During his tenure as an assistant coach at Glenville State College in the early 1990s, Dean Hood was presented a rather unique opportunity.

For several years, nearby Marshall University had invited members of the football coaching staffs from various Mexican universities to attend the school’s annual spring workouts. And in return, each summer some of the Thunder Herd coaches would travel south of the border to work first-hand with the players and staff from those teams.

“One year they were short a guy and (Marshall assistant) Tim Billings called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico,” said Hood, Eastern Kentucky University’s first-year head coach. “So, I was like, ‘Heck yeah.’”

Hood enjoyed the experience, but years later when he was serving as the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest, that week-long trip to Mexico had been almost all but forgotten.

That was until he received an e-mail from Hector Cuervo last year.

“We were looking for a team that ran the 3-5 defense, which they did at Wake Forest for a couple of years,” said Cuervo. “So, we contacted coach Hood.”

Cuervo and the coaching staff from the Universidad de las Américas (UDLA) were interested in coming to Winston Salem, N.C., to observe the Wake Forest defense.

Hood was more than happy to bring the group of coaches to campus for what turned out to be a very productive and enjoyable five-day visit.

And a year later, after he had taken over as the head coach at EKU, Hood was surprised to get another message for Cuervo.

“We had a good time,” Hood said. “So, when they found out I came here, I got an e-mail here.”

Just as before, Hood was quick to extend an offer to Cuervo and his coaches. For the past week seven members of the UDLA staff have been shadowing Hood and the Colonel coaches as they have gone through the final days of the team’s annual spring practice.

“We are focusing on defense, because last time we just learned the basics,” Cuervo said. “On offense, we want to learn about crossing routes and some other schemes they have. And we are interested in the philosophy and how they manage the special teams.”

American style football has been played at universities and colleges throughout Mexico for almost 100 years. Currently dozens of teams nationwide are members of the Organización Nacional Estudiantil de Fútbol Americano (ONEFA).

The UDLA Aztecas compete in the Big 12, one of the premier conferences in the Liga Mayor, and the team offers more than 70 athletic scholarships.

Universidad de las Américas, is located in Cholula, which is just outside of Puebla and only two hours from Mexico City.

“When I got the e-mail from Hector at Wake Forest I was already aware of how good the football was in Mexico,” Hood said.

Cuervo’s staff did spend most of its trip to Wake last year focusing on defense — and that effort certainly paid off for the Aztecas.

“When we met (coach Hood) we were the worst defense in our league,” Cuervo said. “After the visit we had, we became the second best in the nation. He’s a great coach.”

The two coaching staffs have developed a great relationship the past two years and during this week-long visit both sides have taken the time to treat the other to a taste of each other’s culture.

“American food was (served at the cookout on) Tuesday and tomorrow it’s Mexican food,” Hood said on Wednesday of . “So, I am looking forward to that.”

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