Breaking down Alabama's coaching staff: Jay Valai
BamaInsider is providing a breakdown of the Alabama coaching staff. Today we conclude the series with Jay Valai who is entering his first season as the Crimson Tide’s defensive backs coach.
Click the video above for a breakdown of Valai. Below are five things to know about the Tide assistant.
He had a busy offseason
Valai racked up his fair share of frequent-flyer miles this offseason. Over a 29-day period from Jan. 20 to Feb. 18 the assistant was named to three different jobs, accepting roles with the University of Houston and the Philadelphia Eagles before landing in Tuscaloosa, Ala. with the Tide. His decision to accept the cornerbacks job at Alabama came less than 24 hours after he was officially announced by the Eagles.
Transition isn’t anything new for Valai. The Alabama job is the seventh he’s accepted since 2017. That being said, he’s no stranger to success either. He broke into coaching at Georgia where he served as the defensive quality control coach from 2016-17. After an 8-5 season his first year with the program, the Bulldogs went 12-2 in 2017, winning the SEC Championship Game and the Rose Bowl before losing to Alabama in the national championship game.
Following his time at Georgia, Valai spent the 2018 season as a defensive quality control and assistant defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. That season, the Chiefs finished fifth in the NFL in interceptions (16) as well as opponent’s completion percentage (62.7).
Valai’s first full-time position coach job came in 2019 when he oversaw cornerbacks at Rutgers working under head coach Chris Ash. The next year Valai followed Ash to Texas serving as the Longhorns cornerbacks coach. During his time in Austin, Valai helped Texas rank third in the Big 12 in yards per completion (13.5) and fourth in defensive pass efficiency (128.7).
He worked as a trainer before coaching
Before his coaching days, Valai opened and ran Grindhouse Sports Training in Southlake, Texas outside of Dallas. There he worked with professional athletes from the NFL and NBA as well as top high school athletes in the area. During that time, the Euless, Texas native was able to build up his reputation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, something that has aided him in recruiting during his coaching career.
Valai’s presence in north Texas makes him the natural replacement to take over for departing cornerbacks coach Karl Scott, who was in charge of recruiting the area for Alabama last year. He will work with fellow first-year assistant Drew Svoboda to maintain the Tide’s dominance in the Lone Star State.
He is intense on the field
Valai, 33, is the youngest member of Alabama’s on-field coaching staff. His high-intensity approach makes him a hit on the recruiting trail and is also infectious on the practice field. That energy figures to be popular with current Alabama players, giving them a relatable mentor on and off the field.
“Jay is an excellent young coach who possesses outstanding knowledge and enthusiasm for the game,” head coach Nick Saban said following Valai’s hiring. “He is a really good teacher and an outstanding recruiter who works tirelessly at his craft. We are excited to welcome Jay and his family to Tuscaloosa.”
He coached against Alabama in the 2018 national championship game
As mentioned above, Valai was on the opposite sideline during Alabama’s comeback victory over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. While Tua Tagovailoa’s game-winning touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime ultimately ended the assistant’s night on a sour note, he can take pride in the Bulldogs defense he played a part in putting together that season.
Georgia finished sixth in the nation in scoring defense (16.4 points per game) and total defense (294.9 yards allowed per game) during the 2017 season. The Bulldogs also ranked eighth nationally in pass defense (168.9 yapg).
He’s a former team captain at Wisconsin
During his playing days, Valai was a four-year letter winner at Wisconsin where he played defensive back for the Badgers. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the conference coaches during his sophomore and junior seasons in 2008 and 2009. He was one of six team captains on the 2010 team during his senior year.
Valai recorded a combined 153 tackles, four forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions over 48 career games with Wisconsin. The Badgers appeared in bowl games in each of his four seasons, winning the 2010 Big Ten Championship before advancing to the Rose Bowl that year.