When Nicc Crosby begins football practice with the Lovell Bulldogs Monday, he will be Lovell’s third coach in three years, but he plans to put the next transition off for many years.
The Lovell native has taken the reins of the LHS football team after teaching and coaching for 13 years in Star Valley, a place he and his family loved. And he said only one thing could tear him away – a return to his hometown.
“I loved it (in Star Valley),” he said. “We were coming off a state championship with a senior class that had a selfless team attitude and went to work (to win the title). It was an awesome experience. I had no aspirations of being a head coach or leaving there.”
Then his alma mater called.
“It took a perfect set of circumstances to make it happen,” he said. “This is the only place I and my family would consider going to. It was the hardest decision of my life.”
But now he believes it was the right decision, with a chance to return home, be closer to family and teach his vision of football and life lessons to a new generation of students.
“I loved Star Valley, but there’s nowhere else I want to be now,” he said. “I’m here for the long haul. I want to do everything possible to make it work. I left the only place I wanted to live, teach and coach in for the only place my family would consider moving to. This is a great place, and I’ve been welcomed.”
Crosby grew up in Lovell as the sixth of six children born to Pat and Sylvia Crosby. Older sister Cristy Jameson still remains in the community. Nicc was a multi-sport athlete, playing football in the fall and basketball in the winter, competing in track and field in the spring and playing baseball all summer. He said he loves baseball, but football is his favorite sport.
He was the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback as a junior and senior, as well as a few games in his sophomore year. He was also a safety and linebacker on defense. He earned all-conference and all-state honors as a senior, played in the Shrine Bowl and was an honorable mention Super 25 selection by the Casper Star-Tribune.
His favorite target as the Bulldog quarterback was wide receiver Bob Weber, who rejoins the Lovell staff this fall to coach with his classmate.
“I probably completed more passes to him than anyone,” Crosby said.
Other ties on his staff are his nephew, Michael Jameson, and Dane Robertson, son of the late Kevin Robertson, a coach Crosby said was a huge influence in his life.
Crosby received a University of Wyoming Presidential Scholarship as he graduated from LHS in 2000, and the university held it for him while he served a mission in Ecuador for two years. He returned home in the fall of 2002 and enrolled at UW in the spring of 2003. He graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education-math.
After returning from his mission, he briefly considered a career in dentistry as a hygienist but instead chose the teaching profession, realizing it was something he had wanted to do for a long time.
After graduation he applied to several schools for a teaching position, including Lovell High School, and was offered jobs in Evanston, Green River and Star Valley – but not Lovell. He said the joke among his friends was that he wasn’t offered by the school that knew him best. It stung, but he happily took the position as a math teacher, teaching algebra I and II, college algebra, geometry, trigonometry and eighth-grade math.
After two years in the middle school football program, he was named running backs coach and junior varsity offensive coordinator for new coach Chris Howell in 2008. He served as varsity offensive coordinator for three years, then coached quarterbacks and was the right-hand man for new offensive coordinator McKay Young for the next four years.
Young became head coach in 2016, and Crosby coached with him for three years before taking the job in Lovell.
The Star Valley Braves played to a record of 73-39 during Crosby’s 11 years on the staff and won three state championships. Over the last four years the Braves are 41-5 with three titles and one semifinal playoff appearance.
“I couldn’t imagine I’d be the coach here today without Coach Howell and Coach Young,” he said, considering the two to be his mentors.
As the head coach in Lovell, Crosby will be the offensive coordinator and coach the quarterbacks, defensive backs and “wherever we need help.” Weber will be the defensive coordinator and coach linebackers and running backs. Dane Robertson will coach quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs and special teams, Michael Jameson tight ends and defensive ends. AJ Montanez will coach the offensive line and defensive tackles and will also serve as strength coach, aided by volunteer assistant Chad Lindsay, who will also coach the offensive and defensive line. Volunteer Greg Rael will coach special teams.
The Crosby credo
For Crosby, football is not just about the game – wins and losses, X’s and O’s. It’s about creating a culture that is just as meaningful and important off the field as on the field, which is why the Lovell team has performed a number of community service projects this summer.
“We really want to create a culture when the boys are learning how to be men built for others,” he said. “Society is becoming more and more self-absorbed. Football is a great opportunity to teach this, which we tried to do with service projects during camp. We’ll continue to do character building and character education.
“My experience is that if you build the kids up and build good character, trust them and teach them not to be selfish, they’ll be good football players. That’s a good way to build a football team. If you can get them to be better than they are, they’ll be better on the football field and in life and better contributors to society.”
Crosby said he learned this way of combining football with life lessons from his Star Valley mentors.
“Coach Young was my biggest influence with this,” he said. “Coach Howell was a genius with X’s and O’s, but Coach Young elevated our program at Star Valley by making it more important to elevate kids and their character and bring down their level of selfishness. It’s winning but it’s also about being great husbands and fathers and contributing members of society. That transcends anything on the football field.”
Of course, the Crosby led Bulldogs have yet to play a game, but he said the foundation is in place for success.
“I’ve been with them all summer. The kids are from great families in a great community, and they’re well taught,” he said. “They’re hard workers and have a great foundation. We’ve just re-emphasized what their parents teach them at home. That’s what makes me so excited about being here. The talent is great, but they’re hard workers. It’s not about them, it’s about the team.”
Crosby said he considers himself to be a player’s coach, noting, “I like to keep in mind what it was like to be a player. I also remember not liking this other thing (like conditioning), but we need to be in shape.
“I’m a task oriented person,” he added. “I like to get things done and feel good about what we’ve accomplished. I want to get work done, then go play. I’ll ask what we need to do as a program and lean on my assistants a lot to get a good read on where we’re going.”
On offense, Crosby said, the Bulldogs will employ a base blocking scheme and play power running football but off of that base scheme find ways to get the ball in the hands of playmakers.
The Bulldogs will run a four-man front on defense and keep things simple “so the kids can play fast,” he said. The team will run essentially a 4-2-5 defensive with a floating nickel back that provides versatility but also is simple for the linemen.
Crosby is married to the former Aimee Sheckler from Rock Springs, who was born in Powell and is herself a teacher, teaching first grade in Laramie for two years. The Crosbys have four children: Davin, 12, Kyson, 9, Jamen, 5, and Brynlee, 2.
By David Peck