Mizzou football hires former NFL head coach Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator

Wilks spent 14 seasons in the NFL
Rams Cardinals Football
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 18:31:14-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Missouri bolstered its football coaching staff Thursday by hiring former NFL head coach Steve Wilks as the program's new defensive coordinator.

Mizzou announced Wilks' hiring on social media Thursday afternoon.

Wilks spent 14 seasons coaching in the NFL, including the 2018 season as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He went 3-13 during his first year and was fired after only one season.

Under Wilks, the Cardinals' passing defense ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game.

"We are thrilled to welcome Steve Wilks and his family to Mizzou," Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement. "Steve has a strong reputation as a man of character and a leader of men. His experiences both as an NFL head coach and defensive coordinator are exactly what we need at Mizzou. I'm looking forward to Steve putting his fingerprints on our defense as we continue to

Most recently, Wilks served as the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator during the 2019 season.

The Browns' passing defense ranked seventh in the league, allowing only 216.9 yards per game, that season. When Kevin Stefanski replaced Freddie Kitchens after the 2019 season, Wilks was not retained.

Wilks began his NFL career in 2006 as defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears.

After three seasons, he joined the then-San Diego Chargers in the same role from 2009-11 before moving on to the Carolina Panthers as defensive backs coach from 2012-14.

Wilks, who coached in Super Bowls with the Bears and Panthers, was promoted to assistant head coach for Carolina in 2015-16 before becoming Ron Rivera's defensive coordinator in 2017.

He did not coach football during the 2020 season.

"As I took time off to reflect over the past year, I wanted to find a good program with great people that was moving in the right direction, and without a doubt, Mizzou Football has all of that," Wilks said. "I reached out to Coach Drinkwitz when he got the job at Appalachian State as an alum, and Coach Harbison is a good friend of mine who spoke volumes about the culture and people at Mizzou. Mizzou has things moving in a great direction and I wanted to be a part of that.

Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 and served as the Mountaineers' defensive backs coach in 2001.

He also previously worked in the college ranks at Bowling Green, Notre Dame and Washington among other stops during a 25-year coaching career.

During the 1999 season, Wilks led Savannah State to a 5-6 record as head coach.

Wilks replaces former defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who spent five of his six seasons with Mizzou as defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator. Walters was hired by Bret Bielema as the new University of Illinois defensive coordinator earlier this month.