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Wozniak ’99 Credits Knox After Receiving Major Coaching Award

John Wozniak ’99 has carved an impressive path in the world of coaching, demonstrating resilience, adaptability, and a passion for the game. After years of coaching, his dedication to the sport paid off in 2024 after being named National & Big 12 Running Backs Coach of The Year.

Wozniak humbly attributes his success to the players he coached along the way. His Knox College experience, marked by small class sizes and a personal approach to education, played a crucial role in shaping his individuality. Over the years, he has come to appreciate the lessons learned at Knox, emphasizing the transferability of grit and resilience to coaching.

Wozniak's journey at Knox College began in the fall of 1995 under the mentorship of Andy Gibbons, the former head coach of Prairie Fire Football. A thoughtful letter from Coach Gibbons sparked his interest in visiting campus. Wozniak made the trip from Milwaukee to Galesburg, unsure of what to expect. Upon arrival, he says he was struck by the genuine interest shown by staff during the visit, coupled with conversations with key figures like Randy Oberembt ’76 and Harley Knosher. 

During his time as a student at Knox, Wozniak made a mark on the football field, playing as a quarterback in his first two years before transitioning to a receiver in his junior year and returning to the quarterback position in his senior year. He also contributed to the winter club volleyball team to keep active during the football off-season. 

While his original intention was to become a high school PE teacher and football coach, Wozniak ended up majoring in physics, guided by Chair & Professor of Physics Tom Moses. The connection between coaching and physics became apparent to Wozniak, as football intricacies aligned with these mathematical principles and have continued to be useful to this day.

“Coaching and math go well together,” Wozniak said. “Football is a game of movement, collisions, and leverage. Understanding those concepts works well when applying it to the field.” 

Following graduation, Wozniak utilized a connection through Coach Gibbons that led him to Germany to play for a team in the GFL (German Football League). He played during the summer and returned to the U.S. in the fall when he landed his first coaching job back with Knox.

Wozniak continued coaching throughout his career, venturing into the NCAA, holding positions at schools like Oklahoma State, LSU, Georgia Southern, Montana State, Memphis, University of West Georgia, Alabama, and Southern Miss. Despite facing constant change and contemplating leaving coaching at times, Wozniak's perseverance paid off when he was offered the role of Oklahoma State University running backs coach, a position he has now held since 2017.

He points to the lessons learned at Knox, which continue to influence his coaching philosophy, emphasizing the value of relationships, fighting through adversity, and the pursuit of goals. If not for that fateful invitation to visit campus, he says he isn’t sure he’d be in this position today.

“A buddy told me, and I still believe it, that coaching is only something you do if you can’t see yourself doing something else,” Wozniak said. “I can’t imagine not going to Knox College. Thank God I did.” 

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024