Ricky Rahne followed James Franklin from Manhattan, Kan., to Nashville to State College, all because he bought into Franklin’s blueprint of how to build the modern college football program.
While many talented young position coaches have dreams of one day leading the ship, Rahne is ecstatic right where he is at Penn State.
“I don’t have any aspirations to be a head coach. You just don’t get to coach as much ball,” Rahne said. “If I’m a tight ends coach for the rest of my life, trust me, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.”
As a three-year starter, Rahne practically rewrote the Cornell record books for quarterback play before graduating in 2002 with a degree in industrial and labor relations. He was inducted into the university’s hall of fame in 2014.
“I had a real job for a year and a half out of college and I hated it. I wasn’t a very happy person. My now-wife told me that and she goes, ‘You know, you need to get back into football cause this isn’t it,'” Rahne said. “I’m lucky to have her.”
Though he has no intentions of looking for one of college football’s coveted corner office jobs, the 37-year-old Rahne would like to eventually call plays full-time like he did for the Nittany Lions in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl after John Donovan’s firing.
“I wanna be an offensive coordinator some day,” Rahne said. “Right now, Joe Moorhead and his leadership style, his play-calling, his offense — I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world to be able to learn from [someone]like that.”
Franklin spoke glowingly about Rahne’s importance to the program after Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s a future coordinator. He’s been fiercely loyal, he’s a relentless recruiter; he just gets it. He’s a team guy, doesn’t care who gets the credit,” Franklin said. “I know Mike Gesicki thinks the world of him and what he’s been able to do to help him develop.”
Rahne, who also serves as Penn State’s passing game coordinator, thinks Gesicki reached the comfort level necessary to spur his record-setting junior campaign well before last September. When everything finally came together for Gesicki, he smashed Penn State’s single-season program record for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end with 48 for 679.
“In his mind, he wants to prove to everybody that he’s a complete tight end, that he’s gonna be a dominant blocker, and that he’s the best tight end in the country,” Rahne said. “I still see the same fire from him, the exact same mentality that I saw from him last year.”
Gesicki said Rahne frequently shows his tight ends NFL film to hammer home the importance of mastering their technique, with no better example than Dallas Cowboys veteran Jason Witten, who at 35 is still one of the league’s top all-around forces at the position.
You can tell Rahne genuinely enjoys being a part of this Penn State staff. The Morrison, Colo., native is quick to credit his fellow coaches for constantly inspiring him to take his teaching and recruiting to the next level.
“Coach Gattis is one of the greatest teachers of running routes that you’re gonna find in the country, so for me as a tight ends coach that’s unbelievable. Coach Huff, nobody recruits like he does. Nobody can inspire kids like he does on special teams.”
Now entering his 12th season coaching in the Power Five, Rahne has maintained close relationships with a handful of mentors who have helped guide him throughout his career.
“I have quite a few. Obviously coach Franklin has been a major mentor to me. He’s given me some of the greatest opportunities I’ve had in coaching,” Rahne said. “Ron Prince, my college coach Pete Mangurian, Frank Leonard, Dave Brock.”
Rahne, his wife Jennifer, and their two sons, Ryder and Jake, realized early on four years ago why so many people come to Happy Valley and never truly leave.
“It’s everything to me,” Rahne said of his family’s contentment. “All I ever want is my family to be safe, happy, and healthy. I got them a St. Bernard so I’m pretty sure they’ll be safe.”