A coaching journey: Vermilion’s Kosik goes from Texas to LA to Ely

by Tom Coombe -

After spending the last four years in Los Angeles, Justin Kosik has come to Ely - in part because it stirred memories of his hometown of Bastrup, Tex.
“It reminded me of where I grew up in Texas,” said Kosik, the new head football coach at Vermilion Community College. “The small-town atmosphere reminded me of home, except for the snow.”
Six months after interviewing for the job in the midst of an Ely winter, Kosik has settled in and is nearly three weeks into his first training camp - as roughly 75 Ironmen are gearing up for a weekend scrimmage and a Sept. 1 home opener against North Dakota State College of Science at Ely School Stadium.
Vermilion serves as significant change of scenery for Kosik, who spent the last two years as a defensive coach and strength and conditioning coach at East Los Angeles, a community college with nearly 30,000 students.
Yet Kosik said he was lured to Vermilion not just because of the community and the chance to lead his own team, but because of VCC’s small-school feel and its on-campus dormitory and cafeteria.
“I saw they had on-campus dorms and I really fell in love with the town,” he said.
Kosik said he is working closely to put his own stamp on the program and change the football culture at Vermilion, boosting connections to the campus as well as the community.
“What I’m looking to do is bring extreme ownership to the program,” said Kosik. “I want to install discipline and bring respect back to the program.”
Kosik, who started his football coaching career in Texas before spending four years in California, two at East LA and two at Victor Valley College, hit the ground running in recruiting and built a roster with players from across the country.
“These kids are just as talented as some of the teams I’ve coached in California,” said Kosik. “We’re going to do better than people expect.”
Kosik’s Ironmen will be subject to mandatory tutoring if their grades suffer and he said “I want the teachers to know if they have one of my athletes in the classroom that they don’t have anything to worry about... I just want to change the culture.”
That includes building bridges to the community.
“I want people to come to the games,” he said. “In Texas people go to the high school games on Friday and the college games on Saturday. We’re going to have fun. These players are going to be disciplined. There won’t be any craziness on the sideline. I really want to get the community involved.”
Kosik has assembled a coaching staff with more assistants than Vermilion has had in the past, with VCC alumni Marcus Waugh, who serves as offensive coordinator. Chris Riley, Hanife McClain, Shuish King and Charles Taylor III round out a staff that has worked the Ironmen through practices, conditioning, weight training and meetings since the group gathered in Ely Aug. 8.
It’s a family affair as well for Kosik, who comes to Ely with his wife Nicki as well as his mother - Mallisia “Nonnie” Jackson.
“She will help out too,” Kosik said of his mom. “Cooking dinners and things like that.”