Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde wasn’t thrilled that he played a starring role during HBO’s Hard Knocks series in August.
“I prefer to fly under the radar,” said Durde with a laugh at The Star.
But Durde’s story was too good for the HBO producers to pass up. The British native is the first full-time assistant coach in NFL history born in England.
Durde, 42, is in his first season with the Cowboys. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn brought him over from his Atlanta Falcons staff when Quinn was head coach. Durde served as Atlanta’s defensive quality control coach in 2018-19, and outside linebackers coach in 2020.
He has been integral to helping expand the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, which helps promote American football across the globe. Durde knew he wanted to eventually coach while still playing in various leagues in England and Europe. He was briefly on the Carolina Panthers practice squad in 2005 and the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad in 2008, his last year playing professionally.
“I went and helped the guys [who] found me, a team called the London Warriors. I started helping the kids, and I wasn’t even coaching. I was just helping them,” said Durde, who lives in Texas full time.
But the taste of the coaching life was all he needed. He sold his business and set his sights on a career in coaching.
“I just wanted to get back to football and decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “It kind of snowballed from there.”
Durde worked six years as defensive coordinator for the Warriors. At the same time he was helping get the IPP program going for the NFLUK. Quinn hired him to join his Falcons’ staff in 2018.
“I looked at it and I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” he said. Durde credits Quinn for believing in him early on.
“Q’s got this gift that I know he believes in me. And I think you see that with our team,” he said. “He has that and he gives it to other people. He kind of made me feel like that at the same time. And I kind of grew from there.”
Durde, who grew up in Middlesex, hopes he’s an inspiration to others with NFL aspirations around the world.
“I know a lot of coaches that can do this on the other side of the Atlantic. And I’ve got the opportunity just through the situations I’ve been in. I take a lot of pride in it because I think I represent a lot of people,” he said.
The NFL has tried to expand its diversity in front offices and coaching staffs throughout the league with initiatives such as the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. Durde said such programs open up opportunities for people who otherwise would never be on an NFL team’s radar. The program led to Durde working as a Cowboys intern during training camp in 2014.
“It’s an opportunity to be seen, and it’s an opportunity to learn. It really helped me,” he said. “It’s the reason why I’m here basically.”
And Durde feels like he belongs, even if his charming British accent sticks out on the Cowboys sideline.
“I imagined I could do this,” he said. “I’m very grateful to be here.”