April 13, 2004
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
(This is another in a series of features acquainting you with the University of Wyoming football coaching staff. Today, meet wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator, Ron Wisniewski.)
The way Ron Wisniewski has it figured, he has led a charmed life.
There's the master's in aerospace engineering. That's impressive. Then there's the Ph.D. in educational mathematics. That's right, he's a doctor. That's even more impressive. But to Dr. "Wiz", the most impressive thing of all is that he get's to coach collegiate football. Now, that's impressive.
Wisniewski is right where he wants to be, working with young men who share the same passion for the game that he does. Mix in the fact that he and his lovely wife, Kelli, have a brand new son, Brady Thomas (all of a week old), and you see where he gets the charmed life.
"I wouldn't trade what I've done," Wiz says as the Cowboys are in the middle of their third week of spring training. "It's been luck, hard work and knowing the right people. I've led a charmed life for sure."
Wisniewski coaches wide receivers for Joe Glenn's Cowboys as well as serving the vital role of recruiting coordinator. In just one season he has had the pleasure of coaching two of Wyoming's finest wideouts of all time in Ryan McGuffey and Malcolm Floyd.
But as a group, the personable native of New Jersey, believes this season's corps of receivers has a chance to be as effective, if not more effective, than last season. "We don't have a six-foot, five-inch guy who has a 40-inch vertical jump (Floyd)", or a guy with the experience and saavy of Ryan (McGuffey), but I do expect us to be better as a group. We have six guys who give us depth, talent and toughness."
The six receivers of whom Wisniewski speaks include a couple of junior veterans in Jovon Bouknight, who just may finish his career as one of the most talented playmakers the Cowboys have ever had, and Josh Barge, another talent who might be one of the toughest. Sophomore Dustin Pleasant, hampered by injury last season, is having an outstanding spring camp as are transfer Jason Wallace, redshirt freshman Michael Ford and junior Jason Amos. Their coach is quick to add another outstanding prospect in Taber LeMarr, also a redshirt freshman.
"I think this group brings a great deal to the field," says Wiz. "They work hard, they're very coachable, and they enjoy the game. I've been pleased with how they have progressed during camp. I think we will have some weapons at wide receiver."
It's been a circuitous path that this aerospace engineer has taken on his way to Laramie. Gifted in math and science, Wiz thought, for a time, that he might be in the spacecraft-building business for somebody like NASA, or Boeing. He also thought his career path might lead him to teach mathematics, which he did for a time. But all along he knew his passion was coaching. "Not all of us receive an opportunity to do something we love," he says. "My dream came true."
For a time Wisniewski's parents weren't so sure about his path. "My mom still thinks I'm crazy, in a good way. After all, I had received all of that education. But she and dad have both been supportive. When I left Northern Colorado to join Joe at Montana, my dad told me I was making a mistake. But he came to one of our playoff games, an exciting win, and after the game he told me I had the greatest job in the world," Wiz laughs. "I agree with him."
For the record, Wisniewski earned his bachelor of arts degree in astrophysics in 1987 from Rutgers University (Piscataway, N.J.), his master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado in 1990, and his Ph.D. in educational mathematics from the University of Northern Colorado in 1998.
All of that required a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. But breaking into the coaching profession, and staying with it took a lot of dedication, and a lot of patience as well.
A solid high school receiver/tight end at East Brunswick (N.J.) High School, Wisniewski felt playing college football probably wasn't going to be his future. He selected Rutgers based on academics. He played a little bit of football in a "Lightweight Division (185 pounds or less), a league that is popular in the eastern states. But he blew out his shoulder in a pickup game, and knew for sure that coaching was the direction he would take.
"I really wanted to coach," he says, "so I called some high school coaches in the area while I was going to college (at Rutgers), and I finally got hired at a high school (Bishop-AHR) in Edison (N.J.). I really enjoyed it, and knew that's what I wanted to do."
That was in 1987, the year he graduated from Rutgers with that astrophysics degree. Although he wanted to move ahead with his education, and pursue a master's degree, he just couldn't get coaching out of his head. While finishing up his master's at the University of Colorado, he actually coached at a small Division III school in Union, N.J., Kean College (now Kean University), as the Cougars' receiver's coach. The staff was let go after one year, and while successfully earning his master's from CU in aerospace engineering (1990), the coaching dream was still very much alive. He was hooked. In 1990 he joined the Division II East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University staff, where he spent two seasons coaching running backs.
While Wisniewski definitely wanted to continue his education, he got to figuring thatbeing on a college campus might afford him the opportunity to continue coaching. So after returning to Kean for a couple of years (1992 and 1993) as its offensive coordinator, he decided to seriously go after the Ph.D, in education. Interested in eductional mathematics, Northern Colorado, a great teacher's school, was an outstanding possibility. Making it even more enticing was the fact Joe Glenn was there.
"I had talked to Joe by phone a year or so earlier, and when I got to Greeley, I crashed his office, and told him I wanted to coach. We had lunch, and discussed the possibilities. When I was admitted to school, he hired me."
While at UNC, Wiz didn't have much free time. He worked on the degree, he taught physics at Thornton High School outside of Denver, and coached tight ends coach for the Bears He was a member of Glenn's UNC staff for six seasons, and was part of the tremendous success--two national championships--the school enjoyed under Glenn during that time. He received his Ph.D in 1998.
"When Joe got the job at Montana, he assumed I would stay in Colorado," Wiz says. "But there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to go. Mike (Breske) called me, and I told him I wanted to be there, I wanted to be with coach Glenn and this staff. It's quite a group, and I didn't want to lose that. This staff has stayed together because we believe in our boss. We may fight like brothers sometimes, but we have a deep feeling and respect for each other."
While Wisniewski enjoyed teaching, he loves what he is doing.
"As a coach, I still spend a lot of time in the classroom," he says. In many ways, our x's and o's are similar to teaching math. Our system, and the way we do things here is very structured. With an engineering background, I have an analytical mind, and that's how our system is. It works well for me."
The path Ron Wisniewski took certainly is working well for Wyoming.