TOWSON, Md. - Building Towson's football team into a contender has become a family affair for coach Rob Ambrose.
Ambrose has Towson one win away from the program's first FCS national title as the Tigers are set to face two-time defending champion North Dakota State on January 4 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The journey has been years in the making for Ambrose, who is in his fifth year at the helm. But Ambrose has not traveled that road alone. Calling plays for the Tigers this year is Ambrose's younger brother Jared.
Jared Ambrose joined Towson's coaching staff when Rob took control of the program in 2009. The younger Ambrose, who was an offensive assistant at Delaware prior to coming to Towson, coached the team's tight ends and later the quarterbacks before taking over as offensive coordinator this season.
"I'm truly blessed to be able to work alongside my brother," Jared Ambrose said. "In this business, you don't often get to work with a sibling and I've got to do it the last five years. It's allowed us to reconnect as brothers."
Rob and Jared Ambrose come by their coaching instincts naturally.
Their father, Tim Ambrose, is one of the most successful high school football coaches in Maryland history. Tim Ambrose was the head coach at Middletown for 31 years and won 249 games, leading the Knights to 14 Monocacy Valley League championships before stepping down from that role in 2004.
Rob Ambrose said he was diagramming plays with his father by the time he was in middle school. But the lessons he learned from his father went far beyond X's and O's.
"My father would admit that my brother and I know more about the game than him," Ambrose said. "But what he taught me was how to be a leader of men. He taught me how to get the most out of players and teach them how to be successful in life. There are coaches across the country that would pay thousands of dollars to attend clinics to learn what my father taught me growing up."
Rob Ambrose said it was his father who taught him what being a coach is truly all about.
"Growing up, I was with him on the sidelines of a practice and asked him if he never won a state title, would he be disappointed?" Ambrose said. "My father told me, ‘Do you think that's why I do this?' He then points to the players and says ‘I do it for them and to make them the best people possible.'"
Jared Ambrose shares his brother's sentiment.
"No matter how long we coach, our dad will have more experience than us," he said. "That experience is invaluable and to be able to share what we are doing at Towson with him has been amazing."
Tim Ambrose said he offers advice and feedback in whatever manner his sons need from him. This often includes going over the film of the previous game and looking ahead to the next opponent.
"I'm not afraid to hold anything back," Tim Ambrose said. "I tell them what I think both good and bad. But, what they have accomplished at Towson has come from them. They have done a tremendous job recruiting and found ways to get players to work together. They have taken Towson to another level and I am extremely happy as a father to see them coaching together and not on opposite sidelines."
Rob Ambrose said he fully appreciated having his brother and father by his side at the start of this season on Towson's bus ride home following its 33-18 victory at Connecticut; the program's first ever victory over an FBS school.
"All of the players were sleeping and I see Jared and my dad together and thought how special it was to celebrate that milestone with my family," Rob Ambrose said.
As for the next challenge, all three Ambroses admit that upsetting North Dakota State will be an immense challenge. The Bison are undefeated and advanced to the title game with a 52-14 victory over New Hampshire.
Tim Ambrose said although difficult, he believes Towson has a chance to be successful.
"That's why they play the game," Tim Ambrose said. "North Dakota State is good, there's no doubt about that. But, if you can run the ball, play solid defense and not turn the ball over, anything is possible. No matter what happens in that game, this will be a very special season for Towson. This team has energized the community and people across the state are paying attention. I couldn't be more proud as a father."