Ben Kotwica has a new unit to command.
The former West Point linebacker and U.S. military veteran has been hired by the Atlanta Falcons as their special teams’ coordinator, the NFL team announced Wednesday.
“Ben will provide an experienced but new voice for our special teams,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “He brings an attacking attitude to our units.”
Kotwica, 44, replaces Keith Armstrong, who was fired along with the offensive and defensive coordinators for the Falcons after a 7-9 season. Quinn will take over defensive coordinator duties for the team and Dirk Koetter has been hired to coach the offense.
This is the third NFL team Kotwica has worked for since leaving the Army.
At West Point, the native of Tinley Park, Illinois was a three-year starter on defense. His senior season, in 1996, the Black Knights went 10-2 and finished the season ranked 25th in the AP Poll. Their schedule featured wins over Air Force, Navy, Duke and Rutgers. The Black Knights fell to Auburn by just three points in the Independence Bowl.
Kotwica spent eight years in active duty military after graduation and achieved the rank of captain.
He served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Korea, and he is also a veteran of the Iraq War. He was awarded with the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star. Part of his job was flying in Apache helicopters.
“The most rewarding mission was helping the guys on the ground,” Kotwica told the Washington Times in 2014. “When we did pull triggers, I never looked at it as an opportunity to take somebody else’s life. I really looked at it as an opportunity to save our soldiers’ lives.”
When Kotwica returned from Iraq in 2005, he got a call from then-Army head coach Bobby Ross, asking Kotwica if he’d like to coach at USMAPS, West Point’s prep school. Kotwica took the job, then jumped to the NFL after two seasons to join his old coach, Bob Sutton. Sutton was Army’s head coach in the 90s, but was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2006 to 2008.
Kotwica worked as a Jets assistant on defense and special teams from 2007 through 2013. He was then hired by Jay Gruden as the special teams coordinator for the Washington Redskins in 2014.
According to Football Outsiders, Washington had the eighth best special teams unit in the league this past season. In 2017, Washington had the second lowest mark in kickoff return yardage allowed, letting returners scamper for an average of just 18.7 yards.
Quinn thinks that the Falcons can be better on special teams and that Kotwica is the man to lead the charge, telling the AJC, “That’s an area we think we can make some jumps and make some improvement, and we’ll certainly try to do that.”