Football Coaching Staff

Woody Widenhofer

   Woody Widenhofer brings his exceptional knowledge and talent to New Mexico State University as the team’s defensive coordinator now in is second season with the Aggies.

  From his playing days, to his stint as defensive coordinator of the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers, to his head coaching days at Missouri and Vanderbilt, Widenhofer has always been a defensive-minded leader.

   After playing for College Football Hall of Fame coach Dan Devine at Missouri in the mid-1960’s, Widenhofer began his coaching career at Michigan State. After stops at Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, he began a magical career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973.  He served as the team’s linebacker coach, mentoring such greats as NFL Hall of Famers Jack Lambert, Roy Gerela and Jack Ham.

   After four years and two Super Bowl titles, Widenhofer became the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, guiding the famed “Steel Curtain” defense to two more Super Bowl titles.

   In 1984, Widenhofer got his first head coaching job, joining the upstart United States Football League and coaching quarterback Doug Williams and the Oklahoma Outlaws for one season.

   The following season, he returned to his alma mater as head coach of the Missouri Tigers.  Widenhofer had many close calls against some of the top teams in the nation at Mizzou.  He lost a 28-20 decision to #9 Nebraska, a 21-19 game to #10 Oklahoma State and a 17-13 heartbreaker in 1987 at #1 Oklahoma that kept his Tigers out of a bowl game.  He did make the hearts of Tiger fans happy in his final two years by beating rival Kansas 19-7 and 55-17.  His best player during that time was offensive lineman John Clay, one of only 23 players at the time to have earned first team all-America status at Mizzou.

   Widenhofer returned to the professional ranks as defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions in 1989. He spent four years in Detroit and two more with the Cleveland Browns before newly hired Vanderbilt coach Rob Dowhower invited Widenhofer to oversee the Commodore defense in 1995.

   Widenhofer was the Commodore’s defensive coordinator for two seasons before becoming head coach in 1997.  His 1999 squad finished 5-6, tied for the most number of wins since the 1982 Vanderbilt squad posted the school’s last winning record at 8-4.  His defense was one of the best in the nation, holding Florida to just 13 points, South Carolina to 10 and Hal Mumme’s Kentucky squad to only 19.  That season the Commodores ranked 24th in the nation in total defense, allowing only 315 yards per game.

   Again, Widenhofer suffered tough luck, falling to LSU 7-6, Tennessee 17-10 and 28-26, Florida 13-6, Alabama 10-9 and Auburn 24-21.

   Two Vanderbilt linebackers earned All-America honors with Widenhofer as head coach, Jamie Winborn and Jamie Duncan.

   Widenhofer had several of his former Commodore players advance to the NFL including veteran NFL cornerback Fred Vinson, safety Ashley Battles, cornerback Corey Chavous, linebacker Jamie Duncan, running back Corey Harris and linebacker Shelton Quarles.

    He then joined forces with Mumme at Southeastern Louisiana in 2002, building a program from scratch and posting a 5-7 record in 2003 and 7-4 in 2004. In 2005, Widenhofer coached the nation’s leading tackler Jimmy Cottrell to a school record 179 tackles, 14.9 tackles per game. Cottrell broke the single-season tackle record for the Aggies are finished his career has the Aggies third leading tackler in school history with 463. Cottrell was also drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Widenhofer also coached free safety Matt Griebel, who was third in the conference and ninth in the nation in tackles per game (12.4).

     Widenhofer’s strangling 3-4 defense lived up to its reputation in 2007, as the Aggies ranked third in the nation in opponent third-down conversion percentage at 28.1%. He also guided linebacker Tim McManigal and defensive back Courtney Bryan both earned second team all-WAC honors. McManigal was the Aggies’ leading scorer in 2006, collecting 91 tackles and two sacks on the season, ranking him fourth in the WAC and 52nd in the nation in tackles per game (8.25). Bryan led the Aggies in interceptions (4) and pass break-ups with 15. He ranked fifth in the nation in pass defending and first in the WAC.

     Widenhofer and his wife Sabrina reside in Las Cruces with their daughter Katlyn, who is a freshman at NMSU.


Woody File


Full Name: Robert “Woody” Widenhofer

Birthdate/Place: January 20, 1943, Butler, Pa.

Wife: Sabrina

Children: Katlyn



Riverview High School - Riverview, Pa.

Missouri - Columbia, Mo. (B.A., 1965)

Michigan State - Flint, Mich. (M.S., 1970)


Playing Career

Missouri - Linebacker, 1961-64


Coaching Career

Grad Asst. Coach (Defensive Line) - Michigan State, 1969-70

Assistant Coach (Linebackers) - Eastern Michigan, 1971

Assistant Coach (Linebackers) - Minnesota, 1972

Assistant Coach (Linebackers) - Pittsburgh Steelers, 1973-76

Assistant Coach (Def. Coord.)- Pittsburgh Steelers, 1977-83

Head Coach - Oklahoma Outlaws, 1984

Head Coach - Missouri, 1985-88

Assistant Coach (Def. Coord.) - Detroit Lions, 1989-92

Assistant Coach (Linebackers) - Cleveland Browns, 1993-94

Assistant Coach (Def. Coord.) - Vanderbilt, 1995-96

Head Coach - Vanderbilt, 1997-2001

Asst. Coach (Def. Coord.)- Southeastern Louisiana, 2003-04

 Assistant Coach (Def. Coord.) - New Mexico State, 2005-


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