Interview with Luke Venne, 11/23/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Justin Wolman, Interviewer | uwocs_Luke_Venne_11232016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

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JW: Hi I am Justin Wolman and I am here to interview Coach Luke Venne for the UWO Campus Stories Oral History Project. We are doing the interview on November 23, 2016. I am going to start by asking when you attend UWO as a student.

LV: I came here in 1998 and it actually took me all the way until 2005 to get my undergrad, so seven years. I took a couple semesters part time there, but it took me a while. So 1998 to 2005 was my undergrad years and then I got my masters here as well that was 2010 to 2013 something like that.

JW: So the rest of the interview I am going to ask you questions about your upbringing, your experience at UWO, and then your experience after graduation. 1:00Are your ready to get started?

LV: Yup let's do it.

JW: So where did you grow up?

LV: Oh gosh. That's a loaded question for me. I grew up I will say in the Milwaukee area. I was actually born in Oshkosh and my parents lived in Oshkosh for a couple years, probably about a year or two I guess. And then I moved down to a bunch of different cities. My mom and dad moved around a lot. When I was in 5th grade we moved to Kansas for a year, back to Wisconsin. When I was in 5th grade I had been in more grade schools than I was years old, so it was crazy we moved around all over the place I couldn't even give a spot that as an elementary that I was living a place more than a year. Which was interesting, it was kinda neat for me now because it allowed me to adapt to people new and not 2:00be afraid to learn who new people are and things like that. Then I ended up going to Oconomowoc High School and middle schools when I stayed in Oconomowoc. I stayed in Oconomowoc all the way through so Oconomowoc is my hometown, what I called it. And then moved back up here to Oshkosh.

JW: Is there a reason why you moved around so much as a kid?

LV: No, my dad was getting different jobs and we were just moving around a lot. I think he was just trying to decide what he wanted to do. My parents were a little younger they had me. I think my mom was 18 or something like that. So they were just not established in life yet so they were just trying to figure it out. My younger brother, it was just me and my younger brother who is 7 years younger than me, he has only lived basically, now he lives in Miami, but growing up he only lived in one town. That makes our life experiences quite a bit different. I don't think there was any reason besides job opportunities. He wasn't running from the cops or anything.

JW: How would you describe how big Oconomowoc is to somebody who wouldn't know?

LV: That's a good question. Oconomowoc is a middle level population city, I mean 3:00a Division 1 sports city. How many people or in Oconomowoc, gosh that's a good question? I think somewhere around 30,000 to 40,000 somewhere in that range I don't know that exact number. Really neat city, 7 lakes in the city. The city has a ton of lakes. Lot of different dynamics to it is right between Madison and Milwaukee. I mean almost identical right to the halfway point. So you get a lot of people who work in Madison and a lot of people that work in Milwaukee living out in Oconomowoc. Also a bunch of agriculture so you got some farm kids. You some kinda, because of all the lakes, you got some of the upper level rich kids. So there's a weird dynamic as far as the economy of the town I guess.

JW: So it's a very diverse place?

LV: It's a diverse place, not necessarily a diverse place in culture, but it a 4:00diverse place in economic money.

JW: So you already said it was you, your brother, and your parents who lived in the house with you.

LV: Yup, yup.

JW: How close of a relationship did you have with everyone as you grew up?

LV: Well I wasn't 100 percent right, when I was 6 six years old my dad was working at a place and had a guy looking for a place. He knocked on the door one night and said, "Hey I got no place to stay, can I stay here tonight?" This guy was probably 22 at time, maybe 25 at time. My dad said, "Sure you can stay here for the night". Well, 8 years later he was still there. He is like an older brother of mine. So it was really the two of us--  my mom and dad, my brother, me, and then the guy we call our second brother, who's about 10 years older than 5:00me, maybe little bit more, 15 years older than me. So the five of us always moved to together. We were very close, very close. My favorite thing about my family is that we fight a lot, that's not my favorite, we fight a lot but we get over it fast. We could fight about whether it's a Badger football game or who knows what it is and literally moments later be talking about something else and there's no grudges like it just uh… That's my mom included, she may fight more than anybody. We argue is probably the better word but we really have a great ability of not taking anything personal but expressing your opinion.

JW: So after you guys settled in Oconomowoc were you and your family active in the community?

LV: More so just in sports. We and my brother played a lot sports in high school and youth sports and things like that. I wouldn't say we were active in like 6:00anything community service wise.

JW: Do you have a favorite grade or teacher that you remember.

LV: Yeah I have a teacher that saved my life, her name is Bard Ward she was a high school teacher and she worked in the LD Center (learning disability) it is called the CMC in Oconomowoc. I was "diagnosed" whatever that means with a learning disability when I was a kid so I was in there a lot. I wasn't also on the best behavior and she definitely straightened me out. I owe her a lot I'm very close to her. She moved to Arizona so I'm not as close as I liked to be but she is an awesome lady.

JW: Do you have a least favorite that you remember?

LV: Oh geez that's a great question. Least favorite teacher god that's a good 7:00question. You know what probably did but I think now with coaching, not that I'm a teacher but it's like teaching, you realize that a lot of times it wasn't necessarily their fault. I don't have one that stands out that I think man that person I just did not like. Either I blocked it out of my memory or what. You know there were a couple that I didn't mix with but not one that I can sort out exactly.

JW: What type of activities did you do outside of school growing up?

LV: Sports that's it. That consumed our life in my household. Baseball, basketball, football obviously, golf love to golf. Growing up we did a lot sports in the front yard, basketball. It's kinda funny this is not necessarily growing up but Thanksgiving I'm not going to be down there because of the game 8:00here but ever thanksgiving for as long as I remember basketball in my parents' driveway. Getting after it usually ending in some sort of scuffle. We have been that my whole life. When I was a kid in Oconomowoc we had a basketball hoop in my driveway and multiple times the cops would come to tell us to stop because it was too late. So we built an indoor kid hoop in the garage and it hung from the rafters, clear everything out. We would play basketball in this garage, it was just a normal sized 2 car garage with crap everywhere. We would play basketball in this thing until 2 o'clock in the morning just throwing each other against the garage doors. Sports consumed our lives.

JW: When did you first start playing football?

LV: 8th grade was my first year of tackle football. I think I might played some flag and stuff when I was little younger. 8th grade was when I started playing football.

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JW: What position did you play?

LV: Tight end and backup quarterback. In my freshman year I moved to left tackle and that was the only position I ever played after that.

JW: Was there a moment when you realized football would be a sport you dedicate most of your life to?

LV: Yeah probably, well there was a moment when I realized I wanted to. My uncle is a very successful high school coach in Cudahy, Wisconsin, which down in the Milwaukee area as well. When I was 14, he won a state championship and I remember following that team and being around. Realizing that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to coach and be around it. It made me love the game. When I started playing it was a match made in heaven.

JW: Did the rest of the family share that kind of dedication to football.

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LV: Oh yeah. I was just saying to somebody there is this little spot up there that they sit and they have been sitting up there since 1998 the same group people. My aunt and uncle, my mom and dad, brother is not able to come as much since he moved down to Florida. It's just crazy to think the amount of games that these people have seen there. In high school the same thing. I have pretty much had the same group of people come almost every game I have been a part of whether it is player or coach.

JW: How did your high school do when you were playing there?

LV: We were okay. My senior year we went to the first round of the playoffs, I think we were 2nd in conference, lost to Middleton. We were an average team. Good group of guys, love the guys. But we didn't win a state championship or 11:00anything like that. We were okay, we were competitive team I'll say.

JW: What classes were you good at in high school?

LV: Like school classes?

JW: Yeah.

LV: Oh geez. Just to be honestly I wasn't really a good student. I was like a 2.3 high school student. Probably the things I was best at, besides phy-ed, were classes that you could do projects where you could be more outspoken. Some of the history stuff and social sciences you could do that kind of stuff. Our teachers did a lot of group work where we kinda interact with each other. I have never been good at classes where you have to listen to a person talk and get that information on a test. Science was always kinda interesting, I wouldn't say I was good at it, but it was interesting. Math I was okay. But English things 12:00like that, whoo, no thank you.

JW: Did your parents expect you to go to college, like did they say you have to go to college or get a job?

LV: No I probably wasn't going to go to college or I wasn't going to go to college I had no intention of going to college. I couldn't decide exactly what I wanted to do. I thought about becoming a firefighter that is the closest thing I would done. Honestly football is what got me into college. I started to get recruited for football and said okay maybe I give this a shot. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have gone.

JW: Who were you being recruited by?

LV: All the Wisconsin schools, a couple schools in Minnesota, Utah State came to talk to me about walking on, but mostly the state schools here. It came down Oshkosh or Whitewater, so those were the final two options.

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JW: What made you decide Oshkosh over Whitewater?

LV: Well the story actually is this, I pretty much had chosen Whitewater and I went there on kinda my last recruiting day. They had me meet with a lady was kinda, well she was in charge of the learning disability program. She told me that she wasn't going to allow me to play football that first year. I didn't like that. I decided to change my mind and go to Oshkosh, but I had a really good relationship with the coaches here. And then really I didn't have that much of a choice, I probably never was really going to end up at Whitewater. My uncle played here, actually two of my uncles played here, I had a cousin who played, my grandparents actually moved back up from Milwaukee that moved up here, I was born here. All those things factored in. I had another aunt who actually still lives here and an uncle who lives here. Although I never knew growing up, 14:00Oshkosh was kinda a home away from home and now it is my home, but I didn't know all those connections were going to bring me back here. I had hardly ever came up here when I was not in college, when I was in high school and grade school I hardly ever came here. But just so happened kinda when I came here there were other people who were just moving here as well. It just kinda created a connection from that standpoint.

JW: What was the reputation of UWO the school itself when you came here?

LV: Well it wasn't called UWO, it was called UW zero. Like a lot of people-- It was a party school. The interesting thing about Oshkosh compared to a lot of the other Wisconsin state schools, besides Madison, is there is a city and community here. So it is not a suitcase college, kids don't go there for the week, go home for the weekend. A lot of kids stay which can create the party scene. That was kinda the image of it, I think it has changed quite a bit, that was kinda the image of go to Oshkosh for the fun. Maybe not the best image socially, I think 15:00changed quite a bit but that's what it was.

JW: Did the party school aspect help you decide to come here at all?

LV: That's a good question. Actually not really, no. I was never really a huge party guy, not saying I didn't go to parties, but I was never a huge party guy so that didn't necessarily influence me in a negative or positive way.

JW: Did you have a plan at all for a major because I know you said you weren't thinking about going to college until football became a plan?

LV: Yeah well I decided I wanted to be a football coach. I thought the best way to do that was to become a high school or a teacher. So I actually went to elementary ed first. Me and Coach (Jay) Ottow because me and Coach Ottow are from the same hometown. We were best friends since 5th grade actually. Both of 16:00us I think were elementary ed teachers. I went through a semester of that, maybe a year, knew it wasn't going to be right, academically I knew it wasn't going to be a good fit I'll say it that way. Then I switched gears to try and go into phy-ed, that's really what I loved doing. But some of those science classes just weren't fitting for me. Then I switched from phy-ed to exercise science, then I tried a semester of phycology. Then I decide to get my degree in history. I thought I had it figured out, but I definitely didn't.

JW: Having all those majors can lead to seven years of college?

LV:  Absolutely can, absolutely can. (Laughing)

JW: What made decide on history?

LV: I guess there are a couple things. Just being 100% brutally honest it was the quickest way to get my degree. At that time I had taking enough classes that 17:00was the fastest avenue. The other thing that made history kinda--I have always kinda like history a little bit, especially US history it is interesting. The interest level was kinda there, kinda there I wouldn't say that I am a history buff, but it is kinda there. The last thing is that I always felt like in history they can't trick you. You know in math class they can put together this problems where you have to figure them out, or science. I just feel history the facts are the facts. You study those facts and you can get your grades. That's kinda what I found, probably why I chose it.

JW: What do you remember about your first couple of days on campus?

LV: Well, my first couple of days were with the football team, right, because I can here in August camp. I distinctly remember being in Gruenhagen Hall, just like the guys are still now, and going through the first meetings, just like we 18:00do now. And going back to the dorm room and going into the bathroom sitting into a toilet stall. I was literally sitting there going I'm going home, I can't do this. This doesn't feel right. I didn't know a soul on the team, which a lot of the guys are in that situation, and was I just like I don't know if this going to happen. And then literally in that instance, which was about a four minute window, I yelled at myself internal. I think the number one reason why I never left was because when I was a kid I moved around so much so I just dealt with it. Probably within a day I was comfortable. Just like most guy the first couple, for me the first, I was like man I don't know about this. So, I remember that and I just remember how interesting it was to see so many people from so 19:00many different places, so many different backgrounds. There were guys on the team that I would never had conversations with in my hometown. My hometown isn't very diverse, there was more diversity on this team than there was in my hometown. It was really just a neat cultural thing which I was okay with and I was excited about.

JW: What about your first couple of days of classes?

LV: I think I remember this, I remember that no one cared if you went or not. Which I thought was crazy because that doesn't happen in high school. I actually have always done a good job for not being a great student I have done a great job of going to class. I think my upbringing is if you are supposed to do something, just go do it whether you want to or not. Now did I always pay the best attention in class? No. I remember being there and thinking to myself, man 20:00this stuff is hard. I don't know how I am going to figure this stuff out. And people are answering questions and I'm like how the people know this stuff. I probably didn't prepare myself the best, nobody's fault but my own, I probably didn't prepare myself in grade school, in middle school, in high school to be a successful college student. That is something I didn't know, my parents didn't go to college, I think my family didn't really know they just said get through high school because you got to. I think going forward something I am going to help my kids with is realizing how important it is to learn now to help them later. And you can see it, and I remember seeing it in college you could tell the kids that were prepared to be student and the ones that weren't. And I wasn't.

JW: Do you remember who your first roommate was?

LV: Yeah Coach Ottow. Me and Jay have been together since 5th grade. I will 21:00never forget we were playing cribbage in class like during a recess time. I was talking trash as normal. He actually, the little bugger that he is, reached across the table and gave me a little shot. I chased him around the room and I wanted to kill the kid. Then I said I like this guy. From that day on we were inseparable. He was at my house almost every single day or I was at his. That goes right from 5th grade to high school, went to college together, roomed together in college. Now he is working in the really world, but come back to coach with us because I asked him to. It just been a crazy relationship.

JW: Are you close with anyone else from college?

LV: From college? Well another one of my best friends from Oconomowoc came he as well and still lives in town and is in town. So I would say him, he is from high 22:00school. And then college wise, we have a group of guys that I played college football with, there is probably about ten of us that are still pretty close. We get together at least once a year if not twice. We go ice fishing together in February. We communicate through text a lot, they come to the games. My college relationships are close, my high school relationship with three other guys, one of them still lives in Oconomowoc, are really close. I have in college that I am really close with there's no question. The closer guys are the three guys from high school.

JW: Besides anything football related, what was your biggest fear transitioning from high school to college?

LV: It was 100% academically. I was afraid that I was going to fail because I 23:00didn't think I could do the books. I had no fears socially, that didn't bother me. I knew I could adapt to anything that way. I no fear of being away from my parents. That wasn't that I was worried about. I had no fear living on my own that kind of world. But I would say just thinking I would come up here, play a year of football and then have to move back home because I couldn't academically cut it. That scared me into getting it right.

JW: Do you have a favorite memory that didn't involve football?

LV: Favorite memory that didn't involve football? Man that's a good question. The Badgers won and went to the Final Four I don't even know what year. It be 24:002000, probably that right around that range the Badgers went to the Final Four. I'm obviously here at Oshkosh. So it is still involving sports, but not football. I remember sitting in my dorm room watching the game and all of sudden I hear this just tremendous amount of noise outside. I'm like what the heck is going on? There is this huge, I will use the word "riot" but it wasn't a violent riot. All the students in the whole campus are in the middle of High Street, right by Gruenhagen there on High Street. No it was Algoma. It was right on Algoma. It on Algoma right by Scott Hall. There were just thousands of people, I mean there were people climbing the poles, yelling out the window. The cops are 25:00there right by the Scott's street and they have like the whole SWAT team there. They are yelling at the crowd like if you guys don't settle down we are going tear gas you. I remember just sitting there and like by the back end just watching, watching people. I was just thinking, man we don't even go to Madison. What the heck is going on here? And I was thinking that these people will do anything just to go outside and have fun. It was just a really interesting day. I just remember that very clearly, I'm just sitting there watching the game and hearing this noise. Like what the hell is going on outside. I went out there and there's just a mass of people. I was just like man, this is crazy. I would think that that is something that is interesting, whether that is a good memory or not. Then I think working on campus. I worked for a guy named Dan Strey who runs 26:00Central Stores. They deliver the boxes on campus like UPS or FedEx boxes and things like that. I think I started that my in sophomore year. To be honest with you that's another guy I owe a lot to because he taught me to be mature. Maturer than I was I guess. Just the memories of being at that place every day between classes I would go on and work. It was great learning experience of how to work, how to have fun, and how to just survive. Those are probably my best memories.

JW: What is the dumbest thing you did during school that you would be willing to have record knowing that some of your players can hear about this too?

LV: That's a good question. The dumbest thing I ever did in college? Gosh Justin 27:00that's a tough one. I really pride myself on not doing too many dumb things to be honest with you. Probably, this is really tame, this is probably not even a good answer. Probably the time on Cherry Street, I wasn't happy with the beer selection at a house party. So I went and bought a keg of beer and rolled it down the street. So I rolled it all the way down the street and was going from party to party with my own keg. I'm not a party guy and it was about six of us doing it. That was probably one of the things that was, how dumb is this. So that was probably up there.

JW: What was probably the most random class you took in the seven years here?

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LV: Oh that's an easy one. I took a class call becoming a person.

JW: Okay

LV: Aced it too. It was just a 3 credit class I think. It was a human services class type class I think. I was really lost knowing what major I wanted obviously as you can tell. The advisor is also a football coach and he was helping me just find classes that could help my grades and figure out what I am trying to do. I took this class called becoming a person and I still not exactly sure what it was about. It was really weird but definitely the strangest class. Just having a class called becoming a person was definitely unique.

JW: What would you do in a class called becoming a person?

LV: I honestly don't even know if I remember. I think we thinks like we talked about how to handle things socially. Talked about emotions of people, we talked 29:00about kinda the study of humans. I think that was the premise of it, It has been a long time, but I can show you right on my transcript, becoming a person; A. My parents thought that was the funniest thing ever. That was the most random class I took for sure.

JW: A nice GPA booster?

LV: That was for sure.

JW: What was your favorite class you took?

LV: It was a history with Steven Kircher it was US history, I don't remember the numbers of it, but it was modern US history. It was actually one of the most challenging class I took. But it was really interesting. He was a tremendous teacher. He wasn't a guy who just stood up there and lectured he used podcast. He used videos and is wasn't like a whole hour of video, he used clips. He had interaction in class. He still teaches here, he is an extremely hard professor 30:00grade wise, I don't think I ever got an A in his classes, I probably got Bs or Cs. But I never walked into class dreading it, and I never walked out going man that was boring. He is a tremendous teacher. Then I had him for my history seminar class, which is like your end of the year project. So you have to write like a 36 page paper on a history topic. He let me chose Super Bowl III and how it was the first massive media frenzy game in NFL. And Broadway Joe and his arrogance. He didn't have to let me do that, he could have made me pick something like Watergate or who knows what. He let me kinda find something that interest me and spin it in a historical way. He is a great teacher. Besides 31:00becoming a person, that was one of my favorites.

JW: Besides football, what did you do in your free time?

LV: I played a lot of basketball on campus here. I was in that gym, I would get yelled because I was in there after workouts I go in there and play a ton. They didn't want me in there because they were I was going to get hurt or some garbage. I played a lot of basketball. I played a lot video games like most college kids. I worked, I always had jobs. I had that job at Central Stores. Honestly like I said I wasn't a guy who went a bunch at night. Maybe once every week, once every two weeks sometimes. I wouldn't go out a lot. I loved getting up in the morning at the Rec Center, it wasn't the Rec Center it was Albee Hall 32:00that's where all the basketball was played. I was doing stuff with my buddies, who all here from high school. My two buddies were from my high school. And then my wife is from my high school too and so she was here and all four of us went to college here. Then my buddy who still lives back home would come up every weekend and we just do stupid things that 18 and 20 year olds would who knows what that is. We just occupied our time that way.

JW: When you first got here what was the reputation of the football team?

LV: Very poor, very poor. Had a tremendous coach, Ron Cardo was the head coach and the nicest man, one of the nicest man I have ever met. A guy you want to model your life after, just a great person. We weren't winning and we weren't 33:00winning because kids weren't staying around. There were a lot of guys that were here for a year or two and gone. Coach Cardo just didn't have enough support to keep them around. I don't think it was anything he did in a negative way. Gary Simonson was the O-line coach, he was awesome. The defense coordinator was not awesome, he was a snake. He always created interior battles. There just wasn't a whole lot of administrative support. We had a lot of guys that were probably in the world of renegade, caused a lot issues and problems. I remember one of our first days of practice and there just being fights. We fought every day at practice, every day there was fist fights. I thought man this is what college football is about. I have to call my uncle, who is a football coach like I said 34:00and say "Hey Uncle Carey what is going on is this right?" He said no it is not right but you guys will turn it around. It was just bad, bad from that standpoint. We had guys that were close, but other guys that just it was all about saying hey I play college football, but don't have to work hard and I want to party. I hate that.

JW: What was the biggest change you notice from high school to college football?

LV: Obviously everyone would everyone would just say speed standpoint things happen a little bit faster. Probably just the size of the guys playing. You're talking about an 18 year old guy to a 22 year old guy the difference between that the strength, the size, and the speed is probably the biggest. And then probably communication. I always joke, and I say this now in recruiting, in high school game and you go out there and you could be the umpire standing behind the 35:00O and D line and you ain't going to hear the kids say hardly boo during the game. In college, there is constant communication going on both sides. Their adjustments are happening four seconds before the ball is snap. In high school, just kinda go line up and go and don't say anything. In college everything chatter and talking and I think that is a big difference.

JW: Were you involved in any of those fists during the first couple days of practice?

LV: I felt it was very necessary to make sure that, this is maybe a social thing, when everyone's bullying you, bullying everybody, you gotta make sure you stand your ground. So I made sure I did that. That answers your question. Not necessarily proud of it, but I was involved at times in things. I wanted to make 36:00sure I was respected and not respected.

JW: What were two-a-day practices like? I have never experienced one before with all these rule changes.

LV: You have experienced one I suppose. They weren't that bad I guess. I think there was so much less meeting time it was just replaced with more activity. Or lifting, we didn't lift during two-a-day practices you got up in the morning you practice. You go back, eat lunch, and come back and you practice again. When you go to a high school camp at colleges, it is very similar to that type of mentality. We probably practiced two hours each, but they were spaced out. I was so used them that this the only thing I knew. In high school we had two-a-days, in college we had two-a-days. They really weren't that bad, I think all of the 37:00coaches I played for in my life were all smart about not making it just a grind. They made sure they were smart about how much contact is happening. There were days you were going to get worn down. Probably the worst thing about it was you would have two-a-day practices, but for sure one of those practices you were doing sprints at the end of practice. Which is crazy because that is not how the football world works at all now. So you go through all of these practices and all of sudden you got to run gassers or cross fields, depending on what you call them, for another 15 minutes and you're just dog ass tired. And you're just like man I just went through two practices and now I am tried. So things have changed quite a bit since then. But that was always the worst to me, I didn't mind run, but I thought that was dumbest part of it.

JW: What was your welcome to college football moment?

38:00

LV: That's a good question. We were playing La Crosse I think it was my sophomore year. When I first got to college there was redshirting still at Division III, there isn't now. And me and two other guys didn't redshirt, so I got a chance to be right in a two deep and be around the older guys. I only played sparingly that freshman year just kinda at the end of games. I got into most games, I would say half, but most were in mop up time. In my sophomore year we were playing La Crosse, I think it was one our first conference games. La Crosse is very rich in traditions and they had some big guys. This guy put his 39:00hand down and I just see veins popping out of his foreman and I'm just like this is going to be a long day. That was kinda a moment, but I never, not that I was a great player I'm not saying that all, I never felt that in sports, especially in football I shouldn't say all sports especially in football, I never felt like I couldn't do it. I always felt like I could figure out a way. So that moment at La Crosse was like this guy is really good and it is going to be a long day. But otherwise I adapted pretty quickly.

JW: How did the team do in your years here as a player?

LV: I think we were 4 and 6 almost every year. Maybe one year we were 3 and 7. Well my senior we only played 9 games and we were 3 and 6 that year instead of 10 games because that was the 9/11 year. So when 9/11 happened they cancelled 40:00all the football games that weekend. So we were supposed play River Falls or whoever it was and that game was cancelled. It was River Falls in a nonconference game I think because that was back when you played one conference team in the nonconference so you played them. We were having a hard time finding nonconference games and we still do. That game was taken away and I hate that I hate my senior year one of my games was taken away.

JW: Do you still have a relationship with any of your teammates or coaches?

LV: Yeah the guys talk to, my college friends, are all ex-football players. We go ice fishing every year. One of them owns their own fitness club in Appleton, two of them live down in the Milwaukee working in supply chain type jobs, guy 41:00coaches football and is the athletic director up in Florence. We stay real tight. One guy lives down in Arkansas now, he is a business guy. We stayed fairly tight. Are we talking every day? No, but all always kinda know what everyone got going on. From a coaching standpoint, Gary Simonson was my O-line coach for two years in college and I was really close with him. Then he retired, when we had a coaching so I wasn't as close for a while since then I have built a relationship with him again.

JW: Was there a moment at all during college football in your playing days when you knew you wanted to be a coach?

LV: I knew it all long. I knew it all long that's one of the reasons I came here 42:00and one of the happiest things that happened here was the coaches knew I wanted to be a coach and let me hang around. So I could sit in the back of the room while they were having coaches meetings. I could sit there and learn. I could ask questions and they weren't annoyed by it. They knew that's what my goal was, no secret about it. I started prepping for that, for coaching, even when I was in high school I knew that is what I was going to do. I have always had coaches, my high school who is a tremendous coach won multiple state championships at Waukesha West, his dad was my varsity coach he was the O-line coach at the time. He always helped teach me schemes of football and make me understand the game.

JW: You said it took you seven years to graduate.

LV: Yup keep pointing that out Justin, thanks.

JW: What did you do in the years between finishing your playing career and graduating?

LV: I coached, I was a student coach like yourself. I was a student coach and I 43:00work on campus. I was here every day, every day in season, out of season. I helped out in the weight room. I never left. I was here all night. Then I started working out here I cleaned the bathrooms, I cleaned the locker rooms, I did all that stuff. I have driving down to 450 Josslyn here for a long time every day.

JW: So when you did graduate, did you plan on staying here as a coach or did you plan on going someplace?

LV: Yeah it is kinda of a really interesting, semi sad story. Well it is not semi, it is a sad story. So I was a student coach and I was helping out in the weight was a year older than me and he was hired to be our D-line coach. He was our full time coach, he was a D-line coach and was the strength coach for the 44:00football program. And I helped him. He was a left guard and I was left tackle like I said he was a year older than. Actually I think he was two years older than me now that I think about it, I think he was two years older than me. His name was Joe Mostofi and his the guy the locker room is named after, The Moose's Lounge. He was coming to pick up Coach (Pat) Cerroni to go to a football clinic down in Waukesha. And got killed in a car accident at 6 o'clock in the morning by a drunk. When he died, we need a coach. Phil Meyer at the time was the head coach and said you have been working with in the weight room and you're done with school now we going to hire you. I never interviewed, I don't have a resume. I never had to go through any of that process and basically from that moment on I have been here as a full time coach. If Joe would have not died, where would it I have ended up? I don't know, I have no idea. I wish I had him, 45:00but who knows where I would have ended up.

JW: Did you have a plan at all?

LV: Yeah I had two plans. One I was going to attempt to get into colleges as a GA things like that, that was plan number one. Plan number two was with my history degree I was going to go try and substitute, maybe get my history degree and start working in high school. Those were kinda the plans I was starting to attack, but never really had an opportunity to.

JW: Since then what positions have you held here at UWO?

LV: I was the assistant O-line coach, then I was the O-line coach, and then I was the offensive coordinator.

JW: Is there a reason you haven't left UWO to go someplace else?

LV: That's a great question. It just hasn't ever felt. I used to tell my wife 46:00all the time that I am not leaving until we win a conference championship. Then we did. She doesn't want to leave either so she said we aren't leaving now are we. And I said no I don't think so. And now it is like I want to win national championship. That doesn't mean we are going to win a national championship and I am gonna leave. It is just home it is all I have ever known from a college standpoint. I love the city, I love the university. Have I had people call and ask me about moving to different places and opportunities? Yes. Have I pursued them? Not really. I have gone on one interview because Coach Cerroni made me. I no interest in taking the job. He told it would be a good experience, I did that. I not gotten even close to saying I'm really leaving. I'm not sure why, 47:00I'm not sure if the grass is always greener. I love my job, I love the guys I coach. It just feels this is where I am supposed. And if that is going to be the rest of my life or not we will see. I don't have a resume, so that scares me I would have to make one and I don't even have one done. I don't look, there is a footballscoop is a place you can look for jobs. I don't know if I have ever gone on it besides looking for games because you can find games there too for nonconference. It just not something I need in my life right now, I need this place.

JW: Did you have different dream though when you were in high school and decided to become a head coach?

LV: You know yeah. I think I always dreamed that I would coach in front of 50,000 people every Saturday. Whether that's at Division I college or the NFL, 48:00that's every kid's dream. But I definitely don't feel unsatisfied. Is that dream dead? No not at all. Would I like to have that excitement? Yes, but with that also brings issues I'm not sure I want.  I really feel comfortable where I am at right now, but the dream always was to go as far as you possibly can there is no question about that. But I have believed in this, I always believed that if you work hard and do a good job you are going to get opportunities. People say you gotta make your own opportunities or go get them and that's true. But I think you do that by working hard at where you are at, especially at this profession. I don't need to go apply for every opening to try and move up to move up to move up. I think I can continue to do a good job and if it is my time to get a chance to go to a higher level and like the opportunity with the person 49:00that's going to do then I am going to pursue it.

JW: What type of responsibilities, outside of just coaching the players themselves, have you held with your jobs?

LV: I am responsible for events in the offseason, so event management. I do women's basketball and softball. I have to just be there at the games, I run like a little student crew we set up and tear down the facilities before and after the games. Make sure that nothing happens during the game, but it never fails something happens. Scoreboard goes out, I probably know more about basketball scoreboards and electronics than most people would imagine is even available, just from all the issues of all the things going out over the years. I am always at for sure the women's and some men's games. And then women's softball me and Coach (Craig) Stenbroten split, so I have done that. I have done the cleaning out here as a job, but I don't do that anymore. And then the 50:00strength and conditioning phase. So those are things that I have done in my current job as sub football duties.

JW: What is a difference you have noticed in coaches since you were a player to now you being one of the coaches?

LV: You mean as far as like the program or what do you mean?

JW: Just I guess the way they approach things.

LV: I think that right now the biggest difference from when I was a player here and when I am a coach here is the players enjoy each other. There isn't fights, there isn't arrogance of I am better than you because I start. There isn't arrogance I am better than you as the general students because I play, we try to not let that happen. Guys have fun with each other, it is a fun atmosphere. It 51:00was a grind to get guys to watch film or lift or things like that. Now that is just what guys do because they love it and I think that is so refreshing.

JW: Do you see a difference in just the students themselves on campus?

LV: Yeah the world is changing that is for sure. Not necessarily for in a bad way, I don't want to sound like an old crusty man or anything like that. I think that when I notice kids nowadays are more introverted and probably a lot of that has to do with the cell phone. I know a lot of people say that in the general world and people are so locked into their world that is in their cell phone. I think that people are less willing just to help somebody without getting 52:00rewarded and I think that is a society thing not just a campus thing. I someone needs help you have to pay me to help you, I can just help you. I think that's just in general, hey can you help me move. Sure what are you going to pay? Well why don't you just help me. That's something that I just noticed with kid nowadays, it is a little bit more they act like their time is the most valuable thing in the world when really relationships are.

JW: What about the campus itself what have you noticed?

LV: Oh it has changed dramatically. Just the buildings, and the creativity, and the design to it. I think it has always been a nice campus, I always liked the way the campus has looked. I think it is one of the thing Chancellor Wells did, Chancellor Leavitt does a lot of great things too, but Chancellor Wells did a nice job giving it a facelift and making it look newer.

53:00

JW: As a coach one of your jobs is trying to recruit high school players to not only play football here, but be a student here.

LV: Yup.

JW: How do you try to sell a student to come here?

LV: That word relationships again. I tell kids all the time when we are meeting with them it is not about the fancy turf we have, or meeting room, or the wonderful business buildings. Those are all great things it is really about the people there. The coaches and players and the relationships that they are going to build with those people and have great trust with. I think that is the number one thing we sell kids on and I don't even like the word sell. We tell kids about… We don't to sell a kid we want a kid to decide Oshkosh because it is the right fit. Not because I slicked my hair back and I gotta buy this used car. 54:00It is just the right fit for that kid and hopefully when you get here you are going to be treated right and it is going to fit. It is not because we convinced you it is going to fit, it is going to be because it does fit.

JW: What would you say is the reputation of the school now? Is it still UW zero?

LV: I don't think so, no. I think that there is a lot more honor to say that you got a degree from Oshkosh. I think there is a lot more respect from outside of the people who went to school here. I think it is still is a fun college as far as people going out and having fun. And I still think kids come here to have fun on weekends and things like that from other colleges, so we do have that dynamic. I think it is more about the education piece. I think the business 55:00world, I think the exercise science degrees, and I think the nursing degrees just give the school a tremendous amount of respect throughout the Midwest and the state of Wisconsin.

JW: What about the reputation of the football program?

LV: That has changed dramatically. I have been wearing Titan clothes for a long time and I go into the restaurants for a long time to eat. Just yesterday I was laughing on the inside because I was eating at, well just this week I have eating at Burger King one time. And where did I go the next time? Where was I? It doesn't even matter. Both times the last two meals I have eating out the people working say, "Oh you coach at Oshkosh that is so cool. You guys are doing a great job and I am excited to come to the game on Saturday". Before if I wore a Titan shirt no one would say boo to me. Just the community sees it and 56:00respects it, and loves try to support. Even when we go into high schools I don't have to tell the secretaries where I am from. They see the titan head and they know hey that's Oshkosh, you guys had a good year. I think it has changed 180 degrees as far as the way people look at it.

JW: What do you think led to that change of the reputation?

LV: From a football standpoint obviously winning. But how do you get there? I think it is just the players just believing in a mission. Winning, but the little things. When we go to a restaurant, we clean up. When we go on the road, we clean up the locker room. When we went to River Falls we asked the lady the 57:00lady if we can get a broom and dustpan the coaches so we can clean up the locker room. The lady was just shocked by that. And we have been doing that for years. When we go into places or hotels we leave and people are like wow, you guys are the most respectful group we have had. Then that person can go to someone else in their community and say wow. Oshkosh was here and there were tremendous as far as being there as a team. And that just keeps expanding. I think it is neat.

JW: So you have spent almost half your life here at UWO, now you are raising your family here in Oshkosh. What made that so special to you?

LV: What made being here special?

JW: Yeah

LV: I what makes Oshkosh special right now in my family life is my kids love it. If I told my kids that I wasn't going to coach at Oshkosh anymore they might 58:00literally kill me. They love it. My daughter just woke me up this morning to tell me she hung a picture of a Titan football field with all kinds of words. It was really a neat art project that she did. She knows the player, they both know the players. My kids are probably Titan Football's biggest fans and if I were to take that from them they would be crushed. I think is really neat, I never envisioned that. That something I never even thought about. I never envisioned that being such a special thing for them. My oldest daughter is telling me what we are ranked, I don't even know how she knows how to get on the website. My youngest is just sad as can be when a kid gets hurt. When CJ Blackburn got hurt she was just depressed. They live and breathe it. They love it and that is just 59:00really neat. Again I never even thought about that.

JW: What advice would you give to anyone looking to be successful at anything they do at UWO?

LV: I think the biggest thing is just, you know it is probably a pretty board thing, but work hard. One of the coaches that coached he taught me some things to do and some things not to do. He was the head coach at the time, I was helping him shovel rocks at his house. He asked if I could help him, so I go help. This is right after my senior year, and I was just about to coach, but hadn't started yet. I had a pickup truck and I'm shoveling them of and said hey Coach Meyer what do you expect from me in this coaching thing. He said coaching is 100% what you put, whatever you put in, you will get out. I have never 60:00forgotten that and I think that is the best advice I can give to the guys. If you work hard and put a lot into it, it is amazing what it can do for you as a person. If you kinda half ass it and just do it, it is just going to be there. But if you go all the way in and give it everything you got, the sport can really change your life.

JW: So is there is anything else you would want to talk about your experience at UWO? Any stories you have thought of?

LV: You have definitely taking me memory lane a little bit. But no, I think I am good right now. I don't think there is anything else I have. Just I think what is really neat for me, maybe this is the last thing for me, I have been able to say see connections through Ron Cardo, Phil Meyer, Pat Cerroni are three different coaches here and I have lived through all of them. I have lived 61:00through them as if I am 90 years old. I have been through all of them and I have seen how the program has changed through those things. I have played with guys in the 90s and I have coached guys in the 2000s and now we are in 2016 I am coaching guys. I have seen so many different players and kids coming in and out these doors and it just surreal to me when I see one of them out in the real world be extremely successful. It makes you just so happy. But then what is crazy, kinda the point of this, what is crazy no matter what they are doing in the real world these guys from 98 to now as soon as they walk back into this facility it's like boom they are back to normal. I think that is really neat. You can go off do your own thing in your life, kids, jobs. Some of these guys are making lots of money, having huge responsibilities at their businesses. And 62:00they come back here, it's just like it was in 2000 when they came back and acting the same. This place has a way of keeping the kid inside of you, or the young man at least inside of you. It is amazing watching guys come back and revert right back to their college mentality.

JW: Thank you for your time.

LV: Yup, thank you.

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