CINCINNATI — Kerry Coombs hasn't forgotten the first time he walked into the University of Cincinnati football weight room during an early morning workout this winter.
"It was electric," said Coombs, the Bearcats' cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator.
"The way they lifted, how hard they went," Coombs said. "They were running from station to station and it was palpable. You could feel the energy. I walked out of here that day not touching the ground — really excited about being here, being back."
The former Ohio State University defensive coordinator, NFL assistant coach and longtime Colerain head coach is in his second stint with UC. The man who previously coached from 2007 to 2011 was named to the UC staff Feb. 1.
"It was a no-brainer for us," UC head coach Luke Fickell said. "Someway, somehow, if he was going to be there, there was going to be an opportunity for us to find a way to get him onto our coaching staff. It's unique in how things happened. It's not just the familiarity with Cincinnati — (it's) the pride that comes along with it."
There is no doubt that Coombs has passion and enthusiasm for UC and the city.
"I love the people of Cincinnati," Coombs said. "There is no place like this. There is no high school football like Cincinnati football. There is no people like Cincinnati people. And this team is a reflection of that."
While Coombs prepares for a highly-anticipated new season, his 2004 state championship Colerain team will be inducted into the Buddy LaRosa's High School Sports Hall of Fame in late June. Coaching high school football from 1983 to 2006 may seem like a lifetime ago, but Coombs said he will always treasure his time on Cheviot Road.
"I'm looking forward to seeing those kids again," Coombs said. "I appreciate LaRosa's honoring them. I think it's well deserved. So I'm excited about that."
This season will be the 1979 Colerain High School graduate's 40th as a football coach.
"How about that? Seems a little ridiculous to me," Coombs said. "I don't know that it's any different than Year 1. The game hasn't changed. The field is still a hundred yards long. Kids are kids — I think they want to be coached hard, I think they want to be motivated."
Coombs, 60, did just that on a cold and windy spring practice late Thursday morning at Nippert Stadium.
His familiar surveying of the cornerbacks, purposeful steps on the field, quick applause and signature voice were heard behind the defense as music blared from the stadium.
"I can't imagine doing something else," Coombs said. "I was talking to the guys today — you know, there are a lot of people that have to get up and go to work today. We don't. We get to play. And I've been playing for 40 years."
UC senior cornerback Arquon Bush said Coombs has already helped develop him into a better player with insightful information and infectious energy.
"Great guy," Bush said. "I love all the techniques he's teaching us. When we are in the meeting room he's got two cups of coffee but he's always hyped. I love the way he coaches because it fires you up and makes you want to practice."
Coombs admits it's a process to build trust with his players but he knows the rapport will continue to grow stronger as the team prepares for its season opener at Arkansas Sept. 3.
He said he also can't wait to see Nippert Stadium filled with fans starting with the spring game at 1 p.m. April 9 (free fan admission).
"We'll have the spring game — I don't know how many people will be here, but I will be fired up for that," Coombs said. "When you play between the stripes at Nippert Stadium it's really cool. For me, it doesn't get much better than this."