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Kansas City Chiefs coach receives UNF Distinguished Alumni Award


Whenever Todd Haley comes to town as a coach for one of the Jacksonville Jaguars opponents, he always makes a point to stop at the University of North Florida to “see how the place is growing.”


Since graduating in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Haley says UNF has grown dramatically and he is proud to call UNF his alma mater.


UNF returned the compliment recently when Haley, now the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, was named the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. At the alumni recognition dinner where the award to Haley was announced, several other alumni also received awards.


“I am truly humbled to receive UNF’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. I hold my education from UNF in very high regard, and I would be proud if any or all of my children decided to follow in my footsteps someday,” Haley said.


The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is the highest award given to a UNF graduate by the Alumni Association and recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to their professions or communities.


Kerry Dunning, president of the UNF Alumni Association, said Haley honored UNF by rising to the rank of NFL head coach. “While there are many collegiate football programs that have never produced a NFL head coach, UNF forever can say it has by living what the University seeks to excel in – true transformational learning opportunities.”


Haley grew up eating and breathing football. His father, Dick Haley, was director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971 to 1991, when the team captured four Super Bowl titles. Todd Haley was a towel boy and water boy for the Steelers and remembers such legendary players as Franco Harris and Jack Lambert.


Although UNF didn’t have a football team, Haley exhibited his competitive nature on the golf course. He played a season on the Osprey golf team after transferring from the University of Miami.


While at UNF, Haley considered a career in advertising or public relations. “I’ve always found the creative side of advertising intriguing. Thinking back on it now, I suppose that was the direction my career would have taken had I not become so involved in sports,” he said.


But sports proved to be a stronger draw. Haley served stints in various assistant coaching capacities with NFL teams, including the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, where he reached the Super Bowl as coordinator of one of the country’s most exciting offenses.


He was named head coach of the Chiefs in February of 2009 becoming the 11th head coach in the team’s history and the second youngest.  Fittingly, Haley’s initial home win as Kansas City’s head coach was an overtime victory over the Steelers as his father looked on.


“There are only 32 jobs of this kind in the world and getting one of them is truly special,” he said.


Haley and his wife, Chrissy, now live in Mission Hills, Kan. with their five children: Taylor, 12, Peyton, 8, Kady, 4, Ella, 3, and Todd, 1.


At the same time Haley received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, several other UNF alumni also were recognized.


UNF graduate Kara Tucker received the Young Alumni Award. The 2010 Honorary Alumni Awards were presented to Adm. Jonathan T. Howe, Irene J. Lazzara, Jim Milligan, Susan Ryzewic and A. Hugh Greene.  And six alums received Outstanding Alumni Awards: Anna Brosche (Coggin College of Business); Jason Burnett (College of Arts and Sciences); Donna Jones (Brooks College of Health); Jennifer Jones (Thomas G. Carpenter Library); Earl Shimp (College of Computing, Engineering and Construction); and Joni Shook (College of Education and Human Services).

Tom Cain contributed to this report.