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David Braun’s introductory head coach press conference notes

Hear from the ‘Cats’ head coach for the first time since the tag has been removed.

Griffin Quinn / Northwestern Athletics

A special announcement calls for a special edition of David Braun transcripts! Braun, Michael Schill and Derrick Gragg made statements and spoke to media members yesterday in a press conference where Gragg and Schill introduced Braun as Northwestern’s 30th full-time head football coach. Here’s what everyone had to say in a ceremony that included a video, Willie the Wildcat and even the marching band:

Northwestern President Michael Schill’s opening statement: “Thank you all for being here today. I am so happy to be celebrating the news that all of you have seen by now, that effective immediately, former interim head coach David Braun will become the Dan and Susan Jones Head Football Coach of the Northwestern Wildcats.

“Now, I have been lucky to spend some time getting to know David personally over the past few months since he took over under incredibly challenging situations and conditions. I’ve walked away from each of our conversations incredibly impressed with his poise, his thoughtfulness, his passion, and most importantly, his deep commitment to the student-athletes that he coaches. I have been very clear that at Northwestern, the well-being of our students comes first. It is only by prioritizing our students' health, safety and well being that we can enable excellence on the field, excellence in the classroom, that we can encourage the personal and intellectual growth that is fundamental to our mission as one of the greatest universities in the world, and anyone who has heard or talked with Coach Braun knows that he embodies these principles in just a short time since arriving at Northwestern as defensive coordinator earlier this year and then as interim coach this July.

“He has shown what it means to be a leader by acting as a resource for his student-athletes, by modeling incredible humility, and also by showing them that he is here to support them, to support you, in every phase of your development and all of the way. Now, a Big Ten football coach is under a magnifying glass in the best of times, but Dave came into a particularly difficult situation, and he never wavered in his focus, and he never wavered in his commitment to you. I think many of us in this room, and those observing from afar, we went into this football season with tempered expectations. I was at Rutgers for the season opener, although we weren’t able to come away with the win. I could tell that Coach Braun had lit a spark under our student-athletes.

“The coach’s job is to bring out the best in players, and Dave has gone above and beyond in that respect. We sit here today 5-5, demonstrating to our conference, the entire football world and really the entire world that Wildcats don’t back down from a challenge. The decision to remove the tag from Dave's title was not just about the results on the playing field, but the way in which he and our team have achieved them. In the face of adversity, he has set an example for all of us that living our values as a university is a successful pathway to success by any standard. Dave, I’m so proud to have you as part of the Wildcat family, and I’m so proud of what our football team or great student-athletes have accomplished this season.

“Now, what I’d like to do is hand the mic over to Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, Dr. Derrick Gragg, but before I do so, he deserves a big thank you as well. Derrick played an integral role in bringing Coach Braun to Northwestern in the first place, as well as in the decision that we are announcing today. Not only that, but Derrick has been overseeing the athletic department that continues to deliver excellence in sport after sport this season. Thank you Derrick, and welcome head coach David Braun.”

Northwestern athletic director Dr. Derrick Gragg’s opening statement: “Thank you President Schill, and this is certainly a great day to be a Wildcat. It’s truly an honor to be here today to recognize this special coach. But before we get to the man of the hour, I want to thank a few important people. Starting with Coach Braun’s family: his wife, Kristin, their boys Lucas and Andrew and daughter Blake are here in the front row, let’s give a round of applause to them, please.

“There are many of us who have been involved in athletics our entire lives, and we know that this is a nonstop 24/7, 365-day assignment, so the sacrifices that our families make are immeasurable. So thank you to everyone. I thank our current football student-athletes, a lot of them are here today. Two weeks ago, when I met with many of the members of the team to discuss the coaching process that we’re going through, the search process, I told them that they were turning into one of the biggest stories in college athletics, and I think you’ll agree with me on that they’ve done an incredible job. I lost my coach going into my senior year, I’ve told them this, and that pales in comparison to what they’ve gone through, so I appreciate them, and I commend them. I know they have a lot more work to do over the next couple of weeks, but we are with you guys, and we appreciate you.

“I want to thank the football coaches and the staff in particular. Even with all the uncertainty of the past few months, they locked in with our student-athletes when they could have thrown in the towel very easily, and they continue to help our program continue to improve week after week. I also want to thank the trustee advisory committee, who helped vet candidates during the search process, and also thank Glenn Sugiyama, who’s here from DHR International search. He scoured the country to bring us some of the best candidates for this position, and a lot of people were interested, but we landed in the right spot.

“I myself had the privilege of playing college football on this level, and also had the privilege to help my wife, Sonya, raise a division one football student-athlete, so I understand the expectations of the families, the parents in particular, who bring their 17 and 18-year-olds to us. So when hiring coaches, I asked myself, would I trust this coach to lead and support my own children? Anyone who’s hired people knows that we don’t always get it right, but we certainly got it right this time. As I constantly say, successful athletic programs like ours are built on the shoulders in the backs of great coaches, and we have many of them here today, head and assistant coaches. I appreciate you for being here, as well.

“We have high expectations for our student-athletes, and we talked to them about this in the recruiting process. Number one, go to class, obtain knowledge, graduate. Number two, integrate into mainstream campus society and become something other than a ballplayer. Number three, train to become champions, and we win here. We win here the right way. This past year was one of the best years we had athletically in 15 years overall with the national championship in lacrosse, the school’s second-ever men’s basketball NCAA appearance, field hockey's second consecutive NCAA championship game appearance, and they’re going to play tomorrow in their third straight Final Four, the NCAA Sweet 16 women’s soccer team, the NCAA championship appearances in men’s and women’s golf, cross country and men’s tennis.

“We also expect our student-athletes to give back to the community, especially to the little people who aspire to be like them. We expect them to take advantage of all the support services we have to prepare them to build a meaningful career. Lastly, and probably most importantly, we expect them to be upstanding students. Citizens who uphold and follow the university, Big Ten and NCAA rules and regulations. I definitely feel that Coach Braun embraces and reinforces all of these things. He’s shown tremendous leadership under these adverse circumstances, and he embodies the values of our athletics department: which are respect, integrity, service, and excellence.

“Since Coach Braun’s arrival last year, I have watched and observed him. I sit upstairs at football games, so I can see everything. I don’t like to be on the sidelines, I like to watch as a football guy myself. I watch his interaction with the players and the coaches. I look at his body language, the body language of the players, how the team is reacting to him and everybody else. I listened to his postgame messages to the team in the locker room, win or lose. I attend postgame press conferences, and I can tell you that without a doubt, Coach Braun is a winner on and off the field. The student-athletes have rallied around him. They’ve been supportive both behind the scenes with me, but also publicly. I’m going to tell you that we want Braun chant in the locker room after Wisconsin was deafening, and as I told them yesterday, we want Braun also... Ladies and gentlemen, it is my extreme honor and pleasure to officially welcome Coach Braun as the 30th Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach. Congratulations coach.”

Northwestern football head coach David Braun’s opening statement: “Want to start off by thanking a few people. First off to President Schill, Dr. Gragg, the search committee, the Board of Trustees here at Northwestern and Glenn Sugiyama with the DHR Global, thank you for believing in me and my family. This is an opportunity that we don’t take lightly. To be honest with you, an opportunity that as a young coach, could only dreamt of, maybe wrap my head around that it would truly be an opportunity and is a credit to your willingness to see beyond maybe what a resume says and then look to what you believe myself and our family can do leaving this group moving forward. So thank you for your belief in me.

Need, to not need to, I want to thank my wife Kristin, our two boys Lucas and Andrew and our little girl Blake. Thank you for not just the last few months, but for the last 10 years. All of us in the room that are coaches understand, all of us involved in athletics understand that being a coach’s wife, being a coach’s family is something that is not easy and requires a great deal of sacrifice. When this transition occurred over the course of the summer months, I’m looking at my wife, eight months pregnant, little girl soon to be arriving, and we talk as a team all the time about not flinching, Kristin Braun never flinched. Kristin Braun continues to be the rock that I’ve known her to be the entire time I’ve known her. There’s no way that we do this as a family without you. So thank you.

“Thank you to our players. Words won’t do it justice. Words won’t do a justice. I was fortunate to coach at North Dakota State for a long time and work with an incredible group of young men. To be honest with you, one of the hardest things about leaving Fargo was leaving that group of people. I didn’t know what it would be like showing up at a Big Ten institution at a place that has a tremendous tradition, and something that I had admired from afar for a long, long time, but I immediately was blown away with the quality of young men that make up this program. The relationships that you’ve allowed us to build is something that I absolutely cherish.

“I’ll be very clear. Myself and our family know that the opportunity that exists for our family only exists because of you guys, and your willingness to buy in and galvanize and come together and really embody what this football program is all about. You’ve done that from day one in July, throughout the remainder of our summer workouts into fall camp and never once cared what anyone on the outside said about you. You just continued to believe in yourself as individuals, yourself collectively, continued to battle, and as we all know, the mission mission isn’t done yet. We got a lot of work to do. Got a lot of work to do, and there’s no other group in the country that I’d rather be doing. So thank you.

“I want to thank our coaches, our staff, our support staff, our athletic department, other coaches within this athletic department and program. Character is revealed in difficult times. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the staff that got let go. We went out when I was at UC Davis, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of staffs that have won conference championships, national championships, reached the so-called pinnacle of the season. You quickly realize that true character is revealed in the hard times. I want to speak to our coaches, our staff, and thank them for the way that they’ve navigated all this. They’ve rooted back into their purpose. Their purpose being the young men that sit here today, our team. They poured themselves into these guys, they’ve coached them hard, they’ve mentored them, they’ve been there for them, and it’s pretty neat to see the byproduct of that showing up on the field every Saturday. So thank you to our staff, coaches and everyone in the athletic department.

“There’s a really neat opportunity for this football program moving forward. We won’t get too much into that today because all I really care about honestly is having a great Thursday and beating Purdue. But, the Big Ten is evolving. College football is evolving, so you better know who you are, you better know who you are as a university, you better know who you are as an athletic department, you better know who we are as a football program.

“The thing that I’ll tell you is we will prioritize the student-athlete experience. First and foremost, and every decision we make, the question will be asked, well, how does this affect the young men that are part of our program? Secondly, we’re gonna route into and double down on being a developmental program. Don’t you care how many stars he has next to his name. We want to find out does he value a Northwestern degree, and what that brings not only to his short-term, but what that brings to his opportunities four years, 40 years down the road. What’s his character? What’s his competitive spirit? Is he a team-first guy? Does he model so many things that this group models every single day? Then we’re gonna do everything in our power to ensure that we provide the resources, the coaches, whatever it may be, the mentorship, to ensure that the young men that decided to come to Northwestern decide to continue to be a part of Northwestern football, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. When they reach their full potential holistically, academically, socially, physically, athletically spiritually, amazing things happen. The wins naturally come, we can sit up here and talk about winning Big Ten championships all we want, but if we don’t do the little things in recruiting the right young me to our program, and then put into place the things that we need to do every single day to achieve those goals, then they're just words. Again, you want to talk about the character of a team, all you got to do is look at this group right now.

“That’s been part of this institution for a long, long time, and a part of this football program for a long, long time. Recruiting high-character young men that value a Northwestern degree that love to compete at the highest level of college football. So excited for what that has the ability to do in differentiating ourselves moving forward. In a changing college football landscape, we have the opportunity to route right back into that, and out-team everybody in the country. You can see it tangibly right now. That’s going on with his team, and I can’t wait for that process to continue.

“And then lastly, the commitment that I’ll make to everyone within our program, and it’s the same commitment that I made months ago given an opportunity to take over this role in the interim basis. If anything, these last few months have clarified for Kristin and me is why we do what we do. We got into this to to have a positive impact on young people. So moving forward, I’m here to support our student athletes. We’re here to serve our student athletes. And we’re here to push them to be the absolute best that they can be.

“Now on to the important stuff. We’re guaranteed two more opportunities. So as much as there’ll be some questions to answer, I can’t wait to get off of this stage, get back to work with this staff, get back to work with this group of young men, and make sure that we are at our absolute best at 11 o’clock on Saturday to make sure we accomplish the mission that this group set out to do months ago. Thank you. Go ‘Cats.”

Braun on having the players’ support: “Dave [Eanet], you’re gonna make me emotional with this question man. The support from our guys means it’s why we do what we do for these guys. For them to show that support, and it wasn’t just in the locker room after Madison, the way that these guys have showed up every single day. I remember an opportunity back in July where voices were heard in terms of guys speaking up, and to know that they believe in me, they believe in this staff, they believe in what we’re doing, means everything to me, means everything to our family.

Braun on celebrating being named head coach on a Wednesday during a game week: “In terms of a Wednesday celebrating, there honestly wasn’t much celebration other than getting ready for Purdue. But, there are certainly moments back at home with Kristen and the boys. I think the biggest celebration came from Lucas and Andrew. ‘So dad, this means we’re not moving.’ Yeah, guys, we’re not moving. Our family loves it here. We’re honored to be a part of this community and excited for all that’s ahead.”

Braun on when he knew he wanted to be HC: “To be honest with you, there was so much going on back in July. There were conversations with our administration. I think it started off with, would you have interest Dave, and I said absolutely. An opportunity to lead this group would be something that I’d be honored to do. Don’t know if it was something I was excited about. There’s a lot of emotions going on at that time, but honored to have an opportunity to be with these guys.

“The thing that I’ve learned is being a head coach, there’s this tremendous opportunity to have an impact on everyone within the program, our student athletes, our staff. Sometimes you miss the X’s and O’s, sometimes you don’t look forward to the administrative things that you’re navigating, but our support staff has done such a tremendous job of taking some of those things off my plate, allowing me to route into football, and spend time with our guys. I think there was a moment, even in fall camp, where it was it started to click for me that the opportunity to be a head coach is something that is not to take lightly and something that I look forward to, at some point, not knowing when that opportunity would come.”

Braun on moment he realized he would be head coach: “I don’t know. That’s a great question. The thing that I committed myself to, our family committed ourselves to, that we’re just going to move in a way that we’re going to make decisions that we’re going to put our student-athletes at the forefront of every decision we made. When there’s talk of potentially having an opportunity to become the long-term head coach, it can be really easy to allow yourself to go to this space of what decisions do I need to make to get this job.

“That’s something that I think my wife and I were very intentional about making sure that we didn’t let our minds go to that place. So call me call me crazy, call me stubborn, but it was like wake up each morning, and what do I need to do today to help this team get ready for the next game and tune out all the noise? It honestly probably didn’t become a reality mid-week this week, when all of a sudden it started to become real, the conversations that I was having.”

Gragg on the hiring process: “Coach Braun has basically been interviewing for this job every week. We’ve all seen it, the growth on and off the field, the way he’s handled himself, and not to dwell too much on July, but none of us have experienced anything like this, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years. So just the way that he’s led the program, kept it together, and then the results started to come.

“We’ve had many conversations, the President and myself, and we got to a point to where we wanted to start talking about relieving the pressure of what coach is mentioning. We don’t want the guys to feel like they had to win a certain number of games to get to a certain threshold. So, we’ve been talking about this all season. He’s had a great deal of support, not just from us, but a lot of people. You don’t make these decisions alone. I made the decision, but I had a lot of people to consult with, and what feels good about this decision is 100% of the people that we’ve been dealing with are behind us on this.

Braun on NIL: “I think there’s in the world of the transfer portal, things are just so different. Some of the questions of what that looks like institutionally and how we navigate that. The Ryan family has been incredible, just expressing their support, unwavering support and moving forward with their presence around our program, their support for our program, their support for our student-athletes. Even before the conversations got serious, even going back to August, the support from the Ryan family has been really impressive. I think what we need to continue to look at, again, we need to be the ultimate developmental program in the country, and then we need to do a great job of retaining our student-athletes.

“Why do you come to Northwestern? For an opportunity to earn a world-class degree that will change the rest of your life. In the world of NIL and the transfer portal, we need to do a great job of recruiting young men that fit our profile and are great fits here at Northwestern. That want to compete and want to play their best football at Northwestern before whatever the outlook looks like post-Northwestern. There needs to be conversations on what that looks like and an ever-changing landscape of NIL and the transfer portal. As a coach, you can’t be involved in NIL, but I feel very confident that there’s an alignment within the Northwestern community and within our athletic department and those stakeholders that are involved to make sure that we do just that.

“We recruit high-quality student-athletes that are great fits for Northwestern, we do a phenomenal job of helping those student-athletes develop to their absolute best holistically, and then we have things in place to ensure that we retain those young men to be a part of our program and and play their best football while earning their degree at Northwestern.”

Braun on if being a head coach was always a career goal: “I wanted to be a head coach of a Big Ten institution. I mean, that was my dream. As a young coach, I probably spent too much time chasing the dream, rather than just really rooting into what’s my purpose? Why am I doing this? Why as a family are we doing this? Once you start to realize, then one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever earned is an opportunity to win a national championship in North Dakota State. What you learned through that, yes, euphoric. I mean, incredible. Hope to experience it again, don’t get me wrong, but you quickly realize that three days after that experience, it’s not like all is right with the world.

“It’s not like you’re all of the sudden fulfilled completely. You better know your purpose, and I think I’ve become a better coach. The opportunities that have been provided to myself and my family have been a result of just walking in purpose, operating in purpose and knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing. So to be doing this, this was the dream, there’s no doubt about it. It’s still surreal. It probably won’t completely sink in for a long, long time. But whether you’re doing this at Northwestern, or Culver-Stockton College, when you decide to coach college football, you have an incredible opportunity to have a positive impact on young people. When I got that figured out, I think that’s where I started to become my best.”

Braun on what he’s learned about himself: “I don’t know what I’ve learned about myself. You’d have to ask Kristin. The guys, our coaches, they can probably give you a better answer. What I can tell you is I’m at my best when I’m rooted in my purpose, when I’m rooted in my faith, when I’m staying prayed up. When I know who I ultimately answered to, and that’s my God, that’s my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that’s when I’m at my best. Walking in freedom. It’s hard to find that time to read into that when there’s a lot going on around, but I’ve learned that it’s something that’s critical to my walk, for me to be at my best to serve these guys.

Braun on what a David Braun program looks like: “I think we’ve had a similar conversation about the defense when I first arrived here, and now I’ll come back to a similar answer. It’s not about putting my stamp on it. At the end of the day, it’s not my program. It’s Northwestern’s program. It’s our players' program. I’m gonna walk into this facility each and every day with their best interests at the forefront of my mind. what’s in their best interest right now is making sure that we’re completely focused on Purdue and finishing the mission that this team set out to achieve in those other things long term.

“Those are things we’ll worry about when we get there. What this team, this group of student-athletes, this coaching staff, the support staff have embodied this year is nothing short of incredibly impressive. It only happens with us being in lockstep and working our tails off together. To answer your question, I don’t know. But what I will tell you with conviction is I’m not looking to put my own stamp on it. I’m just looking to make the next right decision that’s in the best interest of our student-athletes.”