The Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves have a new quarterback coach this year. Former quarterback and current CSU-Pueblo student Doug Watterson took on the role in the coaching staff this season.
With turnover in the defending Division II national champions’ roster and coaching staff, players and coaches alike have been asked to step into different roles than last year.
Watterson, a 21-year-old economics and finance major, originally transferred to CSU-Pueblo from Los Angeles Valley College in California as a quarterback in hopes of winning the starting spot. After All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference quarterback Chris Bonner graduated, the spot was up in the air.
Watterson’s throwing shoulder, however, had gone through some wear and tear and after awhile, it didn’t look like he would be able to bounce back completely.
“I was still trying to play this past spring, just couldn’t get my shoulder back from another surgery,” Watterson said.
It was then that the senior was left at a crossroads with a hard decision to make: hang up the cleats and walk away from the sport he loved or spend time on the bench as a backup knowing he could never play to his full potential again.
Luckily for Watterson, though, coach John Wristen offered him a role on the coaching staff.
“I knew I wanted to coach after playing but it was actually coach Wristen who brought it up during spring ball when we could both tell my shoulder wasn’t coming back,” Watterson said. “Couldn’t have come up with a better opportunity for a guy who wanted to get into coaching. Really helped me transition because I didn’t know what I was going to do at first.”
Now, Watterson handles the assistant quarterbacks coaching role, where a lot of his responsibilities are the unsung, behind-the-scenes work that could go unnoticed or unappreciated.
The player turned coach is the starting quarterback’s go-to man when it comes to signaling in the correct play calls from the sidelines and handles most personnel changes as well. Watterson also puts together player handbooks and playbooks and even scripts practices from time to time, all things that come easier when one has playing experience.
“It’s a big advantage being a former athlete on the team because I’m already very familiar with the culture of the program and the standard that has been set for the players,” Watterson said. “It also helps having prior relationships with a lot of the coaches and players.”
With so many coaching changes and players getting moved around, it can be easy for a team to fall out of sync or start to have certain levels of disconnect between themselves. The ThunderWolves have been working to address this problem by keeping in mind that every role on the team, from head coach to redshirt practice player, has a job to do. For the team, it’s expected that a person does his job to the best of his ability and it will make everyone better.
On the issue of being able to command respect from his former teammates, Watterson said he has had no problems.
“Obviously I’m a first time coach and still feeling my way around so I don’t have to demand a lot from the guys at this point like our full time coaches do. I’m just trying to earn the respect of the other coaches and the players. I’m really in more of a learning and supporting role and I coach the quarterbacks in any way I can as the opportunities come up.”
The biggest thing that has changed in Watterson’s life is his renewed sense of passion for the game. Football is a sport that takes a toll on players and injuries can hamper, or sometimes completely end, a career.
However, it seems coaching has given Watterson the opportunity to love the sport again and feel like a true contributor to a team that respects him, whether a helmet is on his head or a clipboard is in his hand.
“I’m just really looking forward to being able to feel like a contributor again and take the first steps in a career I’ve wanted to pursue since I was a kid,” Watterson said. “As a player I just always felt like I was going nowhere with my injuries and now I feel like I’m moving forward again. At my age I really couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I get to learn from some of the best coaches in the country.”
This season brings a wealth of opportunity for the new coach as he steps into roles he’s never been in before.
With a full course load of economics and finance classes on his plate along with demanding hours as an assistant coach, Watterson will not have any trouble keeping busy. He said he’s incredibly excited about the direction his life is going and grateful for the opportunity to broaden his horizons.
“I’m extremely blessed to have these types of opportunities in front of me,” Watterson said. “Coaches have always had a huge impact on my life and I hope I can impact someone else this season even if it’s in a small way.”