All Photos Courtesy of: Associated Press
Marquette, Mich. (WJMN) – Before his rise up the coaching ranks, newly hired New York Jets head coach, Robert Saleh, called Marquette home.
Saleh played tight end for the Northern Michigan Wildcats from 1998-2002 and graduated with a degree in finance.
“Back in ’75 we had three guys transfer in here and they all were great players at Northern. Don Saleh, Mike Berry, and Alex Mazlamani. They’re all related. They’re all out of Dearborn Fortson. Well, Robert is their nephew. Danny Enos was here at Northern at the time and dan is a Dearborn native. He knows those people also. Dan recruited him up to Northern. Not only did Robert play here, but his uncle’s also played here and it’s kind of just a neat thing to happen, ” said Kyle Nystrom, the head coach of the NMU Football team.
After graduating, Saleh began his climb up the ladder. It included stops at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia as a defensive assistant, before making the jump to the NFL as a defensive intern with the Houston Texans in 2005. He’s been with the 49ers as a defensive coordinator since 2017 and helped them reach a super bowl.
“He’s a straight-up person. There’s nothing to conceal, he doesn’t hide behind anything, he’s honest and kind-hearted as the day is long. You don’t get to that spot and do the things he’s done unless he’s got an over-the-top work ethic,” said Nystrom.
Even through all the success, Saleh hasn’t forgotten about the U.P.
“He’ll reach back and send a message to the athletes when we have the end of the year athlete social get together the ‘Wildcat Awards’. He really did a nice job on that and he loves Northern. It’s kind of special because when people get older and get away from the university and do great things, sometimes they lose touch with their university so to say and he doesn’t,” said Nystrom.
Saleh’s success is a great testimony to the NMU program.
“Now that he’s become the head coach. I mean, it puts you on the map and it brings your name out to the national media. I think it means as much good as can happen to a program at this level when one of your people do that. So, I think it’s incredible for our program and our university that one of our alumni have secured such a position that he has,” said Nystrom.
For the players, Saleh is a great example of what can happen when you work hard.
“The players probably look at it as like, wow one of our guys, a guy that’s worn the same helmet that we wear right now is a head coach in the NFL. It’s human nature, they’re going to want to do better and make their life more serious as a wildcat just because of things like that,” said Nystrom.
As Saleh begins his new journey in New York, NMU faithful is cheering from afar.
“You’re happy for good people when good things happen to them. That’s the biggest thing you can say about Robert and what happened to him with the Jets. Being that he’s an NMU Wildcat, that’s just frosting on the cake and makes it that much better,” said Nystrom.