New UConn Football Team Staffer: ‘She’s part of the family’ | UConn Soccer

STORRS — Forget being a woman in what is historically a man’s world. Michelle “Mickey” Grace is used to it.

No, her transition to the coaching staff of the UConn football team was only slightly difficult as she is on the other side of the ball.

“I am on offense now. It’s crazy,” Grace said after practice Thursday at the Shenkman Center. “I look at the game completely differently. Basically, I look upside down every day. I’ve been in this business for 11 years and I’ve been on the defensive side of the ball for 11 years. »

Grace, 29, is an offensive analyst on head coach Jim Mora’s UConn staff, working primarily with Huskies wide receivers coach John Allen.

Grace comes to UConn after serving as an assistant defensive line coach at Dartmouth last season. She also has experience with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams, as a training camp intern for the former and a scout apprentice for the latter.

“Mickey on staff brings great energy. She is very intelligent. She’s been in this game for a very long time. She gets on very well with the players,” Mora said.

The fact that Grace is female is largely intangible, say many Huskies.

“She’s awesome. She really fits in here. The guys love it here. And she knows what she’s doing,” said UConn center Jake Guidone, who transferred to UConn from Dartmouth and knew Grace long before her arriving at Storrs “She’s part of the team. She’s part of the family here.”

Grace, a standout soccer player at Germantown High in Philadelphia, is used to being around the game. Her gender is almost a non-factor.

“The goal was for female coaches to never be new. I’ve been doing this for 11 years so I forget that it’s sometimes new to others. Because it’s nothing new to me,” Grace said. “I’ve been on so many teams, high school, NFL and college, so for me this is nothing new.”

This is new to the UConn program. Grace is the first in her role or in a similar role with the Huskies.

But Mora, after what he called a “persistent” campaign by Grace to win a job at UConn, had actually hoped to give her an even more prestigious position. Grace is not technically a “coach” at UConn, in the sense that she is prohibited by NCAA regulations from performing certain on-court duties.

“I think we are very lucky to have him. I would have loved to be able to bring her here in a role where she could actually be on the court, actively coaching every down. At this point we can’t do that, but we’re working on it,” Mora said.

Perhaps not technically a coach, Grace still gets her point across on UConn players whenever necessary.

“Here she brings a new aspect of coaching. And she’ll bug you if you don’t do what you need to do,” UConn linebacker Ian Swenson said.

Mora said that’s exactly how he hoped Grace would be when she comes to UConn.

“I think they really relate to her. It doesn’t cover anything. She is straightforward and direct with them,” Mora said.

Grace played tennis at West Chester University before the school’s women’s rugby coach convinced her to change sports.

“It came naturally for me to be that competitor. And also aggression is good here, which works. In tennis, not so much. They’re like, ‘Mickey, you gotta calm down,'” Grace said. “In football, nobody says that.”

After college, she coached high school boys’ soccer and professional women’s soccer. Coaching the game has been her sole profession, just as Grace intended.

“Football is this. This is my life. And here I am,” Grace said.

Although she admits to harassing Mora a bit after taking the job from UConn in the fall, Grace hadn’t exactly planned on ending up working in Connecticut before then.

“I’ve never been to Connecticut before, but my mom was born here, so it’s really cool that she’s coming to show me where she was born and where her parents are buried,” said Grace, whose mother , Dana, is a native of Hartford.

The Huskies went 1-11 last season and have won only four games in the past four seasons.

The team’s poor record didn’t deter Grace from taking the UConn job, she said. It also wasn’t really her goal to diversify the Husky coaching staff, but she did.

” It’s awesome. People of all ages, all different ethnicities, all that. It’s a super cool atmosphere and everyone gets along,” Swenson said of Mora’s staff.

2016-21 Mastery Charter School Defensive Coordinator

Philly Phantomz defensive line coach 2017-18

2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Intern

2020-21 Los Angeles Rams Scout Apprentice

Dartmouth College Assistant Defensive Line Coach 2021-22

2022- UConn Offensive Analyst

Neill covers the UConn men’s basketball and UConn football teams, and he keeps a finger on the pulse of Connecticut sports. For live game updates and more information from UConn athletics, player transfers and team changesfollow Neill on Twitter: @NeillOstroutFacebook: JINeillO and Instagram: @NeillOstrout.

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