Former Seattle Seahawks and University of Michigan standout Khalid Hill joins ONU football coaching staff

Interview: Olivet’s new Tight Ends and Special Teams coach discusses his own college and pro football experiences, his coaching career, and how coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll influenced his life.
Adam Asher headshot

Adam Asher

March 15, 2024 Athletics

Coach, you were part of a phenomenal University of Michigan team in 2016, playing college football at the highest level and ranked in the nation’s top 10 the entire season. That season included defeating in-state rival Michigan State and a 78-0 shutout victory over Rutgers. The impressive season included only 3 narrow losses: by 1 point to Iowa on the road, by 3 points to Ohio State on the road in double overtime in a still-disputed game, and by 1 point to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. That year you recorded some exceptional individual stats as well, scoring 13 touchdowns in 13 games.

As someone who played 5 years of college football at an elite level, what was one thing you learned that would shape the player and person you would become?
I think it was basically being patient. Early on in my career at the University of Michigan we had a room full of guys: Jake Butt, Devin Funchess, I mean, the list goes on. Being behind those guys, it was kind of, “I want to play now!” But you understand when you get to college that these are the best guys of their respective areas. And that was the thing I love about the college level. At your high school, you are the best guys in your city. You get to college, it’s the best guys from every city. You’ve got to compete and to want to do better than the guy next to you.

You went through a coaching staff overhaul during your college years. Describe that experience.
It was tough. Brady Hoke recruited me out of high school. He sat at my grandmother’s table and ate her spaghetti. It’s one of the stories I talk about all the time. A lot of coaches would do these things. When they would have a guy they really wanted, they would come to your home and sit and talk with your parents. But he came to my grandma’s house in Highland Park and sat down with my grandparents and my mom and ate her spaghetti with Coach Jackson, who was the running backs coach at the time. Coach Hoke was all about building family. And, you know, the relationship I have with Coach Hoke, he got to know me on a level of not just a coach, but like a father and son. He’s like a father figure in my life. I just, I cried the day he got released from Michigan. And it’s tough going through that transition. You build those relationships.

But that’s the thing about being in college or going to the NFL. It’s a lot more business oriented. If stuff’s not panning out, if it’s not going the way it’s supposed to…next man up mentality, you know? At first when transitioning to Coach [Jim] Harbaugh, it was kind of hard for me to understand that. He came from the NFL, so he had that already instilled from being a coach.

But when it came to putting that culture on college kids who weren’t used to it, at first I was like, “Okay, I’m not really liking that.” But when you finally bought in, you understood, “Okay, it’s nothing personal. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal. We all want to win.” You put the best guys on the field to win and get you to the Big Ten Championship. That was one of the things we preached: getting that Big Ten championship.

So finally buying into that culture in that 2016, we got ten wins. And we were coming from a five and seven season in 2015 where we didn’t go to a bowl game—we were out early. Harbaugh coming in, we get ten wins his first season and it’s like, “Okay, oh, this is what this is about.” You saw the fruit of our labor, working as hard as we did and doing the things that we did—it all paid off.

With Olivet players in the midst of a coaching staff transition, what is your approach to coaching, given your experience?
I’m just trying to be open minded. We were brought here for a reason. Coach [Avante] Mitchell is a fine coach. This is my second year as a college coach—I spent my first year with him and I learned a lot from him.

He’s changed me. Seeing how he carries himself, it’s infectious to me. And I want to follow in his footsteps, you know, be my own type of coach with my own type of swagger. But with the principles that he’s instilled in me as a coach.

I think the players now, they’re very receptive to how he handles things, how he does things. But it’s a transition—that’s the way of life, you know, no matter what you deal with, no matter what you go through, there’s going to be changes. You’ve got to be able to adjust. If you’re not going to adjust, you’re going to be a person who’s going to struggle for a very long time.

I think our players have done a great job of doing that. They’re open minded. They want to listen; they want to learn. They know that we’re not here to slack around. We want to win championships. You know, we want to do what we can to help this university to be the best.

Your NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks was cut short by a shoulder injury. How did you handle that?
Dealing with the injury was very tough. It was kind of like rediscovering yourself. Because your whole life at one point was based off a ball. A football, you know, and trying to play the game. And I had to have a real conversation with my mom and Brandon Graham, who is a big brother and mentor to me. They helped me figure out where I wanted to go.

When I got done playing ball, I wanted to be that guy: director of player personnel or director of player development, developing these guys and getting them ready for life. Just life, period. Not just football and not just the game, but everything that comes with life.

Me, myself, I thought at one point, football was just it. I’m going to do this for the rest of my life! This is what it’s going to be! And when adversity hits, and it doesn’t go that way—when your Plan A doesn’t work, what is your plan B? It’s just about being prepared for any scenario or any situation.

So how did you get into coaching from that point?
One of my best friends, Dave Dawson, he played at Michigan with me and graduated from Grand Valley State University. He called me one day and said, “Bro, you’re too smart of a coach to not be on the field coaching. Look, just come to Cass Tech.” Cass Tech has always been a powerhouse high school in the city of Detroit. My high school was rivals with them.

Dave was one of my best friends, my roommate when I was at Michigan. I trust him and when he called me I was like, “Alright, let’s do it!” I just did it and I fell in love with it.

There’s an itch you get to play the game. You’re like, “I still want to play.” Coaching brought that back out of me.

One of my biggest things is to give back to the kids. I come from inner city Detroit and I want to do what I can. I want to show these guys, there’s a possibility to go far. You can make it; you just have to decide.

It’s led me to ONU. Last year was my first year being a college coach and now I’m at Olivet in my second year in a whole different area, a whole different state. I moved away from home and I’m excited! I’m thankful for ONU giving me the opportunity to be here.

I kind of took a chance on coaching, and it’s working out for the better.

What kind of goals do you have for your players in terms of character development?
Just being great men and doing it the right way. Coach Harbaugh always talked about guys doing it the right way. When adversity strikes, who are you going to be? Approach life in a way of doing it the right way. Don’t give up. Whatever you start, finish. I want to rub off on them as best as I can.

I try to be infectious by my energy every day. One thing I talk to my players about is your feelings, how you feel. You control the box that you’re in. Every day you come to work, you’re not going to be 100%, you’re not going to be like, “I want come to work!” Sometimes you might not want to go, but when you walk in that building, your ego stops at the door. You do everything you can do. You’re here for a reason.

You’ve been on Olivet’s campus for a few weeks now. What do you tell a high school student who is thinking about coming here?
It’s family. I mean, the love that I already get from his university is amazing. I was telling my mom, way before I got the job, everybody so nice! Everybody wants to be on the same team. Everybody wants to win for this university and wants to push us to the next level. I see here that people believe in us, they want to see us win. They want to see us compete at the highest level. And they’re doing whatever we need done—they get it done.

So I think, if you want to feel loved, feel family, feel like you have a support team that will be there for you every step of the way. Olivet is the university for you.

And you’re also working with Olivet’s Graduate and Continuing Studies?
Yes, with the graduate programs in Education. I’m new—this is my week three. If you’re a teacher and you want to get your certification in English or master’s degree or get your endorsements, Olivet has a lot to offer.

I went on Olivet’s career page and found a job in recruiting and admissions. I wanted to do something where I could be beneficial to both the university and football. I think it’s beneficial, being a coach who’s in admissions but also coaching. You get the best of both worlds; I get to go to schools to recruit for the academic programs and athletics. So it’s a win-win.

Olivet’s new head coach, Avante Mitchell, brought you here to coach. How far back does that relationship go?
I feel like I’ve known him all my life, but I’ve only known him a year and a half now. Being from the inner city of Detroit, it’s a small world. Coach Avante coached one of my good friends, Ron Thompson, and he coached plenty of other guys as well. My running backs coach at Michigan, Coach Tyrone Wheatley, used to coach against Coach Avante back in the day when they coached high school football.

So it’s a small, small world. Coach Avante has known of me for a long time, but getting to know me as a person, he’s been a guy who has been rooting for me ever since. It’s good to have this relationship and have somebody that is going to help you every step of the way and always pick you up. He’s going to get on you if you’re not doing your job, you best believe it, but he’s your coach. He’s going to coach you up and love you up.

I think that’s one of the key kinds of coaches. Coaching guys but loving them at the same time.

What other lessons have you learned from the coaches in your life?
Coach Harbaugh loved me to death, I just have to put it out there. At the same time, Harbaugh was a guy that was business oriented. I think that’s a good thing, because you go work in a business firm or doing anything in the real world, and this is how it’s going to be. If your coach or boss says, “Hey I need this done” and you don’t get it done…on to the next guy, right? And that taught me the discipline that I needed.

But going to Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks, it was another way. Different perspectives, different ways. Pete Carroll, in his first time actually talking to me, at our first meeting going into a camp, he said, “If you can’t be yourself around me, I don’t want you on the team.”

And that struck me, coming from handling business and being business-oriented, and going to a guy who just wants you to be yourself and have fun. This is your job but have fun doing it. Have that “want to” in coming to work, not dragging in thinking “Another Day, Another Dollar.”

And I was excited! At one point, Coach Carroll had to pull me to the side and say, “Okay, Khalid, you’re getting a little bit beside yourself, calm it down.” It was at a part of the camp when I was dancing in the huddle. Russell [Wilson] was trying to call the play and I was just dancing. They were playing music and I was one of those guys who wanted to have fun.

After practice, Coach Carroll was like “Look, have your fun. But when I need you to get serious, I need you to get serious.” That’s one of the things I took from him. I tell my Tight Ends when I’m coaching, “We’re going to have our fun but when it’s time to lock in, you got to lock in.” So even in my short time being with Coach Carroll I took a lot from him.

But at the same time, I want to take a piece from Coach Harbaugh and Coach Wheatley. In my master’s program I did a presentation about all three of those guys and taking pieces from them and building my own style. I think a lot of coaches do that throughout the world. Taking a piece from Coach Wheatley, taking a piece from Coach Harbaugh, taking a piece from Coach Carroll. And there’s another coach I need to shout out, Coach [Dan] Ferrigno. He just retired this year—go Cougs! He was my first Tight Ends coach. He loved me up. But taking a piece from all those guys and building my own style is the best thing in the world because I get to see it from every perspective: the hard way, the semi-easy way, the love way, and then just be yourself.

I appreciate all those guys. I love those guys. And if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today. They’ve done a lot in my life.

One last question for you, Coach. What’s the origin of your nickname from your playing days: ‘Hammering Panda’?
[Laughs] My teammates called me panda. Mike McCray—he’s the Linebackers coach at Massachusetts now—he was always one of my best friends. He always called me panda and I kind of just went with it because it’s cool. I’m big like a panda but clumsy as well like a panda. Then they were calling me the hammer because I used to hammer it in from the one-yard line. So it kind of evolved to Hammering Panda.

For more information on ONU Athletics, visit

Olivet Nazarene University is one of the nation’s premier Christian universities, committed to integrating faith and learning. Centrally located in the historic village of Bourbonnais, Illinois – just 50 miles south of Chicago’s Loop – Olivet offers more than 140 areas of study, 24 intercollegiate athletic teams, and more than 90 clubs and organizations. To schedule a campus visit contact the Office of Admissions at or 800-648-1463.

Adam Asher headshot

Adam Asher

Adam Asher ’01/MOL ’07 is a Partner and Managing Director with 989 Group. Adam lives in Manteno, IL with his wife Kristin ’05 and sons David and Lincoln.

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