MARBLE FALLS — Before new Marble Falls High School defensive coordinator Tony Salazar was considered a coach to watch, he was turning heads on the field as a player at Dripping Springs High School.
Former head coach Howard Ballard recalls vividly a conversation during two-a-days in August 1996 he had with one of his coaches about a freshman safety who possessed plenty of skills and other intangibles that can’t be coached.
“He’ll start on the varsity,” Ballard was told by the coach.
“A freshman can’t play for us on varsity,” Ballard answered. “Two days later, he’s in our starting lineup.”
As a senior Salazar was an all-state player and played college football at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Salazar was so good that opposing coaches double-teamed him, so he couldn’t make a play, Ballard said.
Salazar also was inserted in multiple spots: running back, kick and punt returner and free safety.
“What a leader,” Ballard said. “He had the total package. He had the uncanny ability to see the play develop before other players saw it. You can’t teach a kid that. He has a great, great feel, I would say, for the game.”
Salazar returned to his alma mater to coach in 2007 after being a graduate assistant on the Mary Hardin-Baylor staff when they won the national title. He took the defensive coordinator job at Leander where he has spent the last four years.
Marble Falls athletic director and head football coach Todd Dodge said he zeroed in on Salazar early in the search for a new defensive coordinator and called Leander head coach Clint Harper to ask permission to speak with Salazar.
By then Salazar was interviewing for head coaching jobs, Dodge said.
“I think he’s one of the top defensive minds in the state of Texas,” he said. “He’s 33 years old, he’s got tons of energy.
“Kids just love to play for him, and so we’re real excited.”
The two spoke at the DFW coaches clinic Jan. 26-27. By then Dodge offered the job and Salazar accepted, the Mustang’s skipper said.
The players met the new defensive coordinator Jan. 29, and Dodge announced the hire the next day.
“He’s a fast riser in our profession,” Dodge said. “He’s a guy who’s very excited. He’s taking a leap of faith, he’s leaving a really good job. I think we were able to put a package together that was very competitive, obviously. He’s excited about the players we have here, especially the young players.”
Salazar’s first day is Feb. 18.