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Spring 2018 Download Cover
Defining the standard

Defining the standard

Conklin returns to Wofford as head football coach

For the college’s 23rd head football coach, returning to Wofford was an opportunity to come home.

After being hired by longtime Wofford football coach Mike Ayers more than a decade earlier to coach defensive backs and then special teams, Josh Conklin knew Wofford was a good fit. And although he was thankful his career took him to work with two Power Five conference teams, the Terriers were always on his mind.

“About two years ago I went through a transformation in terms of evaluating what’s important, and I decided that to me it’s people and relationships,” says Conklin. “At Wofford, people and relationships are the root of the college and the root of the Athletics Department. Here it’s about the student-athlete, it’s about academics, it’s about building a staff of good people, and it’s about watching the players graduate and go on to do great things.

“I didn’t think at 38 years old I would have this kind of opportunity,” continues Conklin, “but when they contacted me I thought, ‘this could be something really special.’”

The return to the Upstate also brought Conklin and his wife, Molly, closer to family. Conklin’s in-laws live in Spartanburg and have Wofford roots — his father-in-law, Al Clark Jr. ’76, was a four-year football letterman at the college, as was his brother-in-law Al Clark III ’01. It was Al Clark III, a then staff member with the Terrier Club, who introduced Conklin to Molly on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007, the night of the Wofford-Richmond playoff game.

“She was supposed to be on a date with another guy that night, but fortunately for me he got sick,” says Conklin. “I saw her for the first time on the grassy hill next to the Verandah lot. We went to church together the following Sunday, then on a lunch date ... We never looked back and were married four years later.”

Conklin’s interest in academics started at an early age. Both of his parents were elementary educators, and education was of primary importance to them. “I have a love of teaching and a love of learning, and a college like Wofford allows you to become connected with the entire community — with the faculty, the staff, the other students. Wofford is a family environment, and Molly and I appreciate that — there’s a lot of love here, a lot of family. And thanks to Coach Ayers, the football program is a place where coaches can bring their kids, where it’s a family. It’s the place I want to be.”

Conklin includes Ayers on his short list of mentors and major influencers, along with his mother, father and in-laws. He also credits Ayers for a large portion of his coaching philosophy, which starts and ends with the relationships he has with his players. “I think you really have to understand how guys function and view the world, and understand that every generation is different. To be a successful coach, you have to be willing to understand what motivates your players — what drives them to perform at a high level,” says Conklin. “I want us to continue to play our brand of football. I want us to be known as a tough, physical group. I want the team to live by the tagline ‘define the standard’ in everything they do, both outside and inside football. I want our fans to see a team that runs the ball physically, that stops the ball physically. I want the fans to see that we play tough, hard-nosed football and we win games in a methodical fashion. That’s the brand it has been, that’s the brand that needs to continue, and that’s the brand that needs to expand.”

“Josh is the complete package,” said Wofford Director of Athletics Richard Johnson during Conklin’s introduction to the campus community. “He has the Wofford DNA we were looking for along with a great depth and breadth of external experience. We are thrilled to have him carry on the legacy of Mike Ayers and Wofford football.”

Although the heart of the college is the same, upon his return Conklin has been impressed with the strategic additions he sees on the campus. “The facilities have always been good, but the new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium and the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts are really magnificent,” says Conklin. “The college has also done some really good things with strength and conditioning, which provides a better experience for the student-athletes. You know the place is going in the right direction when these things happen.

“Plus,” adds Conklin, “we love to eat out and are excited by all the new restaurants in downtown Spartanburg!”

As Conklin looks toward the season, he hopes the Terrier community will continue to provide for and support the college’s student-athletes in all ways — emotional, financial and academic. “We are developing both players and men; men who will graduate from Wofford and go out and be leaders in their communities,” says Conklin. “It’s not just about winning games, it’s about player development. I want to make the complete Wofford experience the best experience possible for my team.”

STATS:

  • Born in Gillette, Wyoming
  • Bachelor’s degree in physical education from Dakota State University, where he was a starting linebacker and Academic All-American for the Trojans
  • Master’s degree in sport administration from South Dakota State
  • Married to Molly Clark Conklin in 2011; together they have 5-year-old Clark and 1-year-old Millie

COLLEGE COACHING EXPERIENCE:

  • WOFFORD: Head Coach (2018- )
  • Pittsburgh: Defensive Coordinator (2015-17)
  • Florida International: Defensive Coordinator (2013-14)
  • Tennessee: Safeties (2012)
  • The Citadel: Defensive Coordinator and Safeties (2010-11)
  • Wofford: Defensive Backs (2007-09), Special Teams (2009)
  • South Dakota State: Defensive Backs and Special Teams (2005-06), Graduate Assistant (2003-04)

 

By Annie S. Mitchell