Robb Akey brings fresh energy to CMU, puts all of it into his players

Central Michigan defensive coordinator Rob Akey talks with the media in a conference room at the Indoor Athletic Complex on April 5.

Inside of the Indoor Athletic Complex on the morning of April 5, Central Michigan football defensive coordinator Robb Akey walked into a conference room to meet with Central Michigan Life for the first time.

"Hola, Amigos," he shouted.

Akey proceeded to pull out his roller chair with one hand, the other holding a styrofoam cup. He was wide-eyed, looking eager to take on his next task which was the interview he was about to begin. After taking a seat, Akey was asked if he was a "big coffee guy." He replied by saying he gave it up for Lent and was just drinking tea.

Regardless of his caffeine intake, one thing was certain about Akey — he can fill a room with energy in the blink of an eye.

And that is exactly what he plans to do with his job for the football program.

"I was born with (energy), it's natural and I'm blessed with it," Akey said with soft laugh and grin from ear to ear. "With a coaching style you gotta be you, and this is who I am. I talk to my players about it all the time, excellence isn't just going to happen. It's a choice that you make every day. If you don't approach the world with energy, the worlds attacking you.

"I'd rather attack somebody than get attacked."

From a defensive standpoint, Akey believes in the same kind of principles. 

Defensive schemes in football are different for every coach that runs them. Some styles include different blitzing schemes, others feature more of a prevent set up with different zone coverage to avoid large plays.

As a former First Team All-Big Sky Conference and a Division I-AA honorable mention All-American as a split linebacker and defensive end at Weber State in 1987, Akey played with an aggressive play style. He was the co-leader in sacks with 15 in his senior season.

In his defensive system with the Chippewas, there will be no sitting back and letting the plays come to them.

"There ain't nothing that will happen if you sit back, let's put it that way," Akey said.

Akey's road to Mount Pleasant wasn't one that was unforeseeable once Jim McElwain received the head coaching position. The two have a past that dates back 30 years when Akey was at Weber State (1989-94) as a defensive line and special teams coach, while McElwain was at Eastern Washington (1985-94) as a quarterbacks and wide receiver coach.

Even when the two switched coaching jobs, they remained in the same conference. Akey received his first defensive coordinator job with Northern Arizona from 1996-98. Meanwhile, McElwain left Eastern Washington for his first offensive coordinator position at Montana State from 1995-99.

Akey described the conference as one where everyone knew each other. A friendship began to form between the two coordinators in the Big Sky at the time. Akey said he had the utmost respect for how McElwain did his job as they would cross paths when recruiting regularly. The relationship stayed strong for years after.

In 2017, they managed to end up on the same coaching staff with the University of Florida. McElwain, who had already been the head coach since 2015, brought Akey onto his staff in 2017 as the assistant defensive line coach. However, when McElwain lost his position with the Gators following that season, Akey was removed with him.

McElwain became the wide receivers coach at Michigan. Akey didn't coach in 2018.

Just a month after McElwain became the head man for the Chippewas, he reached out to Akey once again. Akey said he couldn't be more happy to join him at CMU.

"I was excited as can be to come be apart of this knowing (McElwain) is going to build the program the right way," Akey said. "He is going to take care of the kids and they will be treated the right way. There's a lot to be said of good people and that makes the job be great, which made this an easy decision."

Now, the Chippewas defense rests in Akey's leadership. Being a defensive coordinator is nothing new to Akey, spending time with Washington State (1999-2006) after his stint with Northern Arizona. The Colorado Springs, Colorado native also spent time in the professional ranks, serving as the Minnesota Vikings (2014) and Washington Redskins (2015-16) defensive line coaches.

Unique to most of his other coaching stops, CMU is nearly an entirely new coaching staff. Outside of tight ends coach Tavita Thompson, everyone is in their first season as a Chippewa.

From the defensive side of things, Akey believes the coaches are a good group of teachers who have great experience.

"They all care about the kids and come with energy every day," Akey said. "So, that's a cool thing and really makes it come together well."

For Akey personally, energy isn't ever hard to find. He breathes football daily and loves to have the chance to coach the players he's been handed at CMU. 

Right now, he wants to focus on giving everything he has to the players who want to play for him.

"I'm excited about the guys we have here, we've got a group of dudes that are fired up about being Chips and are fired up about getting the job done," Akey said slamming his fists on the table. "That's what I'm putting my energy towards."

While the on-field results are months away from showing, it is certain the energy he is putting towards his defensive players will have no shortage.

Regardless if he is drinking tea or coffee following Lent.