‘He knew how to outsmart guys’: Former coaches not surprised Cardinals hired Drew Terrell

Former Hamilton High School standout Drew Terrell spend three seasons coaching wide receivers with the Washington Commanders. Now he’ll serve in a similar role as passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach for the Arizona Cardinals. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Cardinals hired multiple coaches during the 2023 offseason. The decision to bring in one of those, former Hamilton High School standout Drew Terrell, has been well received around the Valley.

“He’s one of the smartest kids. He went to Stanford,” said Steve Belles, his coach at Hamilton. “He might not have been the most athletic kid we’ve ever had at Hamilton, but let me tell you something. He knew how to outsmart guys.

“If I told him this is why we’re doing it and this is what will get you a win, he did it as well as anybody. You would think he is not going to get any separation, instead of using his athletic ability, he would use his brains.”

The Cardinals hired Terrell as the team’s passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach after spending three seasons overseeing receivers with the Washington Commanders.

Terrell was a standout receiver at Hamilton from 2007-09, racking up 833 yards and seven touchdowns.

Then-wide receivers coach Mike Johnston believes Terrell began developing his leadership skills early.

“He was a silent leader,” Johnston said. “He didn’t say much and he didn’t have to say much. He was the first guy on the line when it came to any drill.

“He did speak up from time to time and any time Drew spoke you knew it was going to be important, something worthwhile for the team.”

His former quarterback at Hamilton, Travis Dean, said Terrell’s work ethic was unmatched during their time together.

“He was one of the most talented human beings I’ve ever been around,” Dean said. “He’s a master of his craft, always looking for ways to get better, and he really helped me develop as a young quarterback there at the time.”

His intelligence and athletic focus attracted attention from Stanford, where he was its leading receiver in 2012 and helped the team to a 12-2 record en route to winning the Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl.

“Drew was pretty heavily recruited as a receiver and a returner,” Johnston said. “To be able to go to Stanford University, academically, athletically and excel there, it just shows you what kind of a leader he was on the field for us.”

Terrell’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech in 2014. In 2015, he went to Michigan, joining the staff of his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh. In 2018, Terrell made the leap into the NFL as an offensive quality control coach for the Carolina Panthers.

After spending time with the Panthers, Terrell joined the Washington Football Team. He started out as the assistant wide receivers coach and was soon promoted to wide receivers coach in 2021.

And then Arizona came calling, much to Terrell’s delight.

“I can’t explain it. … I can’t quantify or put into the words the joy and excitement it’s brought me,” he recently told Tyler Drake of Arizona Sports. “The sheer euphoria I felt when I knew it was real and I knew I was coming home.

“It was something that I didn’t necessarily think of because I thought it would never happen. So it never really crossed my mind that I have a chance to represent the Arizona Cardinals and represent the state through coaching.”

Terrell’s high school coaches always knew he had the ability to become a successful coach.

“He’s shown that he can be an outstanding coach, not only just at the college level, when he was at Michigan, and moved on,” Belles said. “Then eventually to the pros and now back home with the Cardinals.

“I think this is great for him to be home and be able to expand on what he learned and be able to teach that to another set of pros.”

Johnston said, “The NFL was definitely his aspiration as a player. Knowing how cerebral he was and how well he understood the game and the questions he would ask, I knew that’s the route that he wanted to go and definitely excel in it.”

Terrell was mentored by his past coaches and now has the opportunity to guide NFL receivers including DeAndre Hopkins, if he remains with the team, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Rondale Moore.

Not a bad assignment for the hometown star.

Aaron Healy AIR-in HEE-lee (he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aaron Healy expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Healy, who is assigned to Cronkite News this semester, has covered sports events for Varsity Xtra in Phoenix.