Stoops has ‘unique’ relationship with EKU coach Walt Wells

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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Walt Wells took an unusual path to find his way home to Eastern Kentucky University.

Wells served two stints as an assistant coach for the Colonels — once as a tight ends coach under Roy Kidd before he was moved to offensive line coach for the next two seasons. He served at Eastern from 1997-2002.

Wells also coached at Western Kentucky, South Florida, New Mexico State, back to EKU for one season in 2015, before moving on to Tennessee from 2016-17. He took a quality control position under Mark Stoops for two years (2018-19) before he was named head coach at Eastern Kentucky in 2020.

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“He’s just a really good person,” Stoops said. “I think he’s a really good coach. He does a great job in recruiting and has a lot of experience in coaching. It’s evident, I want to say, wasn’t he the coach of the year the last two years in that league?

“He’s done a really good job and they played really good a year ago. We watched them a lot in the offseason. I don’t think this first game, was an indication of who they will be as the season goes on.”

The two years at Kentucky proved valuable for Wells as he worked with Stoops.

“I needed Kentucky more than Kentucky needed me,” he said Tuesday. “He was very instrumental in helping me here at this job. …. Kentucky (has been) good to me.”

Stoops said his relationship with Wells is “unique.”

“Walt and I have a really good, strong relationship,” he said. “We’re both extremely busy running our jobs, and so it’s not like we get to spend as much time socially as we used to. When he was here, obviously he was a guy I talked to quite a bit, the role that he was in and the experience that he had, I just got to visit with him a bunch. We became good friends and, try to catch up here and there.”

Prior to last season’s opener, Wells suffered a heart attack in his office. Wells survived the health scare and returned to coaching later last season.

“I always pay attention to that, being what happened to my father,” Stoops said. “When that happened to Walt, very scary moment, obviously. For us as coaches, we all have to watch that. I mean, we could talk about it until we are blue in the face, but we’re going to do what we do.”

In addition to Wells, former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad and quarterback Maxwell Smith are part of the EKU coaching staff. Conrad is tight ends coach and Smith serves as the team’s quarterbacks coach.

“They know us very well,” he said. “They do a very good job and they have a very good, tough team. I know them and the competitive nature of their staff and their team and their players, and they probably were not real pleased with the way they played in the opener at times.

“I’m sure they are going to want to come in here and improve like we want to improve and play extremely hard and play very well in their home state, right down the road from them.”