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Former Bison coach Babich, son developing NFL rivalry

FARGO -- Former North Dakota State head football coach Bob Babich has been in the NFL for a decade now, most recently hired as the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. There's plenty of Bison flavor to the job, too.

The head coach is former Bison player and assistant coach Gus Bradley. Former North Dakota State player and assistant Todd Wash is the defensive line coach. Next fall, it may not be a fair fight in a matchup of ex-Bison when the Jaguars play the Cleveland Browns, but it's a safe bet it won't be from a lack of effort from the Browns assistant secondary coach.

Bobby Babich is 0-2 in games against his father and 0-1 against Bradley and Wash.

"We'll see how it goes," Bobby Babich said.

He was just 23 years old when he got his first full-time assistant coaching position. Eastern Illinois hired him as the secondary coach, which was a promising career start at a Division I Football Championship Subdivision program.

He spent four years there before latching on with the Carolina Panthers as the assistant secondary coach. Still only 29 years old, it may be a big-time NFL atmosphere, but, in one respect, it's not much different than playing at Fargo South High School or NDSU, where he was a cornerback from 2001-05 starting all 32 games he played his final three seasons.

Football is football.

"When you're working, I don't notice the people in the stands," Babich said. "It's the highest level and you're dealing with the best athletes in the world and that's exciting. But to me, it's football. When we kick off, it's football."

The Browns job came about when the franchise hired Rob Chudzinski, who was with Babich at Carolina as the offensive coordinator. As an assistant to the secondary coach, Babich is involved in all phases of the defensive backs.

The experience is priceless.

"It's very important in this profession to be happy in the place you are," he said. "I have been blessed enough to be able to be under two great head coaches in the NFL and I'm not even 30."

Times are good with the family, too. He and his wife, former Bison basketball player Lacey Johnson, have two children: 4-year-old daughter Lainey and 2-year-old son Bray.

Bob Babich was only briefly unemployed after head coach Lovie Smith and the Bears staff was let go after last season.

"He's the person I look up to in this profession," Bobby Babich said of his father. "I can bounce things off of him. We can talk a little bit of ball but we're on opposing teams so it's hard to talk schemes."

That will be nearly impossible this fall when the two teams play in Cleveland.

"I'm 0-2 against Bob, we lost the last two years in Carolina against them," Bobby Babich said. "Then we lost to Gus and Wash last year in a close one. Going against the Bison, I'm not doing too well."