John Settle returns to the Wisconsin football program for the 2015 season as coach of the Badgers' running backs.
Settle, who spent the 2014 season coaching running backs at Pittsburgh under current UW head coach Paul Chryst, previously spent five seasons as the running backs coach at UW when Chryst served as offensive coordinator.
While at Wisconsin (2006-10), Settle coached four of the top 10 rushers in school history. In his first season, he tutored Big Ten Freshman of the Year P.J. Hill, who led the Big Ten and ranked fifth in the country with 1,569 rushing yards. Hill would go on to become just the third running back in school history to go over 1,000 yards in three different seasons, joining Ron Dayne and Billy Marek.
In 2008, behind the tandem of Hill and freshman John Clay (2,045 yards between them), Wisconsin led the Big Ten in rushing offense. When Clay became the featured back in 2009, he flourished, winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, leading the Big Ten and ranking eighth in the country with 1,517 yards. The Badgers again led the conference in rushing offense.
Despite all that success, 2010 was UW's most prolific season under Settle. Wisconsin nearly became the first team in FBS history to have three different running backs rush for at least 1,000 yards in the same season. Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White led the Badgers with 1,052 yards, Clay chipped in with 1,012 yards and a sophomore named Montee Ball fell just four yards shy of 1,000, running for 996 yards. UW averaged 245.7 rushing yards per game on its way to a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Ball would go on to rush for 5,140 yards as a Badger (second-best in school history), win the Doak Walker Award and be named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. White's 4,015 yards rank fifth in school history while Hill is sixth with 3,942 and Clay is 10th at 3,413.
In addition to those four tailbacks, each of whom played in the NFL, Settle coached two fullbacks who have gone on to play on Sundays. Chris Pressley played five seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Bradie Ewing was taken in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons in 2012 and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After leaving UW, Settle coached for three seasons in the NFL, two with the Carolina Panthers (2011-12) and one with the Cleveland Browns (2013). Carolina made NFL history in 2011, becoming the first team to feature three 700-yard rushers. DeAngelo Williams (836), Jonathan Stewart (761) and Cam Newton (706) each reached the mark, helping the Panthers average a franchise-record 5.4 yards per carry.
In his one season at Pitt, Settle helped running back James Connor earn ACC Player of the Year honors as he led the league and ranked sixth in the country, averaging 135.8 yards per game on the ground. His 26 rushing TDs were good for third-best in the country and bested both Tony Dorsett's school record and the all-time ACC mark.
Prior to his first stint at Wisconsin, Settle served eight seasons as running backs coach at Fresno State, where he tutored six 1,000-yard rushers, including Wendell Mathis, who rushed for 1,313 yards and 15 touchdowns. Bryson Sumlin earned second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors (WAC) when he ran for 1,102 yards and 12 TDs in 2004. He was joined that season by Mathis, who rushed for 995 yards and 12 scores, making Fresno State one of only two schools in the nation with two running backs ranked among the national top 50.
Settle went to Fresno State after a three-year stint (1995-98) as an offensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise under head coaches Bill Belicheck and Ted Marchibroda. During that time he coached running backs like Lorenzo White, Leroy Hoard, Earnest Byner and Priest Holmes. Settle began his coaching career at his alma mater, Appalachian State, where he assisted with running backs in 1994.
Settle was a four-year letterwinner (1983-86) as a running back at Appalachian State, where he played one season for eventual Texas head coach Mack Brown and another three years for Sparky Woods. Settle finished as the school's career rushing leader with 4,409 yards (then third-most in NCAA FCS history) and 43 touchdowns. He was the Southern Conference Player of the Year as a senior after rushing for 1,661 yards and 20 TDs. The two-time All-American also scored a conference-record five TDs against Davidson.
Settle signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent and played for coaches Jerry Glanville and Marion Campbell. He played a total of six seasons in the NFL, including four with Atlanta (1987-90) and two with the Washington Redskins. He accumulated 1,594 yards of total offense (1,024 rushing and 570 receiving) in 1988, becoming the first free agent in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He was named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Madden Team in 1988. He registered three 100-yard rushing performances and three 100-yard receiving games that season. He also played for the Redskins' Super Bowl championship team in 1991.
A 1989 graduate of Appalachian State with a degree in criminal justice, Settle and his wife, Karen, have three children: Jonathan, Leighton and Devynn. Settle's No. 23 was retired by his alma mater and he was inducted into the school's hall of fame in 1994.
What They're Saying About Coach Settle
Montee Ball (2009-12)
"Coach Settle was a big part of why I chose to go to Wisconsin. He came to my house and my family loved him. He really spoke highly of the education available at Wisconsin and the success of the athletic program and it was something he believed in. One thing I really enjoyed about him was how easy he was to talk to both on and off the field. He's a great fit for the university and I'm really excited to see that he's coming back."
John Clay (2008-10)
"What I remember most about Coach Settle is that he treated us all like men. He didn't babysit us but he held us accountable for making the right choices on and off the field. He was almost like a father figure to us that way. When he was recruiting me, I remember him coming to my high school, watching my track meets and he had a great charisma that would just make everyone around him smile. When he was looking at some other jobs, I remember telling him that if he left, I was going to leave too because I didn't want to be coached by anyone else. That was how much I believed in him as a coach."
Bradie Ewing (2008-11)
"Coach Settle played a key role in my choice to attend the University of Wisconsin. He has always demonstrated that he is a great man of character and faith, along with what he can do as a football coach with his teaching ability and proven development of his players. Through my years with Coach Settle, he grew into someone I looked up to on and off the field for advice and guidance. He is a great fit for Wisconsin and it will be good to see him back on the Badgers' sideline again!"
James White (2010-13)
"Coach Settle was definitely a big reason why I chose Wisconsin. When he was in my house, he felt like a part of the family. He was very personable and down to earth. I had seen what he had done with guys like P.J. Hill, John Clay and Montee and knew he was a great coach. He's very demanding on the field and expects the most out of his players. In my opinion, he's the best fit for the job."