Most NFL prospects took off to warm weather locations after the college football season to prepare for the NFL Combine and their pro day. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib chose to remain in Central New York to prepare with a pair of former NFL stalwarts.
This offseason Nassib has been tutored by former Cincinnati QB Ken Anderson, who played 16 years in the NFL, was named league MVP (1981) once and was elected to four Pro Bowls. The other teacher is Paul Hackett, retired coach of 40-plus years and father of Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
“I’ve been training in Syracuse, training the physical part with my strength coach, Will Hicks, and I’ve been with Paul (Hackett) since a couple days after our last bowl game,” Nassib said. “And then Ken Anderson started coming in. I meet with Paul from 8 o’clock to 11:30 every day during the week. If it’s an afternoon where we’re throwing, we’ll go out on the field from 2-4 and throw, do some footwork drills. When Ken Anderson comes to town, he jumps in and we meet a little bit more because he’s got some things we want to look at as well.”
The common thread between Anderson and Hackett is Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh. Walsh coached Anderson in Cincinnati serving as his quarterbacks coach under the legendary Paul Brown. Walsh taught Anderson how to develop into a drop back quarterback after he was a sprint out signal caller at Division III Augustana.
Hackett worked under Walsh as an assistant in San Francisco with the 49ers from 1983-85 where he learned the intricacies of the West Coast offense as part of a long career, which included head coaching stints at Pitt and USC.
Anderson also spent 17 years as a coach in the NFL with the Bengals, Jaguars and Steelers. He also runs a select quarterback camp where he teaches quarterback throwing mechanics and footwork.
Nassib is very familiar with Hackett, who would help his son Nathaniel as offensive coordinator of the Orange. Often the elder Hackett was entrusted with doing some advance scouting on Syracuse’s next opponent.
“With Coach Hackett we’re doing a couple of different things, going through our season, cutting up our season, because I haven’t watched the season with him yet,” Nassib said. “And he would ask me certain things about why things happened, what happened here.
“When Ken Anderson has come in, I’ve been fortunate enough that he has the technology to get us to watch some NFL games. We broke down some NFL cut ups and watched some good quarterbacks this year. I got a chance to learn a little bit from there.”
Anderson has helped Nassib primarily with his footwork. He’s also helped to expose Nassib to a few NFL offensive systems that differ from the familiar West Coast system that he ran at Syracuse. He and Hackett have also helped prepare him the formal interviews that take place at the Combine with NFL clubs.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of quarterback coaches, who have been in these kind of interviews at the combine,” said Nassib. “We went through a lot of mock draft interviews, where they asked me some of the questions they had asked and observed some things. You’re never really fully prepared, but I feel like I was prepared as I could be going in.”
Nassib won’t have to do a lot of selling in the interviews. His thirst for more football knowledge is evident.
“I’ve experienced a lot of things. I’ve been in multiple systems, a couple different styles, I’ve learned a lot of football,” he said. “Football is my passion, I enjoy learning it. It’s my favorite subject in school. That’s just something that stuck with me. Football language is something I enjoy doing. When it comes to the interview process, hopefully I can show off that I know quite a bit.”