By Drake Toll | LTVN Managing Editor
Dave Aranda, the 28th head coach of Baylor football, is a calm, soft-spoken California native who carries a big stick: his defense. Nicknamed “The Defensive Coordinator Whisperer,” the former LSU assistant lives and breathes pigskin.
An attendee of Redlands High School in Redlands, Calif., Aranda lettered in football and started at linebacker beginning his sophomore season, a unique feat at the time. Then called “The Fencepost” due to his quiet demeanor, the wily Aranda was sought after by multiple collegiate football programs. That is, until a single play his senior year completely altered his young life.
According to Redlands Daily Facts, during his senior campaign, in a playoff game against Mater Dei, Aranda’s shoulder was blown out in the first half. He didn’t say a word. He played through the game and later found out that the injury required surgery. Five surgeries later, his shoulder issues would not only end his football career, but also shatter his dreams of being in the U.S. Navy.
The game of football halted his life goals, and effectively kept him on the gridiron. But now, his impact comes from the sidelines. After getting his start as a junior varsity coach at his high school alma mater, his next stop was at Cal Lutheran, his college alma mater, as a graduate assistant.
“When he decided he was going to make [coaching] his profession, he just dove into it,” Miguel Olmedo, Aranda’s former coach told Redlands Daily Facts. “He learned the system. He tried to get in with everyone. He was fanatic at learning. He became an incredible defensive mind.”
Aranda has also coached on the defensive side of the ball at Texas Tech, Houston, Delta State, Southern Utah, Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and most recently won a College Football Playoff Championship at LSU. He was in conversation to fill the head coaching vacancy at UNLV in December, but speculation was short-lived ahead of his appearance with the Tigers in the playoff.
Interesting nuggets from his 24-year career include his alternate nickname, “The Professor,” and his stint as Southern Utah’s defensive coordinator for just one month before he received a call from coach Greg McMackin and left for the same position at Hawaii.
It’s also notable that Aranda joins a short list, including Mike Leach and Hugh Freeze, of Division I coaches who never played collegiately. He has also coached in 15 bowl games, with a record of 9-6, since 2000. Along the way, he married his high school sweetheart, Dione, and they have two daughters, Jaelyn and Jordyn, and a son, Ronin.
Many of Aranda’s former players have described him as a family man with nationwide connections. According to many Tweets sent out by players and other coaches that know him, he’s not a man of many words, but what he does say is knowledgeable and necessary. His philosophy is to use expert defensive scheme to stifle offenses and create deep bonds with players along the way.