On the field and on the stage, Lindenwood’s new football coach is no stranger to the spotlight.
Jed Stugart, 46, came to Lindenwood from the University of Sioux Falls and has experienced the dizzying highs that can only come from being in front of audiences of thousands.
For five years, he was Jed Lance, a soloist who performed openings for singers, such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
“[Performing] was a lot of fun because there were usually great crowds and a lot of energy,” Stugart said. “It was one of the most exciting times of my life.”
Although Stugart played his music in numerous clubs and dance halls, they could never compare to being on the main stage for the first time.
“The very first time and with a big crowd, there was obviously a pretty good rush,” Stugart said. “Going out there, you kind of have the adrenaline going. It’s a pretty exhilarating thing.”
Stugart’s fondest memories in his years as a soloist include the camaraderie with members of his band and traveling around the country. He also remembers the time he performed in a charity concert that raised around $20,000 for a boy named Josh English.
“I would say that was probably my most cherished music memory just because we sold out a place in our hometown and raised a bunch of money for a kid that was battling a brain tumor and who’s still alive today,” said Stugart.
Stugart eventually took a break from the music business and moved back to his hometown of Greeley, Colorado.
“Record labels were starting to wonder ‘How come he didn’t get signed by this label’? We just kind of pulled back a little bit. So to pass some time, I helped a buddy coach high school [football], and then next fall I took a break again, and that’s when I went to [University of] Northern Colorado. It’s like when that door in music started shutting, doors in football started opening.”
The promotions began piling up, and Stugart found himself in an entirely new land of job opportunities.
“A volunteer job just turned into a little stipend paycheck, and then it turned into a grad assistant job, and before I knew it, I was promoted to another job, and I never went back to the music,” he said.
Although he has left the music industry, people who have read about his past occasionally ask him to play some tunes.
“I’ve jammed out on people’s pianos before in a home visit because it’s a topic of conversation,” he said.
Stugart doesn’t regret changing his career path to coach football, but he said that he does think about the music business at times.
“If I go to a concert and sometimes remember what that rush was like, yeah, sometimes I miss it, but at the end of the day, I love the career path I’ve taken,” he said.
After seven straight winning seasons at Sioux Falls, Stugart received a call from Lindenwood’s athletic director, Brad Wachler, and was offered the job of head coach, which he accepted.
Stugart sees potential in Lindenwood’s football program and believes it can be successful. His hope for the team is to compete for a conference championship.
“Our mindset is that we can compete for a playoff spot and get a set of directions where we can get on that path, and obviously the goal would be to get in postseason play,” Stugart said.
Stugart has achieved success wherever he coached, amassing a career record of 91-24. One of Lindenwood’s players, offensive lineman Derek Gurnea, is impressed by Stugart’s achievements and finds him to be a skilled strategist.
“[USF was] around the No. 5 team in the country,” said Gurnea. “I’m just excited for all he’s going to bring. He’s obviously good at what he does. He wasn’t in the most popular area and was still successful.”
Gurnea thinks Stugart’s past success will carry over to the Lions.
“Getting the preview of the new system, and with some of the transfer guys that have come in, some of the new recruits, the team’s looking promising,” Gurnea said.
Stugart’s musical background provides a colorful past, but it is his coaching expertise that has the Lions hopeful for years of prosperity down the road.