March 11, 2013

Lashlee may be young, but he's in command

AUBURN | Rhett Lashlee started playing football in the first grade and figured it always would be part of his life.

Then it wasn't.

After spending the 2006 season at Arkansas as a student assistant under his mentor, Gus Malzahn, Lashlee found himself at a crossroads. Malzahn left for Tulsa at season's end and the idea of following him to his new job with the Golden Hurricane somehow didn't seem appealing.

So Lashlee got into the magazine business.

"Coach went to Tulsa out of nowhere. That was an interesting deal. I was going with him and then, long story short, something wasn't right in my gut," Lashlee said. "I couldn't explain it at the time. I decided not to go and (instead) do something different. Hindsight being 20/20, it was the best thing I could have done."

Lashlee spent the next 18 months getting to know his new bride, Lauren, and realizing that a career in football coaching indeed was his calling. He caught on with the Tigers prior to the 2009 season as Malzahn's graduate assistant, earned a full-time job at Samford in 2011 and spent the 2012 season as Malzahn's offensive coordinator at Arkansas State.

Now Lashlee is guiding the Tigers' offense.

He graduated from high school in 2002. He's that young.

Still, Lashlee has a firm grip on his place and his goals on the Plains. He'll be teaching and administrating an offense he's been learning and shaping since his freshman year at Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark. Malzahn was his coach.

Yet strategy isn't Lashlee's primary concern.

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