When David Bervig stepped down in February as football coach at The Classical Academy, he pointed to one assistant as the one he’d like to see as his successor.
He wasn’t the only one.
Other assistants, players and players’ parents went to TCA athletic director Gary Geiger with the same suggestion: Justin Rich.
Last week, Rich was tabbed to take over a Titans program that went 40-17 in Bervig’s five seasons, which included four trips to the postseason.
It wasn’t his football knowledge that first endeared Rich to his fellow coaches and players. That came out later through his coaching. It was something else that first made his mark.
“He came in with a lot of experience and he didn’t lord that over anybody,” Bervig said. “He came in with extreme humility.”
Over the past two years, that translated into a lot of fans.
“When the kids come up to you and say this is the guy we really want, I’m thinking OK, I’m all about the kids,” Geiger said. “Parents, kids and coaches -- a very experienced coaching staff -- were all very pro Justin Rich. It didn’t make it that difficult.”
Rich was the TCA linebackers coach in 2015 before moving to the offensive coordinator’s position last season.
Before that he was an assistant with the offensive line at CSU-Pueblo in 2014, the season the Thunderwolves won the Division II national championship.
He was also the head coach at Palmer for two seasons, where the Terrors went 1-9 in both 2012 and 2013 before he resigned.
“The Friday night Palmer experience felt like I did a lot of good things at Palmer, but it never really translated on the field,” Rich said.
He’s hoping to take some of that experience and put it toward TCA.
Being around the program has also helped him get acclimated.
“It’s a remarkable place,” said Rich, who was named the 2A Tri-Peaks League assistant coach of the year last season. “Great kids, attentive, easy to coach. So much fun to be around.”
Rich and Geiger are hoping Bervig stays on in an assistant capacity. The culture Bervig, defensive coordinator Chadd Miller and others have helped build before Rich joined is one the Colorado native and CSU-Fort Collins grad is hoping to carry on.
“It’s hard to beat a team that is willing to outwork anybody else and takes pride in outworking somebody else,” Rich said. “And it’s hard to beat a team that has camaraderie and brotherhood like TCA. That’s kind of the secret there.”
Bervig was one of the people most pleased with the hire.
“I couldn’t be happier that’s who they selected,” he said. “Everything we’ve accomplished the last five years Justin’s going to take to the next level.”