By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
His father, his NFL position coach, and his former teammate and backup are all responsible for former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Todd Pinkston’s new career. Pinkston, who played five years for the Eagles before a torn Achilles suffered during the 2005 training camp ended his career, is the wide receivers coach at Austin Peay State University.
Coaching was in Pinkston’s DNA from his father Roy, a long-time high school coach in the family’s home state of Mississippi. It was cultivated by his wide receivers’ coach with the Eagles, David Culley, and then finally tuned by his former teammate, wide receiver Greg Lewis, now the wide receivers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Growing up watching my dad coach everything from track to basketball and of course, football, being around that all the time, coaching just felt right,’’ Pinkston said two days before Austin Peay opened camp on July 29th. “I’ve always wanted to be like him. And to see him and the way he mentored kids growing up, that meant a lot to me.’’
Pinkston chose sports management as his major at the University of Southern Mississippi and planned to be a coach on some level. When the Eagles made him a second-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, those plans were put on hold.
“When I was in the NFL, I always thought about getting into coaching when I was finished playing,’’ Pinkston said. “When I was in the league, David Culley got me more involved, he mentored me, not just as player, but was teaching me about coaching, too.’’
Pinkston never recovered from the torn Achilles injury. He tried a comeback with the Eagles, and later signed with the Minnesota Vikings, but the injury had robbed him of his speed and ended his career prematurely.
“When my career was over it was Culley who got me involved in the minority coaching internship and that got me even more wanting to coach,’’ Pinkston said.
The wide receiver, who caught 184 passes for 2,816 yards and another 32 for 433 yards in the postseason, began his coaching career back on the high school level in Mississippi.
“I did that for six, seven years and that led to me getting the opportunity at Austin Peay,’’ Pinkston said.
This will be Pinkston’s second season as Peay’s receivers coach, and head coach Will Healy likes what he sees in his assistant.
“He's a great guy who relates to players really well,’’ Healy said. “We were looking for a fit personality-wise. I felt so good about the other guys we had on our staff that I wanted to make sure we got somebody who would fit in. Todd's young, energetic and he's got a hunger to be really good at this profession, and to show that great players can make great coaches. I've been very impressed with him; I think he's a rising star in this profession.”
In his first year at the collegiate level, Pinkston leaned on Lewis, his former teammate who was the Eagles wide receivers coach in 2016.
“I talked to Greg on a weekly basis,’’ he said. “He helped me a lot. He knew what it was like to coach at a small university. You have to take the small steps before you can take the big step. Hopefully, I can move on to a bigger university one day and hopefully one day I’ll be able to coach in the NFL.’’
Until then, Pinkston will use his experience in the NFL to help the Austin Peay wide receivers.
“It helps a lot,’’ he said of his NFL experience. “I tell the kids all the time I can’t get them to the NFL. But I know the work and the tools that it takes to get to the NFL, to get that opportunity.
“I work them hard, make sure they’re learning what it takes. And I tell them to enjoy the game now, because if you do get to the NFL, it becomes your job. And that’s the biggest challenge having the kids buy into what you teach them. They watch the NFL and see guys making plays and making catches. They can’t do that yet. You have to let them know that. They see (New York Giants wide receiver) Odell Beckham make one of his one-handed catches and think they can do that, too.
“I’m big on teaching them the small things, the technique, get that down and you’ll be successful. But they have to buy what you’re selling them on an everyday basis.’’