For Scott Satterfield, the road home meant first leaving home.
It meant leaving the mountain charm of Boone and Appalachian State, where Satterfield showed up 21 years ago as a walk-on football player from Hillsborough, who asked for nothing but a chance to play quarterback.
It meant saying goodbye to perhaps the finest college football program of its kind to learn about football life elsewhere. Satterfield was quarterbacks coach on Jerry Moore's staff when the Mountaineers won three straight Football Championship Subdivision national championships starting in 2005.
It meant a season as passing game coordinator at Toledo and two seasons as offensive coordinator at Florida International, places where the landscape, the programs and the expectations were different from what Satterfield had grown accustomed to in Boone, where playoff games are as familiar as January snowfalls.
To return as perhaps the football coach who succeeds Moore at Appalachian State, Satterfield understood it meant going away.
"I didn't really want to leave, but I felt I needed to grow more professionally and have a few bumps in the road. I was very comfortable (in Boone)," he said. "Just to have a chance to be the next guy there, that would be my whole goal."
Satterfield, 39, returned to Boone and Appalachian State this month when he was hired as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, titles endorsed by the 72-year-old Moore, who recently completed his 23rd season in Boone.
In a sport where assistant coaches often come and go, Satterfield's return to Boone was significant. It came after a disappointing 8-4 season that included Appalachian State's 22-point home-field loss to Maine in the opening round of the FCS playoffs that sharpened questions about the direction of a program that had won six straight Southern Conference championships before the streak ended in 2011.
Satterfield's return also came after Mountaineers assistant Mark Speir left Moore's staff to become the head coach at Western Carolina, taking with him three other ASU assistants - Brad Glenn, Trey Elder and John Holt. On Thursday, the program announced two more assistant coaches - Moore's son Chris and Bob McClain - had left the staff.
There was a perception the program, which has won more games than any college program other than Boise State since 2005, was at a crossroads.
Moore, who has had one losing season at Appalachian State, was quietly being questioned by some who wondered if it was time for him to retire. Moore said he intends to coach next season - and perhaps beyond - but he was not satisfied with how last season transpired, not just the quick playoff exit but the feeling inside the program that he built.
When asked how long he intends to coach, Moore wouldn't offer specifics.
"My pat answer is as long as it's fun and it's not holding the program back," he said
Satterfield said leaving Boone "was a great experience" because of the experience he gained. At Toledo, he installed a new offense. At Florida International, Satterfield installed another offense and was part of a program that made consecutive bowl appearances, the first bowl games in the program's history.
He saw how different programs operate and was forced to work in a different environment. It reinforced in Satterfield his feeling for Appalachian State and Moore's program.
Satterfield came to Boone in 1991. He planned to attend East Carolina but not play football. When Moore offered Satterfield the chance to walk on as a quarterback, he accepted it. Satterfield started 27 games for the Mountaineers and led them to an 11-0 regular season in his senior year in 1995.
Appalachian State finished with a 12-1 record and ended the season fifth in the final Division I-AA poll.
He was part of a program that had already established itself as a power. The Mountaineers, with future NFL players Dexter Coakley and Matt Stevens on the roster, had made their fourth postseason appearance in five years.
Satterfield ended his career as the top rushing quarterback in school history, having led a power-I offense before the advent of the more explosive spread formation and the arrival of record-breaking Armanti Edwards in 2006.
Satterfield returned to Boone as an assistant coach in 1998 and spent 11 years on Moore's staff, coaching receivers, running backs and, finally, quarterbacks, including Edwards, the two-time FCS national player of the year.
It was a time when Appalachian State's program separated itself, going from a perpetual playoff team to winning national championships.
After three years away from Boone, Satterfield's return is seen by many as the next step in the evolution of what some believe is the best college football program in North Carolina. He received a three-year contract, longer than the usual one-year deals assistant coaches often have.
"There's no guarantee (he's the next head coach )," Appalachian State athletics director Charlie Cobb said of Satterfield. "You would think he's going to be around for a while. It's a great challenge and a great opportunity for him. He's interviewing for that next opportunity every day."
Appalachian State's football program is not accustomed to turmoil, but the departure of Speir and three other assistants came at the end of an unusual season.
It began, as most Mountaineers football seasons do, with great expectations, but a 66-13 season-opening loss at Virginia Tech was sobering. Senior DeAndre Presley, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound quarterback, began the season as a front-runner to win the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the top FCS player.
He struggled, however, and was eventually replaced by 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore Jamal Jackson near midseason.
While Presley shifted to cornerback, Jackson passed for 2,001 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games as the Mountaineers worked through the major personnel change.
Jackson's development is seen as the catalyst for another dynamic offense in Boone next fall, particularly with Satterfield calling plays.
Among the coaches, some wanted to run the ball more often. Others wanted to rely more heavily on the pass.
Without a named offensive coordinator - Glenn called the offensive plays - Moore's preferred system of having everyone contribute didn't function as well as in previous seasons.
One week the Mountaineers were good enough to beat No. 1 Georgia Southern in Boone. The next week, they managed just 10 points in four red-zone trips in a loss to Furman (6-5), a middle-of-the-road Southern Conference team last season.
"It's hard to talk about," Moore said. "We were not cohesive. I was probably a bigger part of that than I realized. We had a defensive coordinator (Dale Jones) but no offensive coordinator.
"Most places, everything would have been acceptable. Here we are 8-4 and we had a lot of other issues. It wasn't all just coaching. We had some players who were ineligible at tough times. But it's not like we were a bad team.
"No one knows the issues we had inside this year. I don't like distractions."
Around Boone, though, it was about more than the won-loss record. It raised questions about whether it's time for Moore - 207-83 in 23 years in Boone - to step aside.
Satterfield's return, coupled with the departure of four assistants, further churned the waters around town.
"Mark (Speir) got a tremendous opportunity and some of Jerry's guys wanted to grow," said Cobb, the athletics director. "But that gives you a chance to re-create, to rebuild and to bring back some core pieces from when we had great success. Scott is a big part of that. It gives us continuity and answers recruiting questions."
Moore has a contract to coach through next season, said Cobb, who added that Moore has not worked with a long-term contract in his two-plus decades at Appalachian State.
Whether Moore coaches one more season or five more seasons has not been determined, at least publicly.
It is a question, however, that is hard to ignore.
"He's the face of the program," Cobb said. "I don't think we'd be responsible to the university and to (Moore) if we didn't ask where we're going with that. It's a question in the room. But the immediate question is let's shore up the staff."
Successor in waiting?
Moore endorsed Satterfield's return. Though he's "never been a big title guy," Moore said he was comfortable giving Satterfield the offensive coordinator designation because it's what he had at Florida International. Moore had already given Dale Jones the defensive coordinator title.
When Cobb asked Moore if he could name Satterfield assistant head coach, Moore said he was fine with that, too.
"It all boils down to performance," Moore said.
Satterfield was instrumental in incorporating the spread offense that worked so successfully for the Mountaineers during their run of three straight national championships and their famous upset of Michigan.
It was a relatively new offense when Appalachian State adopted it nearly a decade ago and it's one Satterfield prefers, though it's not what Florida International used because of the lack of a running quarterback.
Now Satterfield has returned to Boone, sparking suggestions he has been anointed Moore's successor.
"It's certainly my goal," Satterfield said. "I told the administration that and coach Moore knows that. They said it's not guaranteed to anyone. I want to do everything I can to prove I'm worthy of that spot.
"I know they'll make the best decision for ASU. Just like when I came there in '91, just give me an opportunity."
Although Moore has talked of spending time traveling with his wife, Margaret, after he quits coaching, he has been busy reshaping his coaching staff. He pushed spring practice back until April to allow more time with his restructured staff and for them to visit other football programs to study how they do things.
There has also been the issue of Moore's son, Chris, who spent 13 seasons on his father's staff, the past seven as running backs coach. His departure from the staff became official Thursday.
"He said, 'Dad, I should have left here three or four years ago.' He got his degree here and he did a terrific job coaching. He coached running backs for seven years and every kid he coached graduated. He had a first or second-team all-conference player every year," Jerry Moore said.
"It was time for him to leave. It was an awkward deal. He may or may not want to coach anymore. It's his call. He did us a good job here and it's a lot of fun to work with your son. But it's never been a son thing on the job. It was a son thing after winning the national championship or a big game and getting a hug from him.
"I'm sorry he's had to go through some things and heard some stuff that's out there."
Chris Moore could not be reached for comment.
Deciding the future
It is a time for looking forward at Appalachian State.
Cobb said he hopes to have a better sense of where the football program will land in the next three to six months as it contemplates a move up from its place in the Football Championship Series.
It's possible Appalachian State will jump up a level to play what was formerly called Division I-A football. The school's board of trustees endorsed a plan to allow the football feasibility committee to consider what options are available should Appalachian State decide to move up to the highest level of college football.
Cobb is watching the shifting landscape of college football to determine what's best for the Mountaineers' program.
"What we will see in the next couple of months is where the next five or 10 years of Appalachian State football will go," Cobb said.
For Moore and Satterfield, the immediate focus is on next season.
"I have been blessed with a neat energy level. I have no agenda," Moore said.
Satterfield is glad to be back in Boone, working with the man largely responsible for his football career.
"The man you see is the man he is. To try and help him finish his career whenever that may be is what I want to do," Satterfield said.
"I don't know how long he's going to go. When is the right time to go? That's always a tough call.
"I support him if it's one year, if it's three years or if it's four years."
Moore brought Satterfield to Boone 21 years ago.
And it's why Satterfield has come back.