Earlier this month, Gerald Chatman was in New Orleans, enjoying his new job as the defensive line coach at Tulane.
“I had my head down, working at Tulane, wasn’t looking for a job and I got a call,” he said.
Colorado had a sudden and unexpected opening on its coaching staff, called Chatman, interviewed him and offered him the job.
“I believe I’m called to coach, so wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be,” he said Monday at a CU coaches’ event held at Blake Street Tavern in Denver. “I believe that I’m called to be here.”
The 33-year-old spent last season as an analyst at LSU and new Tigers head coach Brian Kelly decided to retain Chatman for his staff this year. Then, Tulane called in January and he jumped at the chance to be an on-field coach again.
CU, meanwhile, hired Vic So’oto, who spent the past two years at Southern California, as its new defensive line coach on Dec. 30. Two weeks ago, however, So’oto, who had yet to finalize his contract with the Buffs, bolted Boulder to become the outside linebackers coach at California.
So’oto’s change of heart turned into a new opportunity for Chatman.
“This is just the next challenge in my career,” he said. “Yeah, you’re moving up the ranks (going from Tulane to CU), but I’ve had so many experiences in terms of being able to experience the high level. I’ve been in the (NFL) … and also been at the lower levels. For me, it’s just stacking up that experience and accepting the new challenges and you’re gonna grow from each step.”
Chatman said it wasn’t easy leaving Tulane because he had already started to build relationships with the players.
“We started to build a good foundation right away within two months and that’s what I plan on doing here,” he said.
Chatman didn’t waste any time in reaching out to CU’s defensive linemen.
“The first thing I did was I immediately got in contact with the players here,” he said. “I acknowledged the situation, acknowledged that, hey, there’s a coaching change, that I get it and really tried to recruit in-house first. I let the guys know that I acknowledge their situation, and that I’m eager to get to work with them and help them climb and reach that ceiling.”
Before his time at LSU, Chatman spent two seasons (2019-20) as a defensive assistant with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, working with the defensive ends and outside linebackers. He’s also been at various stops in college since starting his career in 2010.
Throughout his career, he’s learned from several respected defensive line coaches, including Ed Orgeron, Pete Jenkins, Terrell Williams and Nick Eason. At CU, he will work with defensive coordinator and long-time defensive line coach Chris Wilson.
“I think it will be great to work with him,” Chatman said. “There’s a lot of things that I could pick up from Chris, but also take it and turn it into my own style and merge it with the experiences that I have, from my planning experience and from working with different coaches.”
Through his experiences, Chatman has developed his own style.
“I coach with passion and I want my guys to play with passion,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve got some energy, but it’s passion. … It’s more a sense of urgency to get things done. It’s more a sense of urgency with how we practice how we approach everything. And it’s more of a sense of urgency to execute our technique, and execute the details and really help guys develop and learn the game through teaching them technique and fundamentals.”
Chatman will get on the field with his players for the first time when CU opens spring practice on March 30, but so far he has been impressed with the Buffs’ defensive linemen.
“What I like about them is that they all have high ceilings,” he said. “They all have a lot of potential and that’s why I coach is to maximize their potential. I like the opportunity. … So far, they’ve been engaged, they’ve been open and I can tell that there’s a hunger because of the adversity that they’ve been through with changes.”