Thursday was moving day for Ryan Weston.
The former three-sport captain at Bangor High School was embarking on a 925-mile drive from his former job at Denison University in central Ohio to northern Louisiana where he’ll enter a new phase of his coaching career at one of the most storied football programs in America.
“It all starts [Friday],” said the 31-year-old Weston of his new post as tight ends coach at Grambling State University, a football juggernaut for decades under the late Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson.
Grambling has captured 15 national championships as contested by the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities and sent more than 100 players to the National Football League, including Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Willie Davis and Charlie Joiner.
“Grambling State is one of the most recognizable brands in all of college football,” Weston said.
His hiring came just weeks after Hue Jackson — a former head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns — was named Grambling’s new head coach.
Credit Weston, who had been Denison’s offensive coordinator, and his game plan during a 45-7 victory over Kenyon College on Oct. 16 for impressing one of Jackson’s former assistant coaches in Cleveland, Ken Delgado, now Kenyon’s defensive line coach.
“After the season [Delgado] emailed me and told me was good friends with Hue from their time together in the NFL and that they talk football quite a bit,” Weston said. “He told me, ‘I thought your run game, in particular, was hard to prepare for and you did a good job exploiting all the gaps. [Jackson] wants to talk to you.”
Weston envisioned a meeting with Jackson merely as a positive reflection on the Denison football program but Jackson, who was hired at Grambling on Dec. 10, was particularly interested in quickly filling out his new staff.
“He called me about two days later and offered me a job,” Weston said. “It was out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t interview for it. He said he pulled up the film and was really impressed and said, ‘I’d love to have you on my staff.’”
Weston sees his hiring not only as a personal introduction to NCAA Division I football — Grambling, like the University of Maine, competes at the Football Championship Series level — but an opportunity to continue learning the sport.
“Coaching is a profession where you never know it all,” he said. “There’s always something new, there’s always something innovative and you’re constantly learning and adapting. To be able to work under somebody who’s been everywhere and seen it at all levels, I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
The son of legendary Bangor three-sport standout and Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductee LeRoy Patterson, Weston graduated from Bangor High School in 2008 after his own distinguished sports career with the Rams that included Class A state championships in basketball and outdoor track and two Eastern Maine final appearances in football.
Weston earned a bachelor of science degree in African-American Studies from Bates College, where he was a four-year football and basketball player who received All-New England Small College Athletic Conference second-team accolades as a senior on the gridiron.
“I always thought I wanted to coach, I just thought it was going to be basketball,” he said. “I coached both football and basketball in my first year after graduating from Bates and decided football fit my personality a little more.”
Weston returned to Bangor and spent seven years as an assistant coach at Husson University, first under Gabby Price and later under current head coach Nat Clark.
Husson posted a 50-22 record during his time with the Eagles before Weston left Maine to take a job coaching wide receivers at Denison in 2020.
His initial season on the Granville, Ohio, campus was canceled due to COVID-19, but Weston was promoted to offensive coordinator by head coach Jack Hatem before the 2021 campaign and helped guide the Big Red to a 6-4 record.
Denison averaged 211.2 rushing yards per game last fall, which immediately caught Delgado’s eye and soon attracted Jackson’s attention.
Weston’s duties at Grambling will include recruiting, scouting and assisting with the offensive line, but he sees the Xs and Os as only one part of the job.
“The opportunity to mentor young men and watch them grow between the ages of 18 and 22 is a pretty special relationship,” Weston said.
Where Weston’s latest job ultimately will lead is uncertain, but he’s enjoying the journey step by step.
“I knew I wanted to be a head coach at some point but was unsure of the path I really wanted to take,” he said. “I don’t know yet where I want to go. That’s a discussion to have as things continue to progress. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit.”