Her husband may have been hired as the new Jacksonville Jaguar defensive coordinator this January, but Darci (Steere) Wash still enjoys one-upping him when the topic of national championships arises. Darci Wash, a member of three (yes three) national championship teams at North Dakota State in the early 1990s, doesn’t have to say anything at this point. Her husband, Todd, beats her to the punch around friends, mentioning his two championships are nothing compared to his wife’s three. “He humbly takes the steam off a little bit,” chuckles Darci.
Todd, a member of the 1988 and 1990 national championship football teams, and Darci are proud NDSU Bison alumni that haven’t forgotten their roots in Fargo. No matter where the unpredictable NFL coaching carousel drops Todd, this Bison couple is proud of their NDSU roots.
It started in 1990 when Darci arrived in Fargo around the same time Amy Ruley and the women’s basketball program were ready to stake dominance in Division II. Darci played a significant role her freshman season. She scored over 11 points per game as the Bison went on to win its first of five national championships in six seasons.
The 2012 Bison Athletic Hall of Fame inductee isn’t one to relive the past. But Darci has seen “When They Were Kings,” the documentary produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting about the tense NDSU-UND rivalry in the 1990s, and is grateful for her experiences.
“We were blessed all my four years with such a great team,” Darci said. “We all had pretty good careers there and all of us can look back on the great memories, not just with the personal accolades, because nobody was concerned about that, how they did personally, it was all about the one goal.”
Darci won a national championship her first year at NDSU, and she also caught the attention of senior defensive lineman Todd Wash. The football team was riding high after an undefeated 1990 season and were becoming somewhat of celebrities around campus.
“I knew who he was, Todd Wash the football player, but I wouldn’t have been able to recognize him until I met him,” Darci said. “I met him at Paul Schaffner’s house at a- let’s call it a social gathering.”
But it could’ve been before that when Todd first noticed Darci grinding away at her callouses on the bottom of her feet inside the training room at the Bison Sports Arena.
“Work hard, play hard, get callouses, right?” laughs Darci.
Long story short, Darci capped her senior year in 1994 with her third national championship and Todd was back on campus pursuing his master’s and assisting the football team. The two got engaged during Darci’s senior year and were ready to begin a life together, as their very own little team.
In 1996, Todd landed his first coaching job at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. As Todd prepared to coach the defensive line, Darci put her physical therapy school dreams on hold and became officially certified as a dental assistant. She also wanted to bridge the transition from being a collegiate athlete and joined the women’s basketball coaching staff at Fort Lewis. One year later, Darci put down the clipboard and remained in the dental office while she was pregnant with their first daughter, Alyssa.
Meanwhile, Todd was promoted to head coach and defensive coordinator at Fort Lewis. After the 1999 season, Todd took the defensive coordinator position at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Thus began the ever-changing journey of a college coach. Todd and Darci moved their family – now of five – to four schools over the next half-decade.
“First of all, we’ve never known anything else. We’ve lived it from the start. Todd and I prepared that coaching isn’t for long. We’re not going to be spending more than five to seven years in one spot. We haven’t even done that yet,” Darci said. “I think the key is, especially when you look at family and stuff, is your kids feed off of you, and if you’re negative about it, and you’re not excited about it, if you don’t treat it as an adventure, then they’re going to reflect those same attitudes and those same feelings. You have to be positive about it and look at it as an adventure. We have friends all over the country, that’s a part of it. That’s pretty great.”
After two years at Kearney, Todd made his way back to NDSU to become an assistant under Bob Babich in 2002. It was his first time back at his alma mater since the end of the Rocky Hager regime.
“NDSU is so special to myself and my wife and the people that were always there,” Todd said. “Gene (Taylor) was there the whole time I was there as a coach. Lynn Dorn was there, and it’s really just such good people, and they work in an environment where you have every resource you need to win. That was a good reason to go back every time.”
After one year at Missouri Southern State in 2004, Todd returned to NDSU again and was under the tutelage of head coach Craig Bohl and defensive coordinator Casey “Gus” Bradley, who was a graduate assistant at NDSU when Todd was playing. Todd said he and Bradley have known each other since 1987.
Todd’s relationship with Bradley proved valuable after Bradley left for the NFL in 2006. According to the Fargo Forum, Bradley brought Todd’s name to the table in Tampa Bay when they were looking for an assistant in 2007. Todd went down to interview and came back two days later as the defensive quality control coach for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin also had a connection with NDSU’s Bohl back from his Nebraska days.
“That’s the Cadillac of coaching,” Todd told the Forum after he announced he was leaving NDSU for the final time. Bradley and Todd stayed together in Tampa Bay until 2009 when Bradley was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. In 2011, Bradley hired Todd as Seattle’s defensive line coach. In 2013, the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Bradley to be the head coach and he brought his colleague, Todd, with him as the defensive line coach.
“We know our ins and outs and how to push each other’s buttons, and it’s a business, we both understand that. But at the same time, it’s good to work with good people that you know,” Todd said. “Yeah, you know Gus and I, seems like we’ve stayed together for a couple years. This is the longest stint we’ve had together and usually, we get fed up with each other and one of us moves on (laughs). It’s special.”
Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) is a metric created by Football Outsiders to gauge how well a team’s defensive line performs. It takes into account “all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the line based on” four percentages. The goal is to “separate the effect that the running back has on a particular play from the effect of the offensive line (and other offensive blockers) and the effect of the defense.”
Essentially, through the ALY metric, the Jaguars defensive line has improved every season since Todd’s arrival. In 2012, Jacksonville ranked 26th. After last season, they were eighth.
As a result, Todd was promoted to defensive coordinator this January. It’s his first coordinator job in the NFL.
“I’m very proud of him. His efforts are starting to pay off,” Darci said.
For now, Darci is busy being a full-time mom after 15 years in the dental industry. Her and Todd’s oldest, Alyssa Wash, just completed her freshman season of softball at Saint Leo, a Division II school north of Tampa Bay. Jenae Wash, the middle child, will be a sophomore in high school and shares her sister’s passion for softball. She may also have an interest in following in Darci and Todd’s footsteps. The youngest, Marcus, a fourth grader, is staying busy with baseball this summer and will play football in the fall.
Bison Pride was an important concept Darci and Todd learned at NDSU. Today, they want to implement that attitude in their children.
“Being prideful in everything you do. It does carry over into the real world. I try to, especially in athletics,” Darci said. “They know what Bison Pride is. They’ve heard it many times. They know what Bison Time is. They know to be 10 minutes early.”
As for Todd, he’s living and working with Bison Pride every day in the office and on the practice field. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple former Bison like Gus Bradley and Scottie Hazelton in the office with him.
“Everybody busts me and Gus’s chops about it,” Todd said. “Anytime something happens at North Dakota State, we make sure we tell everybody in our building.”