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Rookie NFL coach Liam Coen relishes trip to Super Bowl as Los Angeles Rams assistant wide receivers coach

  • Former UMass quarterback Liam Coen talks to reporters during Super Bowl 53 media night, Monday in Atlanta. Coen is a first-year assistant wide receivers coach with the Los Angeles Rams, who play the New England Patriots on Sunday. COURTESY KYLE BELANGER

  • Former UMass quarterback Liam Coen talks to reporters during Super Bowl 53 media night, Monday in Atlanta. Coen is a first-year assistant wide receivers coach with the Los Angeles Rams, who play the New England Patriots, Sunday. COURTESY KYLE BELANGER

  • Former UMass quarterback Liam Coen talks to reporters during Super Bowl 53 media night, Monday in Atlanta. Coen is a first-year assistant wide receivers coach with the Los Angeles Rams, who play the New England Patriots, Sunday. COURTESY KYLE BELANGER



For the Gazette
Thursday, January 31, 2019

ATLANTA — He grew up in Rhode Island, played quarterback at UMass, and has coached collegiately in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.

He chose his jersey No. 12 because of his childhood favorite player, Tom Brady.

He even attended the infamous 2001 AFC Divisional Round “Tuck Rule Game” at Gillette Stadium with his football-coach father.

Face it: Former Minuteman signal-caller Liam Coen is as New England as it comes.

With one major exception.

In his first year working as assistant wide receivers coach for the Los Angeles Rams, and headed into his first Super Bowl, Coen is rooting hard against his childhood team and favorite player.

“Tom Brady and the Patriots — that was everything to me, growing up as a sports kid,” said Coen Monday night on the floor of Atlanta’s State Farm Arena during Super Bowl 53 Opening Night festivities. “It’s pretty exciting to come back and be a part of this, and now to come back and get to coach against these guys.”

While Coen’s gridiron GPS has sent him on one heck of a scenic route, it has been nothing but the fast lane for the last year. After serving as offensive coordinator at the University of Maine during the 2016-2017 season, the former Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year was preparing to join the staff at Holy Cross in Worcester, when he received the call he’d always imagined.

That was when Rams tight ends coach Shane Waldron reached out to him to gauge his interest in heading to Los Angeles. Waldron was UMass’ recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach from 2012-13 and offensive line coach from 2014-15. Coen was UMass’ pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2014-15.

“You know, Shane was with the Patriots, and I got to work with him at UMass,” Coen said.

Spoiler alert: He took the job.

In addition to transitioning his life from the New England lifestyle to a Southern California state of mind, he has also had to recalibrate his focus on the field. Specifically, he has been working diligently on the nuances of coaching wideouts in one of the sport’s most dynamic and innovative offenses.

The transition has come natural to him.

“Obviously, when you’re coaching quarterbacks you’re kind of a part of it, but coaching receivers now, it’s something I’m gaining more experience on,” he said. “I’m picking up techniques and learning so much from Sean (McVay) and the staff, and from our receivers coach Eric Yarber.”

For Coen, the Super Bowl week experience is clearly one he is relishing, his eyes drinking in the surroundings during Opening Night. And it’s no wonder; located at the intersection of Hollywood glamor and NFL grit, Opening Night is a spectacle unlike any other in sports.

But he is also well aware that, despite his lengthy football resume, he is a Super Bowl and NFL rookie. As such, it is understandable that questions from the media earn the measured replies of a first-year assistant positions coach hoping to stay out of the headlines.

That calm caution vanishes , though, when he is posed with a question only a Pioneer Valley veteran could answer. Namely, to recall his preferred order at Antonio’s Pizza in Amherst. In fact, when posed the question, he leapt out of his shoes to answer.

“Chicken bacon ranch—CBR, all day long,” he said, his head shaking enthusiastically from side to side.

And while Coenhasn’t been back to Amherst in quite some time, he’s hoping the next time he orders his “CBR” slice, he’ll be doing so with a Super Bowl ring on his right hand.