When fate called for Eric Kiesau, it was Chris Petersen on the other end.
Four years after he completed his college football career as a quarterback at Portland State, Kiesau was working in the private business sector, dabbling as a part-time coach at Glendale (Calif.) Community College.
Soon after the 1999 season, Kiesau’s quarterbacks coach for two of his three years when he played for the Vikings called the Glendale offices. Petersen, then the receivers coach at Oregon, was calling about a recruit.
“The head coach always said, ‘If I’m not around, answer the phone,’ ” Kiesau said. “I got lucky; he wasn’t there.”
The two realized they knew one another, and the discussion led to Petersen recommending Kiesau come up to Eugene as the Ducks’ teamwork coordinator, aiding in recruiting. Kiesau spent a few months in early 2000 in that role before moving on to Utah State that fall as the Aggies’ running backs coach.
“If I didn’t pick up that phone, I’d probably still be in corporate America, sitting at a desk somewhere,” Kiesau said.
That fortuitous call from Petersen, the future Boise State head coach and now coach at Washington, led to a fruitful career for Kiesau, and one familiar to so many in the field. The move from Eugene to Logan would be the first of nine for the family, the most recent coming this past week when Kiesau was named the new wide receivers coach at Boise State.
Stability, familiarity and tradition were major draws for Kiesau, whose past three stops were one-year jobs at Kansas, Alabama and Fresno State.
“Why I wanted to be here, why I sacrificed some of the so-called (coordinator) titles, was really to be here, to be here a long time, be with a great staff, knowing coach Harsin’s vision is to be here a long time,” Kiesau said. “I want to get settled in, get my wife and family settled in and just be somewhere for a while, and obviously win some games and be with great guys.”
As receivers coach from 2006-08 and offensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010 at Colorado, Kiesau worked with former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins and four current Boise State assistants, plus strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman. Kiesau said his wife, Wendy, knows the wives of the coaches, while his children Tayler and Blake know their children, making this move easier.
“Here, that was already set, the chemistry. ... It wasn’t a handshake, it was a huge,” he said.
Kiesau’s five years in Boulder were his longest at one stop, and receiver Scotty McKnight was there for every one. By the time his playing career with the Buffaloes was finished, he was the school’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and third in receiving yards.
“He is absolutely one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, at any level, especially from a development standpoint,” said McKnight, who spent two seasons with the Jets. “There’s an expectation of winning at Boise State. He understands that, and he’ll fit right in. ... He demands perfection, great attention to detail. His tests before games are like SAT tests.”
Turning a good receiver into a great one, Kiesau says, is the focus on the little things. He hopes his group understands the game from a bigger picture, that his “approach is from the quarterback’s view.”
“I think he’s a fantastic addition, highly respected, does a great job developing his players,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Thursday on KTIK 93.1 FM.
Harsin had to wait a year to get Kiesau on his staff. Last January, he brought Kiesau to Boise to interview for the Broncos’ vacant offensive coordinator position. He had been at Fresno State for three weeks as their offensive coordinator. Harsin had Kiesau lead the coaches in some drills in the weight room to see how he coached.
However, Kiesau wound up turning down the opportunity. His father, Gene, was in failing health in California and passed away in July. The Broncos hired Zak Hill as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from Hawaii, but now Kiesau is in the fold, too.
“At that point in time last year, it just wasn’t the right time,” Kiesau said. “One year later ... it’s kind of the best of both worlds. Now you have Zak Hill here now, I come and help out, so I think it really worked out for Boise State football and Bronco nation.”
Kiesau said he has not been able to spend much time yet with the current Boise State receivers, a group that loses Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson, but returns senior Cedrick Wilson (1,045 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016). His hiring was formally announced by the school Wednesday, and he was on the road recruiting Thursday before hosting recruits in Boise this weekend.
Once he gets to work with the group, McKnight believes Kiesau is the sort to get the most out of his players.
“You don’t just get a coach with Kiesau,” McKnight said. “If I think of one word when it comes to him, it’s ‘caring.’ He’s genuine, and because of that, he’s a phenomenal recruiter, too.”
For his 21st birthday dinner, McKnight had four people with him: his parents, and Eric and Wendy Kiesau.
McKnight said when it’s time to be serious, Kiesau keeps everyone focused. But he also can keep it light.
After that birthday dinner, McKnight and some friends hit the town. The next day was a 4:45 a.m. pre-spring workout.
“I made it, but pretty quickly I was throwing up. I hear this voice behind me. It’s Kiesau, and he just kind of whispered, ‘Happy birthday,’ ” McKnight said.
As Kiesau settles in at Boise State, he carries with him perhaps more knowledge gained in the past two years than any before. At Alabama in 2015, he helped transition the Crimson Tide from a huddle-centric team to no-huddle under Nick Saban. Kiesau said of any coach he’s worked for, “that 10-month span, he probably had the most influence (on me).”
Last season as Fresno State’s offensive coordinator, he took over as interim head coach the final four games after Tim DeRuyter was fired, calling it “priceless on-the-job training.”
With his knowledge of Boise State, its offense and the staff, it was fitting when the man who followed Petersen as head coach was on the phone, Kiesau answered, ready for another big opportunity.
“When Hars gave me the call, it was a no-brainer,” Kiesau said.