MIAMI — What went through the mind of Zach Crissup after it was officially announced Thursday morning that “interim” had been removed from the title of head football coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M?
“Excitement, honor and the list of things I have to do the rest of the day,” he said following a press conference announcing his hiring Thursday morning.
“People don’t always see everything that you do, but when they were able to see some of the principles that I hold dear to my heart and that I acted them out in the way they expected me to, that is rewarding but still humbling that they were able to see that,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Crissup succeeds Zach Allen, who resigned in July to become recruiting coordinator and defensive run game coordinator at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
Crissup’s hiring was confirmed by the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges at their meeting Friday at Langston.
“There is part of the Norseman creed that talks about being entrusted to sustain the tradition,” Crissup said. “That’s what I feel the need to do; to honor the people in the past, the Dale Pattersons, the Red Robertsons, the Coach Bowmans, the Gerald Howses. Those people were probably the first to come to mind — how can I make sure that NEO Football is successful forever and how can I be a part of that.”
Howse, who was a beloved player and assistant coach in the Norse football program, died in May.
The Northeastern A&M program — like everyone else in the National Junior College Athletic Association — is shut down until spring because of COVID-19
Under guidelines set up by the NJCAA, football teams are being allowed 60 practice days between Aug. 15 and Nov. 15 and three scrimmage dates.
Teams then can resume practice March 1, 2021, and begin an eight-game season March 25.
NEO’s first game will be at home against Trinity Valley Community College on March 27.
Crissup is in his second stint on the NEO coaching staff.
He first came on board in 2010 as linebacker and strength and conditioning coach, working with Dale Patterson, Sherard Poteete and Ryan Held.
James Cheatham was NEO’s defensive coordinator during that stretch before moving on to be head coach at Miami High School
The 2012 Norsemen won the Southwest Junior College Football Conference title with a 9-2 record.
Following stints at Fairmont State (2015-2016) as defensive coordinator and Missouri Southern (2017) as secondary coach, Crissup returned to NEO under Allen as defensive coordinator in 2018.
In the past two seasons, Crissup had the No.1 passing defense in the SWJCFC.
The Golden Norse went 4-5 in 2019, but just missed making it to the conference playoffs.
NEO, Tyler Junior College, Navarro College, Cisco College and New Mexico Military Institute all finished in a tie for third with 3-4 records in league play after NEO ripped Cisco, 48-30; Trinity Valley nipped Navarro, 45-44; Kilgore outslugged Tyler 34-28 in double overtime and NMMI beat Blinn 44-42 with a touchdown with 19.2 seconds left in the final games of the regular season.
Because of criteria, the Norsemen and Tyler were the odd-hands out.
NEO’s conference losses in 2019 were to Trinity Valley, Kilgore, Tyler and New Mexico Military and the win came against Navarro and Blinn back-to-back and Cisco.
“There’s a lot of things we are going to hang our hat on,” said Crissup, who played safety for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. “The first thing that is very needed in 2020 and our first rule is to love each other with brotherly affection. We are brothers. We are going to make sure we take care of each other.”
Originally from Helena, his last high school football game was at Red Robertson Field at the Oklahoma Eight Man Football Coaches Association here in 2004.
“I have seen a lot of coaches do this job. I am very familiar with this job,” Crissup said. “This is something I have dreamed about, prayed about, thought about and talked about for a long time taking this next step personally — now its time to go to work.”