Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of stories profiling the Boise State football team's new coaching staff. Previous stories available at IdahoStatesman.com: Steve Caldwell, Kent Riddle, Andy Avalos, Julius Brown.
Scott Huff returned home to Arizona with a plan after his football career with Boise State ended in December 2002.
He would gain experience in his profession, under the supervision of a mentor, then move back to Boise to build his career.
That's exactly what happened but not in the profession he figured.
Huff expected to follow his dad into the construction business. Instead, he's a football coach and this fall he will begin his ninth season on the Broncos' staff. He is the offensive line coach under new coach Bryan Harsin, a position Huff held from 2007-09.
"I've always loved football," said Huff, who has a 1-year-old son. "Always my reservation had been how do you balance the responsibilities of your family and then the football. Even to this day, you struggle with that, but once I got into (coaching), it was a no-brainer."
Huff's family owns, and his dad runs, a masonry contractor business in Arizona. Huff worked as a project engineer for one of his dad's friends in 2003.
"He's one of those guys who truly was on the path of doing something else," said Washington offensive line coach Chris Strausser, who coached Huff in 2001-02 and worked with him at Boise State from 2007-13. "So many guys dabble for a year and don't really intend on doing anything."
The turning point for Huff came at the end of the 2003 season, when Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter called and suggested they talk about an open graduate assistant position. Koetter coached Huff for three years in Boise (1998-2000), and many of the Sun Devils' assistants were on that staff, too.
But Huff already had turned down then-Boise State coach Dan Hawkins' suggestion of a GA position a year earlier.
"I honestly didn't ever really want to coach, at least at that point in my life," Huff said.
He decided to give it a try at Arizona State and figured he could get his master's in construction management. That didn't work out - the class schedule didn't fit with the football schedule.
It wouldn't have mattered anyway.
Huff spent two years at Arizona State, then joined Chris Petersen's original Boise State staff in 2006 as the tight ends coach.
"I had no doubt once he started coaching that that's what he was going to do," Strausser said. "He was just too good at it."
Strausser coached the Broncos' offensive line for nine of the past 13 years. He expects Huff's personality and reputation as a player to create excellent chemistry and motivate the young group he inherited.
"He's one of those guys who everybody really connects with, and I think that's made him a great recruiter," Strausser said. "When he was a player, he had an unbelievable ability to lead the group. He's the best leader I've ever had in 25 years of coaching. It's really not even close."
As a coach, Huff has become one of the Broncos' most versatile staff members.
He coached the tight ends in 2006 and from 2010-13, which exposed him to the passing game. He also served as the special teams coordinator in 2012-13 and, Strausser said, quickly became one of the best in the Mountain West.
Now Huff is back to the offensive line, where he will bring a broader perspective to the group that spends much of practice working alone.
Early in his career, Huff said, his coaching was based on his ability to play the game. Coaching other positions expanded his knowledge and forced him to learn new skills.
"Huff is a very detailed guy," tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz said of his often-smiling, wise-cracking colleague. "That's probably not the impression people get from him. He's very intelligent. He's always looking for ways to make his guys better."
Said Huff: "There's nothing like being an O-line coach - or playing O-line, for that matter. It's different. You're always the ones who get blamed for stuff. When stuff goes right, you hardly get any credit. That's cool. We're all right with that. That's the nature of the beast. That's why coaching those guys and playing that position is so special - there's no limelight. It's a true dirt-dog job."
Huff coaches with intensity but says he will be less nitpicky with his linemen this time around. He's trying to find the line between mistakes that don't matter, like missed assignments away from the play, and problems that can't be tolerated, like a lack of toughness.
He tells his players the best offensive lines in the Mountain West can block their base plays against any defensive alignment. They need to separate themselves, he says, with relentless physicality.
Huff's tight ends did just that in 2006, helping tailback Ian Johnson run his way into the Heisman Trophy race.
"You've just got to keep pointing it out, pointing it out, all the time - where they know, 'Hey, I can't wait to watch film because I finished this guy and I know Coach is going to make a big deal of it,' " Huff said. "Or, 'I don't want to watch this play.'
"And then you get a couple guys to start playing that way and it just spreads throughout the room - 'Hey, it's cool.' That's what happened in 2006 with the tight ends. It was unbelievable."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat