ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

ASU players wish OC Billy Napier good luck at Louisiana-Lafayette

Dec 15, 2017, 4:08 PM | Updated: 6:07 pm
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) after a touchdown agains...
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) wide receiver N'Keal Harry (1) after a touchdown against Colorado during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. – One week ago, quarterback Manny Wilkins called it the best news he’d gotten in four years at Arizona State. Billy Napier had agreed to remain with the promotion to associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

Well, 10 days later, with the ink hardly dried on his new contract, Napier received another contract, this one to become the new head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. He accepted the job on Friday, leaving Wilkins and Sun Devil players stunned.

“It is what it is. The sun is still going to come up. I’m very proud of him. This is an opportunity he’s been waiting for,” Wilkins said.

“Things happen in life for a reason. God makes us go through these obstacles in life and he throws them at his toughest warriors. Not in hope but knowing that they’ll overcome them. At the end of the day, it’s a blessing. I get to wake up every morning and play this game at a university that I love. So, I’m really excited for him and his family and the opportunity that they have and I wish him the best of luck.”

Wilkins added he and Napier talked—“It was emotional,” he said—before Friday’s team meeting, something Wilkins appreciated.

Napier did not attend practice later. He will, however, attend and coach the Sun Devils offense against No. 24 NC State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 29.

“I’m happy for him,” wide receiver N’Keal Harry said. “It’s tough for us as a team but at the same time, he’s a great man. He has a family, he has kids, he has responsibilities. Coach’s dream is to be a head coach, so I’m proud of him and I wish him the best.”

Under Napier, ASU had the Pac-12’s sixth-best offense, while Wilkins ranked 12th nationally with a 70.8 completion percentage

“There’s nothing negative coming from me,” said Wilkins, who credited Napier for teaching him how to watch film, break down defenses and become a better leader.

“Obviously, going into my senior year, I wish he would’ve had one more year with me but at the end of the day you got to do what’s best for your family.”

Next season Wilkins will play for Rob Likens, his fourth different offensive coordinator in as many years. Napier’s departure follows that of Mike Norvell (Memphis head coach) and Chip Lindsey (Auburn offensive coordinator).

“It has its challenges, but you got to roll with the punches. Sometimes you’re going to get hit. It’s going to knock you down but are you going to get back up? I look at this as another challenge. I’m ready, man,” Wilkins said.

“I got one more year in me and I’m going to give my all to this team, to this university because it means the world to me. I’m just going to put my head down, go to work every day like nothing ever happened because that’s what this team needs me to do.”

For now, it appears Napier is the only coach on the offensive staff leaving.

Before news broke of Likens’ hiring later in the day, both Wilkins and Harry threw their support for him to replace Napier as the offensive coordinator.

“I would love to see that,” Harry said. “He’s, honestly, the most hard-working man I’ve ever met. I’ve never met somebody that can come in here and regardless of what his emotions are or what he’s feeling, he shows us the same energy every day. He sacrifices a lot for us. He sacrifices seeing his family. There’s a couple of times, a lot, throughout the season where I don’t even think he got to see his kid awake throughout the whole week. So just to see how hard he works and everything he’s put into this program already in just a year, I feel like he deserves that.”

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