Many former UW-Oshkosh football players are continuing to live their passion – a number coaching at the high school level and several moving to high-profile collegiate and professional roles.
"It's great to see guys live out their dreams," said UW-Oshkosh head football coach Pat Cerroni, who adds that football players are all part of the "same family."
News is traveling around campus that former UW-Oshkosh football player and assistant coach Gerald Chatman was recently named an assistant defensive coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. Besides football, Chatman left his mark as a student worker in the UW-Oshkosh Admissions Office, as a McNair Scholar, as well as researching with professors in the human services leadership program.
Cerroni, on behalf of the UW-Oshkosh football program, congratulated Chatman on his new role.
"We are extremely proud of him and his accomplishments in this profession," he said. "Hard to believe he got his start at UW-Oshkosh and it is a testament to him as a coach, but more importantly as a person, that he got this opportunity."
A Milwaukee native, Chatman was hired earlier this month to complete the coaching staff of Bengals new head coach, Zac Taylor.
Taylor, 35, said he was looking for "great teachers, outside-the-box thinkers and people who aren't afraid to deviate from the norm."
Chatman spent the last two seasons at Tennessee State University, where he was defensive ends/outside linebackers coach as well as special teams coordinator last year. He interned with the Bengals during the 2018 offseason. He and his wife, a Wisconsin native who works as a nurse, have two young daughters.
Chatman – known as "G" to many of his associates – spent his years at UW-Oshkosh playing football and transitioning to become one of Cerroni's assistant coaches.
Chatman graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor's degree in human service leadership from UW-Oshkosh. He did an advanced internship with the UW-Oshkosh Admissions Office as part of his degree program.
"We are all so happy for him and thrilled at his success," said Laurie Stevens, associate director of admissions. "I've always said we'd see him in the NFL some day!"
Chatman said his work in admissions at UW-Oshkosh was valuable as it provided the opportunity to work with a lot of people. Chatman also was deeply impacted by his work with the late Alfred Kisubi, human services leadership professor, and by the encouragement Kisubi provided. He said it was "shocking" to learn that Kisubi recently passed away.
Chatman said Quincy LaGrant had a big impact on his decision to come to UW-Oshkosh. LaGrant, who currently works at UW-Milwaukee and is the head football coach for Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, mentored Chatman and encouraged him to further his education. A few years older than Chatman, LaGrant played football at UW-Oshkosh and helped coach the Titans. He, too, worked in the University's Admissions Office. The two have remained friends through the years and LaGrant stood up in Chatman's wedding.
Following graduation, Chatman said he initially had his eye on Syracuse University's graduate program, but ended up at Ball State University, where he earned a master's degree in adult and community education. Chatman worked for several colleges and had internships working with the defensive line with three National Football League teams including the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals.
Chatman said despite the distance, a lot of "the guys" from UW-Oshkosh football program still keep in contact.
The memories they have aren't as much about the season records, but the hard work and time with teammates through ups and downs. Like Cerroni, Chatman is tasked with helping to mold a team each season while teaching the young men some life skills.
"I love it – it's my passion," Chatman said.
Cerroni was in Arizona over the Christmas and New Year's holidays and spent some time catching up with another one of his former players, Aaron Schwanz, a Port Washington native who is working as a defensive analyst for Louisiana State University (LSU). LSU beat University of Central Florida on Jan. 1 to claim the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
Schwanz, who played four years at UW-Oshkosh and was a volunteer assistant coach following graduation in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in education, has worked for a variety of college teams around the country. He said it was exciting to end the season on a high note and win after enduring an extra four weeks of practice preparing for the game. As a defensive analyst, he spends his days studying the defense of the next opponent – providing information and ideas on game strategy and ways to outmatch LSU's next opponent.
He savored the Tigers' Fiesta Bowl win.
"It was huge – something I'll always remember," he said. "After the game my mom and dad, my wife, and two kids were on the field."
Not one that seeks a place in large crowds, Cerroni watched the game 10 minutes from the stadium at his father's home.
He connected with Schwanz when he attended several practices the week prior. Over the years since their days at UW-Oshkosh, the two have kept in touch.
"We're one big team in football," Cerroni said. "There are so many relationships. We're just a big band of brothers here at UW-Oshkosh."
Cerroni said he's happy his former players – now coaches – haven't forgot where they came from. He lends support to current and former players, offering advice in matters of football and in life.
At UW-Oshkosh, his coaching protégés are learning and getting exposed to situations and people.
"Everybody wants to go as high as they can – whether it's playing or coaching," Cerroni said. "These guys (Chatman and Schwanz) have had a little longevity. They climbed the ladder and stayed with it."
By Laurie Schlosser, UW-Oshkosh University Marketing & Communications