Chris Culig couldn’t find a job coaching football for five years.
Now, 20 years later, he’s in charge of the state’s biggest football program. Culig was named Monday as the head football coach for Rocky Mountain High School. He replaces Scott Criner, who stepped down July 24 to become the athletic director at Eagle High School. Not a bad landing sport for a first head coaching job.
“I’m super excited, obviously,” Culig said. “I was on pins and needles waiting to hear if I would get the job. I never knew four days could take so long. But now that I know I have the job, it’s a great feeling for sure.”
Culig was promoted from defensive coordinator, a position he held for four seasons. He oversaw a defensive team that allowed just 15 points per game in helping the Grizzlies win their first state title in 2015.
During Culig’s tenure as defensive coordinator, Rocky Mountain lost just nine games and made it to the state semifinals. Those results, combined with his popularity on the team, made Culig the right choice, according to senior lineman Keeghan Freeborn.
“I am excited,” Freeborn said. “He’s been with us for a while and he can help us do great things at Rocky.”
Prior to his arrival at Rocky Mountain, Culig played defensive back at Cal Lutheran before coaching in college at both Boise State and Idaho State. But following his departure from Idaho State in 1997, Culig was unable to land another coaching job. He eventually had to end his pursuit and get what he called a “real job.”
“I went two years without watching football because it was that hard for me,” Culig said. “It took me awhile to get the courage to start watching and following it again.”
It wasn’t until a chance encounter with Criner at Camel’s Back Park in Boise in 2002 that Culig finally got himself back into coaching. When Criner was named the Timberline head football coach just before the start of the 2002 season, Culig, who worked with Criner’s dad at Boise State University, received a call from his longtime friend offering him a position on his staff.
Culig accepted without hesitation.
“I was very fortunate to run into him,” Culig said. “I’ve known him a long time and replacing him is going to be a daunting task. But I feel I can be the next man up and build upon what he started here.”
Culig takes over a program with lofty expectations for 2017. MaxPreps named the Grizzlies as the best football team in the state in June. But Culig isn’t worried. To him, football is the easy part.
“I don’t feel the pressure. I know there are high expectations here, but I expected us to be there anyways,” Culig said. “I’m more worried about the administration side of things. There are things that obviously come with a job like this that I haven’t done or experienced yet, but I’ll deal with them as a they come up. I’m ready to get after it.”
FREEBORN COMMITS TO BOISE STATE
Keeghan Freeborn has fond memories of watching former Boise State star and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back Doug Martin “destroy people.” Now the Rocky Mountain High senior lineman will soon get his chance to make his own impact on The Blue.
Freeborn verbally committed to the Boise State football team July 27.
“I’ve grown up in this area my entire life, and I’ve always loved the program,” he said. “So to officially be a part of that now is just awesome.”
The 6-foot-1, 310-pound lineman received a scholarship offer from Broncos’ head coach Bryan Harsin two weeks ago. Freeborn went out on an unofficial visit with his dad and stepfather the following week, and made the call to commit a few short days later.
He called assistant head and defensive line coach Steve Caldwell to give Boise State the good news. Freeborn’s call eventually made its way to Harson, who told him he was “fired up to have him on board.”
Freeborn began to get noticed by several schools, including Boise State, following a standout junior season. He was a second-team 5A Southern Idaho Conference offensive lineman selection last season after helping Rocky Mountain rack up 342 rushing yards per game and 43 touchdowns on the ground.
“I’ve coached a fair amount of years and he has a chance to be one of the most dominant players I’ve ever seen,” Rocky Mountain head coach Chris Culig said. “Keeghan is so impactful for us and such a powerful human being.”
Freeborn also received offers from Air Force, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana State and Weber State, but for the homegrown kid, there was really only one option.
“Boise State is just an awesome place,” Freeborn said. “I love downtown and the campus. It’s just a great school with a one-of-a-kind football program and an amazing coach staff. I couldn’t say no to joining something like that.”