Mark Speir is making a difference on the field and in the community

Mark Speir before the beginning of the game against Furman, nov. 7, 2015. Photo by

Mark Speir before the beginning of the game against Furman, nov. 7, 2015. Photo by Public Relations

Mark Speir was named the head football coach of Western Carolina University’s football team in Dec. 2011 and since then…

  • he has won 16 games with the Catamounts.
  • he had 16 players to make it to the All-Southern Conference first-and-second team and
  • 12 players picked for All- freshman distinction.

Last year Speir brought the Catamounts to their first winning season since 2001. That was the year, President George Bush was in the White House and the Carolina Panthers had just drafted Steve Smith. Western Carolina finished the 2014 season tied for second with Samford University in the Southern Conference.

In 2011, Speir was still assistant coach at Appalachian State. At this time he heard that the head coaching job was open in Cullowhee and wanted to throw his name in the hat.

Before taking action Speir called Brad Hoover, a Western Carolina Alumni who played for the Carolina Panthers at the fullback position. He was recruited by Speir in the 90s  to play for WCU.  Speir coached at Western previously from 1991 to 1996 under Coach Steve Hodgin. He coached running backs, outside linebackers, defensive line and was the recruiting coordinator.

Speir is a passionate coach and the players recognize that. Photo by

Speir is a passionate coach and the players recognize that. Photo by WCU Public Relations

Speir said he didn’t think he had a chance, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. He and his family had ties in Cullowhee and loved the area and always wanted to come back.

“Me and my wife got married here, my oldest son was born here, we had a lot of memories,” said Speir.

One of the things Speir felt made him such a great fit for WCU was that he had been here and already knew the challenges.

“Embrace the place you are going and understand what the challenges are and don’t complain about them,” said Speir.

Before Speir came to WCU, he was an assistant coach for Appalachian State University’s football team for nine seasons. In his time there, Appalachian State won three Football Champion Subdivision National Titles. He was awarded the NCAA Division I Football Championship Sub-division assistant coach of the Year award in 2009. Speir coached at Presbyterian from 1997 to 1999 and Elon from 2000 to 2002 before arriving at Appalachian State.  His coaching career started during his time at Clemson University working on his undergraduate degree. He was a student assistant for the Clemson Tigers from 1986 to 1989.

Before he ever thought he would be coaching, ceramic engineering was the course of study Speir had when he arrived at Clemson in 1986. After taking freshman chemistry he found out that ceramic engineering was not for him. After that he decided to change his major to History education.

“I didn’t dreamed I would be here, but I thought I would be coaching high school ball,” said Speir.

That is when he decided to chase his dream of becoming a head football coach.

“I don’t ever not remember loving football,” But for sure it was part of the family and family fun.

Speir recalls his parents letting him stay up later than normal as a child to watch the first half of Monday Night Football.

“The first guy I ever remember was quarterback for Minnesota Vikings, Fran Tarkenton,” Speir said. Tarkenton was one of his father’s favorites, so naturally it was one of Speir’s favorites.

Speir with senior number 94, John McBeth during the . Photo by

Speir with senior number 94, John McBeth during the . Photo by WCU Public Relations

When not on the football field or in the Ramsey center watching film of other teams, Speir enjoys spending his time helping others. From running in the Boston marathon to collecting shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Ministry, Speir is constantly doing charity work.

“It’s cool to help those who can’t help themselves,” Speir said. “That gives me joy and peace. I got a pretty good platform being a coach.”

Speir requires all of his players to have two hours of community service per semester. He works to not only make his players better on the field, but better men off the field.

“He’s a great man. He truly cares about his players and wants them to be successful beyond the football field,” Jeffrey Beall, Western Carolina football student assistant, said.

“If the good Lords got it for me to be here for the rest of my life, I’m good with that,” said Speir when asked what the future holds for him.

Related stories:

Speir has made his mark on WCU football

Athletic quarterbacks highlight Speir’s first recruiting class

Western Carolina names Mark Speir new head football coach