LORETTO - Former NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Chris Villarrial has been named the 25th head coach of the St. Francis football program, athletic director Bob Krimmel announced Sunday in a statement from the school.
"It is with great excitement that St. Francis University welcomes Chris Villarrial as our new head football coach," Krimmel said . "It has been obvious since Chris began his tenure with us that he was destined to become a head coach. His passion, knowledge of the game, vision for the future and commitment to St. Francis impressed the search committee, and all who met with him during the search process.
"Our players are excited to work with Coach Villarrial in his new role as they chart a new and dynamic future for the Red Flash football program."
Villarrial, who was St. Francis' offensive coordinator under Dave Opfar during the 2009 season, takes charge of a Red Flash football program that finished 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the Northeast Conference. A native of Hershey, Villarrial spent 11 seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears (1996-2004) and Buffalo Bills (2004-06).
"I knew from the moment I started here that St. Francis was a perfect fit for me," said Villarrial, a resident of nearby Ebensburg. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to build a strong football program that will bring national honor and prestige to this university. My family and I are very excited to continue to share in the Red Flash tradition."
In his first season in Loretto, Villarrial designed and implemented a successful West coast offense that saw the Red Flash improve from 11.4. points per game in 2008 to 15.6 in 2009, against the toughest schedule in school history. St. Francis also averaged more than 100 rushing yards per game (115.9) after averaging just 70.1 in 2008.
Villarrial made an impression on NFL scouts prior by breaking the NFL Combine bench-press record and was drafted in the fifth round (152nd overall) by current Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt in April of 1996.
As a member of the Chicago Bears from 1996-2004, Villarrial played six seasons under head coach Dick Jauron and was a two-year All-Pro player, a member of the all-Madden Team and a four-year Pro Bowl alternate.
Villarrial was one of the most sought-after free agents in Buffalo Bills history for head coach Mike Mularkey. He was a member of an offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in franchise history. Villarrial finished his NFL career with 148 starts.
Following his professional career, Villarrial returned to Ebensburg, where he served two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Central Cambria High School football team. He led the team to two district title games and personally helped 13 players continue their playing careers at the collegiate level, while developing and implementing a successful strength and conditioning program.