Delaware football's Ambrose welcomes coaching duel with brother Rob at Towson

Kevin Tresolini
The News Journal

Ten years ago in a football game at Towson, Jared Ambrose went against familiar coaches and players representing the University of Delaware, where he’d been on the coaching staff the previous two seasons.

Ambrose will do so again this Saturday at Unitas Stadium, but it’ll be very different.

This time, Ambrose will be calling plays for the Blue Hens in his new role as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

DUAL THREAT: Two QBs expected to play Saturday at Towson

And he’ll be matching wits with his brother Rob, Towson’s head coach and his employer the past 10 seasons.

“We were really just trying to get our kids to compete when we were playing against Delaware,” Ambrose remembered of that 2009 season, his brother’s first as head coach at Towson.

Delaware prevailed that night 49-21, the third of five straight wins over the Tigers.

Delaware offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose works with quarterback Nolan Henderson in preseason camp.

Four years later, Towson had become established as a national power, reaching the 2013 FCS title game. Now Towson-Delaware is a major rivalry for both and often harbors postseason ramifications.

The loser of Saturday’s 2 p.m. clash between Delaware (4-4 overall, 2-2 CAA) and No. 21-ranked Towson (4-4, 1-3) is likely out of the FCS playoff hunt for good.

Ambrose, 37, welcomes the chance to see many family members and friends, even if many will be wearing Towson’s black and gold.

“We knew it was gonna happen the day I took the job and we talked on the phone,” Jared said, referring to Rob, 49, who had endorsed his younger brother’s desire to seek other opportunities to broaden his career.

“Our dad raised us to believe that coaches work for the players. While I’m excited to see my brother and my father Saturday – I haven’t seen Rob since the bye week and my father came up for the North Dakota State game – because there’s a unique tie there, I’m just trying to get ready to play.”

Jared and Rob’s dad Tim, 70, guided Middletown (Maryland) High to a 246-75 record from 1973-2004 as its football coach. Both played for him.

A graduate of Shepherd University in West Virginia, Jared Ambrose coached Towson tight ends in 2009 and 2010 and quarterbacks beginning in 2011, adding offensive coordinator duties in 2013. 

Rob Ambrose described his brother as “a real football guy, a true-blue, deep-down, not a guy that likes the game, who thinks it’s fun or anything like that. Somebody who grew up living under that sun. He’s really done nothing but this his entire life, so ... he’s smart. He’s invested. He cares about the kids more than he’ll ever care about the jersey.”

“I love working with coach Ambrose,” said Delaware running back Will Knight. “He’s a workhorse. He’s never settling for mediocrity . . . He’s always changing and trying to put us in the best situation possible.”

Delaware coach Danny Rocco, who is also the son of a football coach, sat down with Ambrose on Sunday and urged him to “stick to the process,” Rocco said, but also “enjoy the moment when you get there” in this unusual week.

“I was glad he sat down and talked to me about it because Danny’s done this for so long at such a high level,” Ambrose said. “There are some bosses out there who’d be like ‘Hey, we’ve got a job to do.’ It’s cool that Danny doesn’t want me to just be a robot.”

EFFORT NOT THERE: Rocco not happy with Hens' physical approach

Rocco played for his father, Frank. Sr., in high school. Danny Rocco was on the staff at Texas when the Longhorns met Penn State, where his dad was director of football operations, in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl.

 When coaching at Richmond, Rocco went against Virginia, where nephew David Rocco was starting quarterback, though David later transferred to Richmond.

Towson coach Rob Ambrose reacts as his team allows a Delaware drive in the second quarter at Delaware Stadium Saturday.

“I think it’s one of the great experiences you have as a coach,” Rocco said. “This is a family, the Ambrose family, that is lifelong coaches. Dad’s a coach. Jared worked for Rob for over a decade and was a big part of their success at Towson. These guys are connected at the hip.”

Ambrose described the offenses he and brother Rob are running as “similar but different,” with each choreographed to make best use of the available players’ talents. Ambrose incorporates aspects of previous offenses he’s been part of, including Delaware’s from 2007-08, with input from the vast experience his colleagues bring.

Having two former head coaches who were also offensive coordinators, Bill Cubit and Alex Wood, on the UD staff and a defensive coordinator with Chris Cosh’s 37 years in college football have been invaluable, Ambrose said.

“He’s got a pretty good mix,” said Rocco, who knew Ambrose had been effective at moving the football different ways from coaching against his Towson teams.  

Towson has a new defensive coordinator this year and, as a result, different schemes. But knowing the players certainly gives Ambrose some additional understanding as he puts his game plan together.

“I have some insight to their personnel and I deeply miss a lot of those players. A lot of great kids,” Jared Ambrose said.

“But does it feel different? It’s another week in the CAA.”

Contact Kevin Tresolini at ktresolini@delawareonline.com and follow on Twitter @kevintresolini. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com.