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Ricky Santos Returns to UNH as Associate Head Coach

Jun 28, 2019 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey
written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor

The 35-year-old Santos joins head coach Sean McDonnell’s staff as the Wildcats’ associate head coach/quarterbacks coach. The Bellingham native previously coached wide receivers at UNH, and for the last three years, he coached quarterbacks at Columbia University.

“When the quarterback coaching job opened in March, I reached out to Sean,” Santos said. “We talked and I mentioned that I wanted more responsibility, so we both agreed that I’d return to coach quarterbacks and also be the program’s associate head coach. In that role, I’ll be involved with fundraising and also how practices are structured. I’ll know more about the associate’s duties as time goes on. For the last several months I’ve been scouting at showcase camps and I’ve also been recruiting in Florida and New Jersey.”

Santos’ new position with the Wildcats likely makes him a strong contender to take the head-coaching reins if the 63-year-old McDonnell decides to retire. Santos played all four years at UNH for McDonnell, and those four seasons were much different from what the Wildcats experienced last year, when UNH went 4-7, its worst record in 15 years.

“My goal is to someday be a head coach at the college level,” Santos said. “I’m focused on that and I’m going to work my tail off to achieve that, but my immediate goal is to get UNH back to the playoffs, back to national prominence and back to a top-25 ranking.”

A four-year starter at quarterback, Santos led the Wildcats to a career 37-14 record and four NCAA playoff appearances.

Once a fifth-string quarterback, Santos rose to all-American status and finished his UNH career with 123 touchdown passes for 13,212 yards. He passed for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Hula Bowl and had his number (2) retired at UNH in 2007. In his 2004 rookie season at UNH, Santos was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year and the Atlantic 10 co-Rookie of the Year.  

The 6-foot-2 Santos also won the Walter Payton Award as a junior, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy at the 1-AA level. He was inducted into the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. Last November, he was inducted into Bellingham High’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Now married and the father of a 15-month-old daughter, Santos and his wife reside in Dover, NH, a suburb of Durham, where UNH is located. “Durham is a great community that embraces its teams,” Santos noted. “It’s a wonderful environment, a great atmosphere and the people are very supportive.”

Santos got results as Columbia’s QB coach. The school has won 14 of its last 20 games, the first time that’s been achieved since 1961. Santos worked at the Ivy League college for head coach Al Bagnoli, a veteran mentor who’s been coaching for 40 years. “Al is a very organized coach who focuses on strong structure,” Santos said. “I learned so much from him.”

Santos is acutely aware that a college head coach must be patient and also relate to players. It’s a role where demeanor matters. “Building trust with your players is another key factor,” he emphasized. “I’ve been in their shoes and can offer advice and also how to manage their time. A solid relationship with student-athletes is so important.”

Recruiting will no doubt be an area where Santos develops a comfort zone. Traveling isn’t always easy, especially now that he’s a family man, but he knows it’s a prime ingredient for a grid program’s success.

“Recruiting is the life blood of a football program,” he said. “Although it’s difficult to be away from your family, there is a balance that has to be maintained.”

Santos, who had a brief tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs, played four years in the Canadian Football League, first for the Montreal Alouettes, then for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

When he was released after his second stint with Montreal, he left Canada with two Grey Cup rings. The Grey Cup is the equivalent of the Super Bowl, and Santos was a reserve quarterback when the Alouettes won their two championships.

Santos was no stranger to titles in high school. He led Bellingham High to a pair of Super Bowl crowns and also played forward in basketball on the 2003 Blackhawks squad that won the State championship by downing Bromfield, 49-40. 

The football field, however, continues to be Rick Santos’ laboratory, and it’s there where he hopes to fully learn all of the elements that lead to being a college head coach.






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