Kane Wommack walked to the middle of the intramural fields at the University of South Alabama, closed his eyes and took a moment to dream. At the time, Wommack was South Alabama's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, and was headed to Bloomington to become Indiana’s linebackers coach.
But as his three boys threw around the football behind him, Wommack wanted to savor the atmosphere of Mobile, Alabama before he left. Wommack imagined gameday at Hancock Whitney Stadium, which would be built on those same intramural fields and host Jaguar home games starting in 2020.
Wommack dreamt of what the place was capable of becoming, the potential of South Alabama football and the possibility of his return one day. While making trips through Alabama to recruit for Indiana or see his family, Wommack would return to South Alabama for another chance to dream.
“I would see the stadium build and grow,” Wommack said, “I would go out there and do the same thing, and walk out into the stadium even though I probably wasn't supposed to do that. I hope I don't get in trouble for it, but I would go out there and just dream.”
On Dec. 14, Wommack was officially introduced as the head football coach of South Alabama, fulfilling his dream.
Welcome ? @KaneWommack!
Full release ▶️ https://t.co/GAvFBg4X8K#Something2Prove pic.twitter.com/NaorcalwWz
— South Alabama Jaguar Athletics (@WeAreSouth_JAGS) December 12, 2020
When Wommack leads the Jaguars onto the field on Sept. 4, 2021, this time his aspirations to be the head coach of South Alabama won’t just be in his imagination.
“I won't have to dream anymore because that reality is there,” Wommack said. “When we are on that field and able to hear the excitement of our fan base, and see the confidence in our players' and coaches' eyes with the chance to go and do something really special at South Alabama. That to me is the dream.”
Wommack is now the youngest head coach of an FBS program at 33 years old, but that is not holding back his expectations for the program. In his introductory press conference, Wommack used the word "elite" a number of times to describe what South Alabama football will look like with him leading the way.
He said playing situationally and fundamentally elite football and elite execution in critical moments will help put South Alabama in an elite position in the landscape of college football. Wommack will also implement his patented "Swarm D" that has helped build one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this year.
“Come hell or high water, we're going to pack that stadium full of fans that will witness our best moments as a program and know that our best days are ahead of us is truly exciting,” Wommack said.
Wommack interviewed for the head coaching position at South Alabama three years ago, but was turned down. However, this rejection might have turned out to be for the best. While at Indiana, Wommack said Tom Allen has not only been one of his best friends, but a coaching mentor, too.
“To be able to sit down [with Allen] and have real talks and conversations about how do we improve the lives of the people in our program is a resource that I can't wait to utilize,” Wommack said.
Wommack is also grateful for the daily, in-depth look into how to lead and run a program that Allen provided him. Wommack said he learned how to build a roster, create relationships and lead a team.
“Tom could have easily just kept me as a defensive coordinator and kept me on the outskirts of all the interior decisions that have to be made in order for a program to work,” Wommack said. “He chose to invest in me and allow me to see the way that you build this thing. Those types of experiences can't be substituted.”
It is bittersweet for Wommack to leave Indiana, a program he has helped build into one of the Big Ten’s best in 2020. Wommack’s defense leads the nation with 17 interceptions and is first in the Big Ten in sacks with 23.
This is why I love this group! Gut wrenching loss and all they can talk about is the relentless pursuit of perfection in next week’s practice! #NeverDaunted #LEO #SwarmD pic.twitter.com/2gmGfkLmIb
— Kane Wommack (@KaneWommack) November 23, 2020
He said outside of his family and the Indiana football program, there’s not much he does, and he is grateful for everything Indiana has given him.
“To know that you're supported with people who care about myself, Melissa and our family and the opportunity this presents for our family was really endearing when we were able to address the team the other day,” Wommack said.
But his job with Indiana is done just yet. Wommack said he will remain as the defensive coordinator the remainder of the 2020 season. Indiana's Dec. 18 matchup with Purdue was cancelled, which leaves only a bowl game appearance left for the Hoosiers.
The Indiana football program has currently paused all team-related activities due to COVID-19, but still has a chance to compete in a New Years Six bowl game. Indiana is currently ranked No. 7 according to the AP top 25 poll and No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings as of Dec. 14.
“I'm excited to carry our team in and finish well as we have our bowl game preparation,” Wommack said. I'm excited for the opportunities that we've created for ourselves as a program and I look forward to finishing those things.”