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Walden announces special teams coach Joe Pappalardo to UTEP Staff

utep special teams coach pic
Photo Courtesy: UTEP Athletics

(Courtesy: UTEP Athletics)

EL PASO, Texas - UTEP Football Head Coach Scotty Walden, a day after signing 23 new Miners, continued to add staff members as he announced the hiring of Joe Pappalardo the Miners’ Wefense (special teams) and Miner Backs coach on Thursday.

Pappalardo follows Walden after serving as his special teams coordinator and Gov Backs coach at Austin Peay for three seasons. Pappalardo was also at Southern Miss when Walden was on the Golden Eagles’ staff.

“Joe is one of the brightest up and coming coaches in the game. I am so excited to have him here in El Paso as he will be instrumental in leading our Wefense units and Miner Backs,” Walden said. “Joe has a great mind when it comes to gaining an advantage on the opponent through situational football and Wefense. He Is a relentless worker that has been with me since Southern Miss and I am thrilled that he is a Miner!”

Pappalardo helped new UTEP WR/Miner Back Kam Thomas produce stellar numbers in 2023 with the Governors. Thomas, who signed with the Orange and Blue on Wednesday, registered 267 yards on 12 punts returns and ranked first in the FCS with a 22.3 average. He also took two to the house with a long return TD of 89 yards. Jaden Barnes chipped in with 52 yards on three returns (17.3 avg.). Overall, the two combined for 319 yards on 15 returns, ranking first in the FCS with a 21.3 punt return average.

Both were dynamic at returning kicks, as Thomas averaged 21.1 yards on 14 kick returns (296 yards) and Barnes averaged 24.3 yards on 11 returns. Overall the Govs kickoff return unit averaged 21.0 yards on 28 returns (589 yards). Austin Peay ranked 33rd in FCS with kickoff return average.

Thomas added 629 yards on 50 receptions with five TDs, along with 78 yards on 22 carries and a rushing score. Thomas racked up eight total touchdowns (five receiving, two punt return, one rush).

In 2022, Thomas averaged 13.4 yards on 15 punt returns and added a 92-yard touchdown. Thomas also returned 14 kickoffs for 318 yards (22.7 avg.) and a 94-yard score.

Prior to APU, Pappalardo was on Southern Miss’ staff as a special teams and tight end graduate assistant from 2019-2020 when Walden was the co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach from 2019 into 2020, and interim head coach at the conclusion of 2020 for the Golden Eagles.

Pappalardo served as a student assistant coach and the director of football operations at his alma mater UMass Dartmouth from 2015 to 2019.

The Reading, Mass., native worked primarily with the defensive backs and defensive coordinator Steve Faniel while at UMass Dartmouth. In 2016, Pappalardo guided a backfield unit that posted 11 interceptions, including nine in MASCAC play, and 39 pass breakups. Sophomore safety Tony Slaughter was named Second Team All-MASCAC with a team-high three interceptions.

Pappalardo received his degree in business management and leadership from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in May 2019.


2023 – Austin Peay (special teams coordinator/Gov Backs coach)

2021-23 – Austin Peay (special teams coordinator/Gov Backs coach/offensive recruiting coordinator)

2021 – Austin Peay (co-special teams coordinator/defensive analyst [LBs])

2019-20 – Southern Miss (special teams and TE graduate assistant/recruiting assistant)

2015-19 – UMass Dartmouth (student assistant coach [defense]/director of football operations)

Article Topic Follows: UTEP

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Adrian Ochoa

Adrian Ochoa is ABC-7’s Sports Director.


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