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Ryan Held hired to continue winning culture for Loper football

Ryan Held was hired to lead the Loper Football program on Dec. 20 – Photo by Kylie Schwab


When Josh Lynn left for West Texas A&M on Dec. 13, UNK was in search for the next leader of Loper football.

One week later, Ryan Held was named the 19th head football coach in program history. As a native of Overland Park, Kansas, and a UNL graduate, the proximity to home was one of the driving factors in his decision to coach at UNK.

“I just wanted to settle down,” Held said. “I’ve been at the highest level of college football. I’ve been at a lot of different places. I’m ready to settle down. Lay the concrete down and build a program that everyone is proud of year in and year out.”

He served as the offensive coordinator/interim head coach at North Alabama last season. Before that, he was the assistant/running backs coach for Nebraska from 2018-2021. He also served in the same position for the undefeated UCF football team in 2017.

Held has 13 years of head coaching experience at Peru State College, Oklahoma Panhandle State, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Highland Community College and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. His combined record as a head coach is 52-77. 

He inherits a program that has gone 27-11 over the past four seasons. The previous regime under coach Lynn had a very unique style of offense with the triple option. Held wants to incorporate the strong running game, but also add other aspects to the offense as well.

“There will be a lot of carryover with that and actually there are some other wrinkles that I’ve put into it that are different than what they’re used to with the running game and triple option stuff,” Held said. “I think the big difference for TJ Davis and the other quarterbacks is we’re going to throw a little bit more in terms of dropback stuff. I think that’s another tool that they can have in their toolbox.”

Some coaches dread recruiting, but Held embraces the opportunity to get new, young talent at UNK. 

“It’s the chase man, I love it,” Held said. “It’s the offseason competition that you get. You either love it or you don’t and I love it. We want to have a grassroots approach. We want to start in Kearney, Nebraska, and branch out.”

The support of the community around UNK football was an influencing factor in Held’s decision to come coach for the Lopers.

“That was a big selling point to me,” Held said. “Because if you go to a place that there’s not commitment and not support, it makes it very challenging. I’m looking forward to continuing that and building on that as well. All the people that have given to our program, they need to know me and know that I’m doing it the right way.”

Held’s three words that he wants to guide the program are disciplined, detailed and tough. He wants his players to show these characteristics on and off the field.

“I want guys that if you call them out in an Applebee’s, they want to go out in the parking lot and go one-on-one,” Held said. “If there’s a basketball game or flag football or whatever, they stop their car, get on their cleats and jump in the game. We want guys that hate losing.”

Held will formally be announced as the head coach in a news conference at 11 a.m. on Jan. 3 in the Health & Sports Center.

Listen here for the full interview with KLPR Sports Director Jon Willis

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