prep level, while still an undergraduate. Coaching had become a lifetime decision. During his undergraduate experience at St. Ambrose, he coached the Tipton sophomore baseball team and was a varsity assistant.
"I knew I wanted to coach all the way back to when I was a sophomore in high school," Sturdy said.
In, 1993, St. Ambrose upset Western Illinois, 27-25, the Bees' first win over the Leathernecks in 64 years. Sturdy coached the St. Ambrose secondary for two years before being named defensive coordinator for the 1994 season. After the season, Woodley was named an assistant coach under Dan McCarney at Iowa State. Two games into the 1995 season, Sturdy was named interim head coach at St. Ambrose. That December, he was named head coach of the Bees.
Sturdy went on to become the winningest head coach in St. Ambrose history with an 85-40 record in more than 12 seasons. His teams won five Mid-States Football Association-Midwest League championships and had a 42-8 league record in his last seven seasons at the helm, including six-straight playoff appearances. In 2006 he was NAIA Region 2 Coach of the Year, with the team going a perfect 10-0 before a first-round, 38-31 double-overtime loss to Morningside in the NAIA Championship playoffs. Sturdy coached 64 first-team all-conference players and 28 All-Americans. His players rewrote the offensive school records in virtually every category.
Being head coach at an NAIA school like St. Ambrose is far removed from today's NCAA FBS coaching positions. That fact didn't faze Sturdy.
"You are involved in every aspect of the program in one way or the other, Sturdy said. "I thought it was a huge opportunity for me at 28 years old. I had the keys handed to me. You have to wear a lot of hats from painting the lines of the practice field, fund raising , equipment, strength and conditioning, everything."
Sturdy's satisfaction is not driven by wins and losses.
"When a former player calls me and tells me how they're doing and tells me about their life successes thus far and thanks me for helping them, I think that's the proudest moment," Sturdy said. "Collegiate sports are a part of the education that these young people receive and when you get those positive responses and correspondence from your former players, it always validates the reason why I'm in education."
Sturdy made the leap to NCAA FCS when he took a job as offensive coordinator under Paul Wulff at Eastern Washington in Cheney, Wash.
"I had a couple opportunities while at St. Ambrose," Sturdy said. "It felt like the right time for me and for my family. We took the chance and didn't look back."
EWU thrived under the new coaching staff, posting a 9-4 record, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals. Sturdy's offense ranked fifth nationally.
Washington State came calling for Wulff, a Cougar alum, after the 2007 season. Sturdy followed.
"We improved the program in every aspect, including academically and accountability," Sturdy said.
Sturdy's 2011 Washington State offense ranked ninth nationally among FBS schools in passing offense. The Cougars were 26th nationally in first downs, 33rd in total offense, 36th in passing efficiency, 41st in red zone offense and 45th in scoring offense. When you consider that injuries forced Sturdy to use three different quarterbacks last season, the offensive numbers affirm Sturdy's teaching ability.
With Sturdy in Ames, the Cyclone receivers will work under an experienced coach who has returned to his home state. Sturdy is just what Rhoads was looking for in an assistant coach. The Iowa State head coach will tell you he couldn't have done better than Todd Sturdy.