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As a Senior Bowl HC, Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich Is Making an Impact on Young Football Minds

National Team's Players Praise 'the Passion and the Energy He Brings'; 'I Just Feel Like He's an Excellent Coach'

National quarterback Sam Hartman, of Notre Dame, throws a pass during practice for the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

Jeff Ulbrich has the whole package — his football knowledge, the impressive rise of his Jets defenses the past two seasons, his own Senior Bowl experience in 2000, plus the fervor with which he speaks about his love for the game and for the players he coaches. It was only natural that those who run the Senior Bowl would want him to serve as one of their head coaches one of these years.

That year is now. The Green & White's D-coordinator is the National team head coach for this week's practices and Saturday's game, the 75th Anniversary Senior Bowl that will kick off at 1 p.m. ET at the University of South Alabama.

And Brick's excitement for his players is not a one-way street in Mobile. The players feel the same way about their new, if temporary, coach.

"You can just tell that one reason the Jets play so hard is because of him," said North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson. "The passion and the energy he brings, you would go out there and kill for that guy. I've only known him literally two days now, and that's how I feel about him."

"I watched some Hard Knocks so I had a little inkling," Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman said of his first exposure to Ulbrich during the Jets' star turn last August on HBO's annual NFL summer miniseries. "He's awesome. He's teaching us a lot about life in the NFL, what it takes to be great, what it takes to do what he coaches and be a part of the organization he's a part of. It's an unreal opportunity to get so close to a guy who's so pivotal in an organization. He has a lot of respect in the league and it makes complete sense that he does."

One who has perhaps a little more than two days' worth of knowledge about Ulbrich also had glowing comments after Wednesday's practice. Michigan WR Roman Wilson grew up in Hawai'i, which is where Ulbrich played his college ball before advancing to his 10-year NFL career as a starting 'backer and special-teams leader, all for the 49ers.

"Jeff's a good guy," Wilson said. "He brings a lot of energy. It reminds me a lot of the Michigan coaches. I just feel like he's an excellent coach. I know he played at Hawai'i. We talked about it a little bit. I think he got engaged on Maui, and that's where I'm from, so it's cool. It's a small world we live in."

Yet in that small pool, this game is a big springboard, and not just for the players whose college eligibility is up and are playing in this game to improve their draft stock, as Ulbrich did in 2000, going from a potentially undrafted free agent to a third-round pick of the Niners. It's also a job interview for many coaches who could be setting the stage for the next entry on their résumés.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn't ready to say goodbye to Ulbrich yet, but he sent his DC off to Alabama with his own praise, saying that this opportunity for Brick "will give people a look at the great work we see from him every day at our facility."

Yet head-coaching interviews down the road seem to be the furthest thing from Ulbrich's mind, as Hartman has sensed from his short time participating in National team workouts and meetings.

"In a world of a lot of inconsistent things and people, when you find consistency in somebody, it's easy to root for and be a part of their organization," Hartman said. "I think he understands that this is not his show, it's not about him going out and coaching and winning the game. He's taking the pressure, and he's put all the go-play and everything like that on us. It's still the same game, still the same field space, still 22 guys on the field, and he keeps preaching that. And I think that has really resonated with me as a player."

But at the same time, Ulbrich, from his playing experience, is passing on his emotion for the game to his players, who may use it in Saturday's competition but will surely revisit it as they make their way through the pro ranks.

"You always want to have someone who's walked in your shoes before giving you advice," Payton Wilson said. "For him to have gone through this, gone through the whole process, just the advice that he's given some of us, it's truly inspirational."

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