If Gunnard Twyner had known the path his football career would take, he probably would have bought stock in a company that makes change-of-address cards.
He’s used a lot of them through the years. The former Pleasant Valley High School wide receiver has lived in at least 11 different states. About the longest he has stayed in any one place is three years.
But he’d kind of like to stay in his current location longer than that.
At the age of 44, Twyner has landed a job as an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts.
The old saying is that good things come to those who wait. And Gunnard Twyner has waited a long, long time for something like this.
"It’s all about opportunity, and you never know when it’s going to happen," said Twyner, who has played and/or coached at about every level of football.
"You think it’s been a long time coming, but it’s kind of like having a baby. Everybody thinks they’re ready, but you’re never ready to have a baby. Everybody always thinks they’re ready to coach in the NFL, but the reality is it’s a lot harder than you think."
But you get the feeling Twyner is ready. Certainly, the Colts could not have found someone with a more diverse football background.
After graduating from PV in 1991, Twyner became a record-setting wideout at Western Illinois, then got a chance to play a little bit in the NFL even though he was only 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. He played in four games in 1997 — two each with the Saints and Bengals — and caught four passes for 45 yards. He also was with the Saints in 1998 and 1999 and the Jaguars in 2000, although he never played in a game.
He then embarked on a five-year playing career in arena football, served as an assistant coach at high schools in Florida and Maryland, was the head coach at a high school in Maryland, worked as an assistant coach at Western Illinois and Dodge City (Kansas) Community College, spent a year as an assistant coach at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and accepted the job as the wide receivers coach at Arkansas State just about a month ago.
Along the way, Twyner did a couple of minority internships with NFL teams, including one in 2009 in which he worked with Frank Reich, who was then Indianapolis' quarterback coach, and legendary QB Peyton Manning.
He stayed in contact with Reich for a few years after that but had lost touch with him.
Twyner was just settling into his job at Arkansas State when he went back to Indianapolis to watch one of his daughters from a previous marriage play volleyball. He was at the volleyball match when he got a call from his old college coach, Randy Ball, who asked him about a player he had coached at Dodge City, then mentioned that the Colts were trying to reach him.
Twyner initially thought it was some sort of joke. He had heard that New England Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniel was in line to get the Indianapolis head coaching job, but in the course of moving to Arkansas he had missed the news that McDaniel had backed out. He couldn’t imagine what the Colts wanted with him.
After returning to the volleyball game, he chatted with some of the other parents and learned that the Colts had hired someone else. Frank Reich. His old friend.
"I almost fell out of my chair," Twyner said.
As he frantically tried to figure out how to reach Reich, his phone rang. It was Reich calling him.
"It was so surreal and so fast how it all went down," Twyner said. "He said he wanted me to come interview, and that was a Saturday. I interviewed on Tuesday, and I was living in Indy by Thursday."
Twyner’s title is that of quality control coach, but he’s also helping coach the receivers while trying to soak up as much information as he can in a short amount of time.
"It’s been great ride, and I’m learning a lot from these brilliant coaches here," he said.
"I love it," he added. "I couldn’t ask for a better situation right now."
Twyner admits that landing an NFL coaching job had been his dream for a very long time.
"It’s everybody’s dream, just like everybody dreams of playing in the NFL," he said. "Unfortunately, it comes down to having connections. You kind of have to have the right people in the right positions to help you. There’s plenty of guys out there who are better coaches than I am right now. It’s all about somebody getting in position to help you learn to be better and to bring you along."
Twyner figures he has picked up lot from all his various experiences. He said being a high school coach taught him about developing people and players. Playing arena football was an excellent place to learn about running pass routes. He said he probably learned more in Dodge City than anywhere.
He learned something from every coach he ever worked with, especially John Garrett, the brother of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. John Garrett was Twyner’s receivers coach with the Bengals and the head coach at Lafayette.
"You learn something everywhere you go," Twyner said.
Now he not only has an NFL job, but it just happens to be in the city where his daughters live.
"The stars could not have aligned any better," he said.
Daughters Kelise and Maleah are now 15 and 12. Since his divorce 10 years ago, Twyner only has been able to see them during the summer and on holidays.
"This is a blessing in itself because now I get to go to the volleyball tournaments and be here firsthand and see them every night," he said. "I’m ecstatic, and I know they’re ecstatic. It’s a pretty cool thing. I couldn’t be happier."