Notre Dame’s Tim Koegel: The Exceptional Presenter
Hyperbole is an annual ritual in football recruiting, especially at quarterback — and particularly at Notre Dame.
Buchner is “the next big thing,” similar to Phil Jurkovec in 2018, while Powlus’ father of the same name was projected by ESPN’s Beano Cook as one who would win not one but two Heismans at Notre Dame.
Fourteen years ago, Jimmy Clausen was heralded as “the LeBron James of high school football” — but the guy recruited the next year, five-star Dayne Crist, could be even better. Another five-star, Gunner Kiel in 2012, was a legacy recruit of 1980-83 Irish and NFL quarterback Blair Kiel, his uncle.
And then there was Tim Koegel, teammates with the elder Kiel in 1980-81.
The quarterback for superpower Cincinnati Moeller High in 1974-76, coached by Gerry Faust, Koegel was so advanced and accomplished — he completed an unheard-of 76 percent of his passes at Moeller — that NFL Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown, co-founder of the Cleveland Browns, reportedly claimed the youngster could go straight to the NFL from high school.
The now 62-year-old Koegel doesn’t remember when he heard it, but he doesn’t recall giving it much thought, if any.
“I’m sure at the time he said it in jest, probably as a compliment,” Koegel said. “But there is no way I thought he actually thought I could go directly to the pros — no way anyone could have.
“It wasn’t something for me like, ‘Oh, well maybe I should jump to the NFL.’ It’s different now with some of these high school kids and the advancements in the system, the individual training, speed coaches, the Elite 11 camps.
“High school offenses today are what college offenses were like 20-25 years ago, and college offenses are what the NFL was five years ago. They’ve become so much more sophisticated.”
Any delusions of instant grandeur also were quickly squelched for Koegel once he arrived at Notre Dame. Already on the roster were Parade All-Americans — the “five-star” standard back in the 1970s — Joe Montana and Gary Forystek, plus future five-year NFL quarterback Rusty Lisch.
Oh, and in Koegel’s class alone were four other all-state quarterbacks, among them fellow Parade selection Mike Courey, future nine-year NFL tight end Pete Holohan (a flanker at Notre Dame) and Greg Knafelc, who was on an NFL roster for three years.
“Going into Notre Dame, it’s a very humbling experience,” said Koegel, who saw older brothers Vic and Steve star for Ohio State under Woody Hayes. “That first year, you’re on the prep-team offense against a defense that has Ross Browner, Willie Fry, Luther Bradley, Bob Golic. … You’re thinking, ‘These are men, and we are boys.’”
NOTRE DAME AND THE NEXT CHAPTERS
After apprenticing behind Montana his first two seasons (highlighted by the 1977 national title) and then Lisch as a 1979 junior, Koegel saw two more “five-star” quarterbacks enroll his senior year in 1980: Parade’s No. 1 and No. 3 picks, Scott Grooms and Kiel, respectively, with Kiel eventually taking over as the starter in the fourth game.
In a practice before game two against Michigan that season, Koegel suffered a neck injury that would require him to take a medical redshirt — but not before his final play that campaign as the holder for Harry Oliver’s epic 51-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Michigan, 29-27.
With Faust hired in 1981 to succeed head coach Dan Devine — whose system never quite suited Koegel’s drop-back skills — Koegel started four times before the sophomore Kiel was tabbed as the future.
Competition was going to be everywhere for Koegel in a Power 5 setting. Before choosing Notre Dame in 1977, Koegel also considered Stanford, which was under new head coach Bill Walsh. It was Walsh who would help revolutionize the NFL in the 1980s with his passing offense while leading the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles that had Montana at the helm.
“I often joke that I passed up the opportunity to play for Bill Walsh at Stanford to go sit behind Joe Montana at Notre Dame, which is pretty ironic,” Koegel said.
However, Walsh left Stanford after just two years to take the San Francisco job, and drafted Montana that same spring, so Koegel has no regrets.
“And by the way, John Elway would have come in after my sophomore year at Stanford,” Koegel noted.
Koegel nearly made the Denver Broncos — where Elway would establish his Hall of Fame skills — roster as a rookie free agent before attending law school for a semester at Notre Dame. That ensuing spring in 1983, the USFL was formed and Koegel ended up playing for Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches George Allen and Marv Levy while with the Chicago Blitz, and opted not to go into the legal profession.
By 1986 the USFL had folded, so he became a broker and financial consultant in Newport Beach, Calif., while also trying out with the NFL’s nearby Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders. Ultimately, he never let football define him.
“It was such a comfortable feeling with the students,” he said of his Notre Dame recruiting visit. “I felt like I didn’t want to go to a school with the separate athlete dorms or the separate training table and separate academic standards.
“When I visited, I thought there was a lot of respect by the students toward the athletes because the athletes weren’t put on some pedestal like they are at a lot of schools where they don’t even have contact with the regular students.”
THE EXCEPTIONAL PRESENTER
With a desire to run his own operation, Koegel soon delved into the Speakers Bureaus industry, using his connections and communication skills to book speakers such as 1956 Notre Dame Heisman winner Paul Hornung, former Marquette head coach Al McGuire and renowned sports broadcaster Jim Nantz, among others, and it soon broadened to business leaders and politicians.
Koegel became a renowned presentation coach and consultant to business titans that included Cisco Systems, Xerox, ExxonMobil and Forbes, among many others — and has given his own presentation at the White House Executive Office Treaty Room.
Meanwhile, his techniques also were shared at top MBA programs such as the ones at Notre Dame, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Michigan and New York University.
“Over the course of three or four years, people started asking me to come out and talk to their managers about what makes this speaker good, what characteristics they have,” Koegel said. “I started talking to organizations about what makes people effective, how do they engage, what stories they use, how do they use those stories … it turned into training.”
In 2007, Koegel authored The Exceptional Presenter, which became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller.
“The book was my work shop, how to structure your message, how to open in the first 60 to 90 seconds to tee up the presentation, how to sequence the information, how to wrap up, how do you present as a team,” Koegel explained.
A couple of years later, he authored The Exceptional Presenter Goes Virtual — a book that turned out to be a decade ahead of its time. The COVID-19 global pandemic has made virtual meetings the new normal, even in college football recruiting. It also has made Koegel even more relevant in his field than ever.
“Everybody somewhat ignored the whole virtual thing for 10 years, and all of a sudden last March we’re doing proposals, we’re doing our most important client interactions virtually — and we’re not very good at it,” Koegel said. “It’s different from face-to-face.
“It’s so much more efficient. People are going to go back to face-to-face [eventually], but virtual is always going to be a bigger part of it.”
Because a lot of his work has included the political arena, Koegel, wife of 23 years Amy, and their two college-aged students, daughter Kaitlyn (a sophomore at Maryland) and son Marty (a freshman at Dayton), aren’t far from the Washington, D.C., area, residing in Annapolis, Md.
As a former quarterback, Koegel has indeed taken team huddles and “signal-calling” to a new level — as Brown had projected. His accurate deliveries have just been in a different arena.
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