LAS VEGAS, NV — What if I told you that a guidance counselor at a Valley high school less than 15 years ago is now the roster architect for one of the most iconic sports franchises? Well, meet Dave Ziegler.
"It's really an honor for them to select me as the next general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders and to represent Raider Nation," the 44-year-old Ziegler said to open his introductory press conference.
Ziegler was named the eighth GM in Raiders history this week, tasked with turning a playoff-bubble roster into a Super Bowl contender. His office now resides in the shadow of The Vegas Strip, but not so long ago it was here in the Valley at Chaparral High School. His daily tasks included lesson plans, career counseling, and special teams coordinator for the Firebirds football team.
"He was one of the most prepared and organized coaches I ever worked with," said Dave Isenberg, a current teacher at Chaparral High School and formerly the wide receivers coach. "He coached special teams, and during that period in practice everything was scripted, and he was always ready to go. He didn't waste any time."
Twelve years after graduating from Chaparral, Ashley Brewer is now an ESPN Sportscenter anchor. She had to do a double-take when the Raiders announced their hire.
"My first thought was, that's a different Dave Ziegler. Like I didn't think it was the one that I knew and grew up with at Chaparral High School," said Brewer of the man they used to call 'Zig'. "So, I called my little brother Connor, who was the quarterback at Chaparral for a long time and won state championships there, and I'm like, 'Is coach Ziegler still coaching or within football?' And he's like, 'Yeah, did you see that? He's with the Raiders. It's crazy.' And I'm like, 'Wait, like the same guy that was the guidance counselor at Chaparral? There's no way.' We were laughing so hard for five minutes, because we were just like, how does that happen?"
Ziegler's unusual journey took a different path in 2010 when he left Chaparral to become a scout with the Denver Broncos. His former college teammate at John Carroll University was Josh McDaniels, who was the then-Broncos head coach.
Ziegler spent three seasons with Denver, then nine with the Patriots before he and McDaniels jumped at the chance to be the top tandem with the Raiders.
While his days as a teacher and a guidance counselor may be behind him, the skills learned then are proving just as important today.
"I'd say all those experiences in terms of how to deal with different people, how to relate to different people, how to communicate at a high level, how to show empathy, how to problem solve," Ziegler said. "I learned a lot of those lessons outside of football that have been really valuable to me."
"It's not a complete shock where he is now," Isenberg said. "Because the same qualities that he had when he was at Chaparral, you can see they're totally transferring to where he's at now."
"It's been a unique ride for me to get to this point," Ziegler reflected. "But I think it all kind of came together to allow me to have some of the success that I've had."
Not long after Ziegler was named GM of the Raiders, former Chaparral quarterback Darren Mougey was promoted to assistant GM of the Broncos.
Two Firebirds, two prominent front office roles in the NFL, all in the same week.