MADISON—It was a whirlwind courtship for John Settle. Friday, he received a phone call from University of Wisconsin head football coach Bret Bielema, expressing interest in him as a potential running backs coach. Monday, Settle flew to Madison from Fresno, Calif. Tuesday, he interviewed with Bielema and UW’s offensive assistants. Wednesday, he was offered the job, and promptly accepted.
“I’m excited about the opportunity that being at a prestigious university like Wisconsin will afford a person,” Settle said in a telephone interview from Fresno.
As is often the case in coaching hires, Settle came strongly recommended. This particular recommendation weaved its way onto Bielema’s desk.
Settle, who spent the past eight seasons as the running backs coach at Fresno State, worked for the past four years under offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who recently left FSU to take the offensive coordinator position at North Carolina. Cignetti and new UW offensive line coach Bob Palcic know each other from their days coaching with the New Orleans Saints. So via Palcic, Cignetti’s recommendation ended up with Bielema.
Said Settle: “It says something as a position coach, when you are working for a coordinator, if you get called getting a recommendation, I think it makes you feel good about what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished and what you were able to contribute. So I’m very appreciative to Coach Cignetti for having the guts to call and recommend me.”
Cignetti and Palcic provided a gateway, but Settle’s résumé speaks for itself. One of the leading rushers in Division I-AA history, the Appalachian State graduate played six seasons in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowl and All-Madden team running back with the Atlanta Falcons in 1988 and he won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1991.
“John’s experience as a college and NFL running back, as well as the coaches he has both played for and coached with, makes him an ideal person to coach our backfield,” Bielema said in a press release. “He has been successful coaching both NFL and college running backs. We are very fortunate to have him join us.”
As a coach, Settle has developed a reputation for molding productive running backs. He coached six of the 13 1,000-yard rushers in Bulldog history, including 1998 WAC Pacific Division offensive player of the year Jamie Kimbrough, 2004 WAC second-team all-conference choice Bryson Sumlin and 1999 freshman All-American and current New York Giant Derrick Ward.
Kimbrough was a returning veteran in Settle’s first year at FSU. But through the rest of his tenure with the Bulldogs, Settle had to turn young talents into trusted running backs. That will again be Settle’s task at UW. The Badgers must replace All-American Brian Calhoun, who left early for the NFL Draft, and No. 2 tailback Booker Stanley, who was kicked off the team for off-field issues. UW’s returning running backs have little experience.
“The attitude I take is when a guy is a part of a Division I football program… he has to be a contributor,” Settle said. “You only get a certain number of bodies… all  players have to be contributors. That’s the way I approach it. There are no weak links and I don’t accept any excuses. You are there for a reason and it’s my job… to bring out the talents that you have.”
Settle’s hiring puts the finishing touch on Bielema’s first coaching staff.
2006 Wisconsin football coaching staff
Head coach – Bret Bielema
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks – Paul Chryst
Wide receivers – Henry Mason
Offensive line – Bob Palcic
Running backs – John Settle
Tight ends – Bob Bostad
Defensive coordinator – Mike Hankwitz
Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers – Dave Doeren
Defensive line – Sean Lane
Secondary – Kerry Cooks
Director of football operations – Bill Nayes
The John Settle file
1998-2005 – Fresno State, running backs
1995-98 – Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens, offensive assistant
1994 – Appalachian State, running backs
NFL playing career
1991-92 – Washington Redskins
1987-90 – Atlanta Falcons