Former Nebraska assistants Joe Ganz and Shawn Watson are reuniting as coaches at Northern Iowa.
The FCS school announced the hirings Tuesday evening, bringing together the pair whose careers overlapped in Lincoln for four seasons in the late 2000s. Ganz — NU’s record-setting quarterback for part of 2007 and all of 2008 — will serve as receivers coach. Watson, who was the offensive coordinator under both Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, comes on as quarterbacks coach.
“Excited and humbled to be a part of the UNI football family,” Ganz tweeted Tuesday. “Eager to get to work.”
The 34-year-old Ganz had been an assistant at Youngstown State under Pelini the previous four seasons — coaching tight ends for two years, then quarterbacks — but the staff was let go after Pelini returned to LSU as defensive coordinator. Ganz was a football intern (2010), grad manager (2011) and grad assistant (2012-14) under Pelini at Nebraska. He told The World-Herald last week that his dream is to one day be head coach of the Huskers.
Ganz ended his playing career in 2008 owning 23 NU school records, including passing yards in a game (510).
“Coach Watson was very impactful on how I was as a player and he was a major influence on how I modeled myself as a coach,” Ganz said in a press release. “As a 20-year-old kid, I felt like he cared about his players and he does everything he can to help you be the best player you can be.”
Watson was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Nebraska in 2006, then moved to offensive coordinator the next four years. He has coordinator experience at Colorado, Louisville — where he coached Teddy Bridgewater — and Pittsburgh. He spent the 2019 season as an offensive quality control coach at Georgia.
Watson, 60, said his relationship with 20-year UNI coach Mark Farley drew him to Cedar Falls.
“At this point in my career, that is what I am looking for, a place where I can make an impact and enjoy where I am working,” Watson said in the release.
UNI and Nebraska have had a variety of coaching ties through the years. Perhaps most notably, Farley gave Scott Frost his first full-time coaching job, allowing Frost to coach on the defensive side of the ball in 2007 and 2008. Current UNI assistant D.J. Vokolek is the father of Nebraska junior tight end Travis Vokolek.