VERMILLION — The University of South Dakota and Mount Marty College are 27 miles apart.
One plays NCAA Division I football and the other is in the process of adding football to its NAIA lineup.
They’re worlds apart, but their football programs now share a common thread.
The former head coach at Grand View University (Iowa) was hired in June to lead the new Mount Marty College football program, which will take the field in 2021. Across Highway 50 in Vermillion, Woodley’s former defensive coordinator (Travis Johansen) and former standout quarterback (Jordan Knock) were hired on to USD’s coaching staff — Johansen as the defensive coordinator and Knock as an offensive graduate assistant.
While they’ve all gone their separate ways since establishing Grand View as an annual NAIA playoff contender, Woodley’s move to Mount Marty was a massive victory for that school, according to Johansen.
“It’s a fantastic hire for them,” said Johansen, who was Woodley’s defensive coordinator for six seasons.
“He’s as close of a person as I know in this profession, and he gave me an opportunity. It was a place I would have never left in a million years if it wasn’t for a really special opportunity.”
Woodley was hired by Grand View to kick-start that school’s football program in 2008, and his teams then proceeded to go 93-35 during Woodley’s 11 seasons at the helm. Grand View won the 2013 NAIA national championship and reached the NAIA playoffs in six straight seasons.
As an Iowa native and a coach at three different schools in Iowa, Woodley got to know Bob Nielson, who was hired at USD in 2015.
“What a great guy with a wealth of experience that he’s going to bring for Mount Marty to start up that program,” Nielson said.
Johansen, who played collegiately at Concordia-St. Paul, helped develop Grand View into a consistently tough defensive team in the NAIA ranks — it produced seven defensive All-Americans during his six seasons.
On the other side of the ball for Grand View was Knock, who was a two-time Heart of America Offensive Player of the Year (2016, 2017) as the quarterback for Woodley. Knock passed for 6,563 yards and 47 touchdowns, and also ran for 977 yards and 23 scores, in his time at Grand View
While Johansen and Knock were hired at USD, their former leader and head coach was hired just down the road in Yankton.
“For that to happen for Mount Marty is a heck of a steal,” Johansen said.
“Who knows how long he’s going to do it, but I know if it’s one or three or five years, they’re going to get the program started on the best foot possible.”
And just as the USD coaching staff will keep an eye on Woodley’s progress at Mount Marty, he’ll no doubt be doing the same with the Coyotes — Woodley has already made the drive over to watch a practice in Vermillion.
“It’ll be nice to have him around and have a chance to talk some football with a guy I’ve known for a long time,” Nielson said.
“It’ll be fun having him back,” Johansen said.
“I didn’t think when I left I’d have him 20 minutes away,” Johansen added, with a smile.
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