In the FCS Huddle: Coakley led ASU on and off the field

What Dexter Coakley did on the field as a time recipient of the FCS defensive player of the year honor.

But what the hard-hitting linebacker started doing off the field following his sophomore season might have been his biggest contribution to ASU's success as a program.

"We had 10 or 12 guys stay here in the summer until Dexter got here," head coach Jerry Moore said. "And then when Dexter got here and got entrenched, became Dexter, if we didn't have front-line players here, he'd call them. And he didn't ask them to come in, his statement to them was, 'Why aren't you here?' They all bought into it and we're still doing it. I think he's one of the secrets to the success that we've had here. We've had any number of players, probably close to 90 to 100 players, that stay here all summer."

Coakley credits his teammates for "allowing me to be the man I am today," but each one likely tried to emulate the production and work ethic of the most decorated defensive player in FCS (formerly Division I-AA) history.

He totaled 165 and 166 tackles, respectively, in winning the 1995 and '96 Buck Buchanan awards. In each of his final three seasons as a Mountaineer, he was the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus first- team All-American. Today, he remains their all-time leader in total tackles (616), solo tackles (350), assisted tackles (266), double-figure tackle games (37) and 20-tackle games (seven).

"He was such a great athlete," Moore said of the 5-foot-10, 230-pounder, who operated out of offensive and defensive backfields before settling in at linebacker. "He was a terrific running back. He rushed for over 2,500 yards his junior and senior years in high school. And he just had that presence about him.

"He returned kickoffs when he was a freshman. Those players buy into that. They see that and NFL people saw it. He was just a great team guy."

Coakley graduated from ASU in 1997 and was a third-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys. Big D played eight of his 10 NFL seasons in Big D, making the Pro Bowl in 1999, 2001 and 2003. He spent his final two seasons in '05 and '06 with the St. Louis Rams.

This past July, Coakley became the first ASU player to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. He lives in suburban Dallas with his wife, Nicole, and their daughter and son.

The 17th Buck Buchanan Award will be presented on Jan. 6, 2012, in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the FCS national championship game. The Sports Network presents and sponsors the national awards presentation.