For the past few years now, the University of Idaho’s football team has seen its fair share of struggles, especially in the play of their defensive secondary. The Vandals took their first step toward improving in that specific area as former NFL standout Ashley Ambrose was hired as the new secondary coach on Coach Paul Petrino’s staff this past Monday.
Ambrose, who graduated from Mississippi Valley State in 1992, spent 13 years playing in the National Football League and was named the 1996 Defensive Back of the Year in the American Football Conference and received All-Pro honors as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. A second round draft pick in 1992 by the Indianapolis Colts, Ambrose spent the first few years of his professional career with the Colts, before making the transition to Cincinnati in 1996. After a three year stint with the Bengals that ended in 1998, Ambrose played for New Orleans in 1999 and Atlanta from 2000-2002 before returning to New Orleans, where he finished his professional career in 2004.
“We’re real excited to have Coach Ambrose on the staff,” said Petrino. “He was a great player in the NFL and played under some of the greater coaches ever. He brings great knowledge of the game.”
His ability to connect with players on a personal level made him a great fit on Petrino’s staff.
“He has great one-on-one relationships with the players,” said Petrino. “We’re just very fortunate and really lucky to have him.”
After wrapping up his professional playing career, Ambrose turned to coaching. While Ambrose was hired by Atlanta as an intern coach for the team in 2006, it wasn’t really till 2008 that he first started appearing among the college coaching ranks.
Originally hired on as a defensive technical intern by the University of Colorado, Ambrose spent three years with the program, becoming the receivers coach in 2009 and the defensive backs coach in 2010. During the 2010 campaign, Ambrose coached senior defensive back Jimmy Smith to first team honors in the Big 12 and helped develop him into a first-round selection (taken by Baltimore with the 27th overall pick) in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ambrose would also see defensive back Jalil Brown receive a honorable mention selection that season, sharing with Smith the team’s high mark for pass breakups. Brown would also be drafted in 2011, selected in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Following his time at Colorado, Ambrose would move to the University of California as a defensive backs coach in 2011. While at Cal, Ambrose coached the wildly talented Josh Hill and Steve Williams, both who would go on to earn honorable mentions for All-Pac-12 honors for the first time in their careers. Both of the safeties on that team in 2011, D.J. Campbell and Sean Cattouse, went on to play in the NFL after receiving honorable mentions for All-Pac-12 honors as seniors that same year. Ambrose’s secondary was pivotal contributors to Cal’s defense in 2011. The Golden Bears led the Pac-12 in both total defense (333 ypg) and pass defense (204 ypg), while being ranked 25th and 37th nationally at the same time. Cal was also second in their conference and 39th nationally in pass efficiency defense (122 ypg) while recording 10 of the team’s 12 interceptions that season.
A native of New Orleans, Ambrose graduated from Alcee Fortier High School in 1988, where he lettered in football, basketball, and track and field. At Mississippi Valley State, he lettered four years at cornerback and earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology.
Ashley and his wife, Melanie Zaharias-Ambrose, were married on May 25, 2012. He is the father of two children, Aisha and A.J.