Julian Mendez portrait

Five Questions with Julian Mendez, Head Football Coach

On June 27th of this year, Julian Mendez was named as the first head football coach in William Woods University history, a little more than a month after the University officially announced the addition of the intercollegiate sport for the first time. Coming to The Woods to start the new program with more than 15 years of coaching and playing experience at both the collegiate and high school levels, Coach Mendez recently sat down to answer Five Questions for The Woods Today, as told to John Fougere:

1.) Where are you from, and what did your career consist of before coming to William Woods?

I am originally from San Diego, California. Before coming to The Woods my career consisted of serving in different levels of athletic programs and different experiences to prepare me for this role. My first start in coaching I spent two years (2011-2013) as a Graduate Assistant at my alma mater, Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas. I then spent two years (2013-2015) at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, as an Assistant Football Coach/Assistant Director of Residence Life. From there it was four years (2015-2018) at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma as Assistant Football/Run Game Coordinator; three years (2019-2022) back at Ottawa University as Offensive Coordinator, and lastly one year at Odessa High School in Odessa, Texas as Assistant Football Coach/Special Education Teacher/Recruiting Coordinator. 

2.) What attracted you to the idea of becoming the first head football coach in William Woods history? 

The trajectory of my coaching career had come to a point that seeking to become a Head Coach was on my career aspirations and finding the right opportunity to do so was very important to me. The idea of becoming the first head coach in history presented an opportunity to build a program and culture from the ground up and provide an OPPORTUNITY!  The possibility of working with an administration that I believed shared a lot of my same values and beliefs jumped out at me right away when speaking with President Moreland, Dr. Blashak, Dr. Sapp and Dr. Andenoro during my interview process. Having prior relationships with Dr. Otto and Casey Weider made for a comfortable setting of working in higher education together and starting a program based on the student athlete experience. My prior knowledge of Director of Athletics Steve Wilson from our previous institutions spoke for itself of the type of commitment he has to the student experience and creating an athletics program that supports each other and strives for impact beyond the in-sport successes. 

3.) What are the unique challenges to starting up a college football program?

The unique challenges posed from starting a college football program are the behind-the-scenes workings of everyday college athletics. Stepping foot on the William Woods campus, there was not one piece of football equipment here, which meant we had to make sure and order the everyday equipment needed for a football program. On the recruiting front, challenges arise that some student athletes or people might be scared off about the idea of starting a program because they want to be part of something that is already established. It takes hard work to start a culture on a campus that already has athletics programs in place because at times it could be against the “norm”. All of these “challenges” are benefits for the program because it will take some work and commitment to the common goal. 

Julian Mendez in Anderson Arena on William Woods University campus holding the new Owls football helmet

4.) With the first Owls’ football game about nine months away, what is consuming your time most these days? 

Most of my time is being consumed on the recruiting trail at this time of the year with off-campus visits, on-campus visits, virtual visits and phone calls! It’s a fun time to develop and create relationships with student-athletes who are interested in WWU football and most importantly, interested in utilizing football to get an education. Recruiting is the life blood of College Athletics, and this time of year is the hottest time in recruiting, where student-athletes are taking visits and making decisions. 

5.) What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

My hobbies outside of work include supporting the other Athletics programs here at The Woods! Owls supporting Owls will always be one of my biggest hobbies! I will be Owl Athletics’ biggest fan! I also love to cook BBQ and watch football at home. BBQ has its similarity to sport as it takes different ingredients, time and style to create the best outcome. I also love to enjoy time with my family, friends, and my dogs.