Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker agreed to take a similar position with the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday, marking the first change to Gene Chizik's coaching staff in the two-plus years he's been with the Tigers.
"The last two years have been an unbelievable experience with the opportunity to coach at my alma mater and help the program win a national championship,” Rocker said. It’s always been a goal of mine to coach in the NFL and this is a tremendous opportunity that I could not pass up.”
Rocker, 44, was hired by new Titans coach Mike Munchak to replace Jim Washburn, who left the team after 12 years to join the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We certainly hate to see Tracy leave, but this was an opportunity for him to pursue one of his professional goals," Chizik said. “We’re very appreciative of what he meant to Auburn both as a player and a coach, and we wish Tracy and his family nothing but the best in his new role with the Tennessee Titans."
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Rocker was reportedly high on Jeff Fisher's wish list before the coach parted ways with the franchise after 17 years. Fisher's replacement, Munchak, said on WJOX radio Wednesday morning that he had talked to Rocker about the opening.
"Obviously, he's done a great job as a player and now he's worked his way up through the ranks in coaching, and he's coming off a national championship at Auburn, so he'd be a great fit for any organization," Munchak said. "We know what it's like to have a great defensive line coach, and he'd fit that bill, so I'm very much interested in him."
Rocker, who won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1988 as a player for Auburn and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, was part of the original staff Chizik finalized early in 2009.
He had great success in his brief time on the Plains. Defensive end Antonio Coleman led the SEC in sacks and tackle for a loss in 2009.
Last season, defensive tackle Nick Fairley emerged as one of the dominant players in college football, finishing with 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks. The All-American, who could be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft, matched Rocker's feat by winning the Lombardi Award in December.
"Auburn is a special place because the fans are the greatest in the world," Rocker said. "I’m appreciative for all of their support during my time as a player and as a coach.”
Rocker's previous stops have all been at the college level, including West Alabama, Troy, Cincinnati, Arkansas and Ole Miss. He spent part of a the summer of 2001 working as intern with the Indianapolis Colts and again in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rocker is the first departure from Chizik's original coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was pursued as a head coach by several schools this offseason, including Vanderbilt and Maryland, but received a hefty raise to $1.3 million to stay with the Tigers.
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes interviewed with Texas last month but decided to stay in Auburn.