Central Minnesota high school grad now coaching on college football's largest stage
TCU special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl graduated from Fergus Falls High School and Concordia in Moorhead.
MOORHEAD — Concordia Cobbers head football coach Terry Horan was watching the College Football Playoff semifinals Saturday when he saw an old friend running down the sideline late in the nationally televised TCU-Michigan game.
TCU special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl raced to head coach Sonny Dykes and the Horned Frogs called a timeout with 3 minutes, 18 seconds remaining as both teams lined up for the kickoff and TCU holding a six-point lead.
“I told him, you haven’t lost your speed, you were running down the sidelines pretty quick,” said Horan, who exchanged text messages with Tommerdahl a day after the semifinal game was completed.
TCU held off Michigan for a 51-45 victory to advance to the CFP national championship game. The Horned Frogs used the late timeout because Michigan appeared to be lining up in a formation to execute an onside kick and TCU was in a normal return formation.
“I’m sure it was a stressful moment, that’s for sure,” Horan said.
After the timeout, Michigan again lined up in the same kick formation, but kicked the ball deep and pinned TCU back at its 10-yard line. The Horned Frogs got one first down, punted the ball and stopped Michigan on its final drive to seal the victory.
“It’s been a lot of fun keeping track of him,” Horan said. “What a great thing for him to be able to have a chance to win a national title.”
Tommerdahl, from Fergus Falls, Minn., graduated from Concordia in the early 1980s and played on the offensive line for the Cobbers. He played for former Concordia head coach Jim Christopherson. His wife, Annette (Jondahl), also attended Concordia. Tommerdahl was a two-year starter at offensive tackle for the Cobbers, and was an All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection his senior season.
Horan — who played wide receiver for the Cobbers from 1985-1988 — didn’t play on the same teams with Tommerdahl, but connected with Tommerdahl after his playing days with the Cobbers.
“I really got to know him well once I came back to Concordia as the head football coach,” said Horan, who took over as Concordia’s head coach in 2001. “He’s always reached out. ... As busy as that guy is, what I’ve always appreciated about him, he always takes the time. He loves his alma mater.”
Horan took over the Cobbers program from Christopherson.
Tommerdahl told The Forum in 2010 at one point his goal was to take over the family insurance business before his career path veered into college football coaching, which now has him preparing to coach on a grand stage. TCU plays defending champion Georgia at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, for the national championship.
“I think the world of this guy,” Horan said. “He’s getting everything he deserves right now.”
Tommerdahl started his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Wyoming in 1984. He’s been a special teams coordinator for more than 25 seasons and had assistant coaching jobs at multiple Power Five programs, including Minnesota, Alabama, Texas A&M and Cal. He returned to TCU in December 2021 as the special teams coordinator after previously spending time on the Horned Frogs staff from 1998-2000.
“With the season that they’ve been having I've been wishing him well as they’ve been going into some pretty big games,” Horan said.
Horan said he routinely keeps in contact with Tommerdahl during the football season, exchanging text messages one a week or once every two weeks. They also usually connect at the yearly college football coaches convention in January. During the season, Horan said Tommerdahl also monitors how the Cobbers are doing on the field.
“He’s a loyal Cobber, that’s for sure,” Horan said. “He always wants to stay in touch and I appreciate that. … I’ve never seen this guy down. He’s always upbeat, positive.”
Horan said he isn’t surprised at Tommerdahl’s success.
“He’s so detailed and he’s so upbeat and positive,” Horan said. “He’s a presence in the room and a really good teacher and really good coach.”