BOONE, N.C. — Like so many others who traveled to New Orleans last week and watched Appalachian State cap a memorable football season with a thrilling bowl win, Eliah Drinkwitz showed up to work Monday morning.
He parked behind Kidd Brewer Stadium and was greeted as soon as he walked into the fourth-floor lobby of the Ricks Athletics Complex at 9 a.m. An exciting, busy first on-campus day as App State’s head coach began with Director of Athletics Doug Gillin showing Drinkwitz his new office.
Welcome to The Rock.
Joined in Boone by his wife, Lindsey, and their three daughters (Addison, Emerson and Ella), Drinkwitz toured the locker room before his introductory press conference, which was open to the public and drew a large crowd to the fifth floor of the building.
“What I realized down in New Orleans is what makes this place so unique and so special is you,” Drinkwitz told the crowd. “I really believe people are your most powerful resource. The pride and tradition of championships is because of you. I’m certainly excited to be your new football coach. I couldn’t be any happier to bring my family to join the Appalachian State Football and University family.”
With a videoboard message welcoming him to Kidd Brewer Stadium, Drinkwitz followed Gillin’s formal introduction by sharing many of his beliefs and philosophies.
He’s taking over a program that has won four straight bowl games and three consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships. A 45-13 victory against Middle Tennessee on Saturday in the New Orleans Bowl capped an 11-2 season, and App State’s 41 wins in the last four seasons currently leads the nation’s Group of Five conference programs.
After conducting a national search, Gillin and Appalachian last week announced the hiring of Drinkwitz to a five-year contract that runs through the 2023 season.
“It was early on that we connected on our core values, and those were things we weren’t going to waver on,” Gillin said. “Academic integrity, first and foremost. We’re here to graduate student-athletes, and we want to make sure we recruit students who can compete academically, certainly on the fields of play as well, but also in the classroom. We want to make sure, with social responsibility, how are we preparing them for life after football? How are we preparing them while they’re here to be good citizens in the community, in the dorm rooms, in the classrooms?
“And how are we preparing them to win? We don’t expect to go backward. We’re keeping this thing climbing, and competitive excellence is really, really important to us around here. We compete for championships, and what we want to provide for our student-athletes is a world-class experience.”
Drinkwitz, 35, had been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for record-setting NC State teams the past three seasons, and he joined the Wolfpack’s staff after excelling in a similar role at Group of Five power Boise State.
He graduated magna cum laude and served as the student body president at Arkansas Tech, was a quality control assistant at Auburn when the Tigers won the 2010 national championship and helped Arkansas State win back-to-back Sun Belt championships in 2012-13 as that program’s co-offensive coordinator.
In announcing that he strives to enhance an already strong program in Boone, Drinkwitz said App State will be about low ego and high output.
“We’re excited to continue to move this university and this football program forward,” Drinkwitz said. “Our stated goal is to win the Sun Belt Conference championship and a bowl game with class, integrity and academic excellence.”
In working toward those goals, Drinkwitz said three critical things will be visible: Pride, Passion and Purpose.
“The first thing you’re going to see is pride because that’s what being a representative of Appalachian is. When I was down in New Orleans, you could see the pride. Everybody that came and shook my hand and wished me luck, you could tell there was a sense of pride and a sense of belonging in this university, in this program. All these players, and all these student-athletes that we’re going to recruit, the current team, they’re going to display pride for who we are and what we’re going to be.”
“A passion for the game, a passion to wake up every single day and be better than you were before, to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Passion is that fuel that drives you, that wakes you up in the morning and says you have a higher calling. When you see our football program and you see our players and you see our community, you see passion. We’re going to represent this program with passion.
“Passion is also a competitive edge. We believe in competition. The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition.”
“I believe that each and every one of us have been given a gift and a purpose. I believe you have to have a purpose-driven life in order to succeed. We’re going to work with our student-athletes to make sure they understand that there’s something bigger than just football. You’re chasing two dreams. You’re chasing a dream of life with football, but we also have to realize this game has a short window, and at some point, this game stops. When it does, you have to Make An Impact, a significant legacy we want you to leave.”