Callahan Tabs Watson to Join Nebraska Staff

Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan announced on Tuesday that veteran college coach Shawn Watson has been hired as an assistant coach with the Husker program.

Watson will coach the Nebraska tight ends, filling a position that was vacated when Scott Downing left Nebraska to become the head coach at Northern Colorado. Callahan will re-assign the responsibilities of coaching the Husker specialists and recruiting coordinator, duties previously held by Downing, but that restructuring has not been finalized at this time.

Watson comes to Nebraska after seven seasons on the Colorado coaching staff, including the past six as the Buffs' offensive coordinator. Watson, has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience, including a three-year stint as the head coach at Southern Illinois from 1994 to 1996.

Callahan said Watson's background and experience make him an excellent fit to join Nebraska's offensive coaching staff.

"Coach Watson has uniquely demonstrated throughout his coaching career the ability to lead a successful offense at the Big 12 level," Callahan said. "He will serve in an assistant coach's capacity, primarily in charge of our tight ends. We are excited about Coach Watson coming to Nebraska and eager to have him be a part of our football program."

Watson and Callahan have known each other since early in their respective coaching careers, when they both served on Mike White's staff at the University of Illinois, including sharing an office for two years. Callahan was an assistant with the Illini from 1980 to 1986, while Watson was on staff from 1983 to 1986. While at Illinois, Watson first served as a graduate assistant coach in 1983 and 1984, then worked with the offensive tackles and tight ends in 1985, before serving as wide receivers coach in 1986.

The chance to work for Callahan was a major selling point to Watson in joining the Nebraska coaching staff.

"I love what is happening at Nebraska right now, and the direction the program is heading," Watson said. "I am really excited to get an opportunity to work for Coach Callahan. He has been a coaching mentor to me, and I have a lot of respect for what he has already accomplished at Nebraska and the plan he has in place for the future."

After his stay at Illinois, Watson went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was an assistant coach for seven seasons. During his stint at Miami, Watson tutored the tight ends for three years, the wide receivers for two years and served as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator in his final two seasons.

The impressive work Watson turned in at Miami led to him being named the head coach at Southern Illinois. He served in that role for three seasons from 1994 to 1996. During his three years at the helm, SIU compiled an 11-22 record, and produced 20 all-conference players. Two of his standout players included Mark Gagliano, who led the nation in punting in 1996, and tight end Damon Jones, who was drafted in the fifth round by Jacksonville in the 1997 NFL Draft.

Watson left Southern Illinois to take a position as the quarterbacks coach on Gary Barnett's Northwestern staff. After two seasons in Evanston, Watson followed Barnett to Colorado, beginning with the 1999 season. After one season as quarterbacks coach, Watson was promoted to offensive coordinator before the 2000 campaign and held that position for each of the last six years.

Under Watson, Colorado's version of the West Coast Offense showed its flexibility and the ability to adapt to the Buffs' offensive talent. Colorado ranked 20th nationally in total offense in 2001, at 434.4 yards per game, and was only the third team in CU history to average both 200 yards rushing and passing. After relying on a ground-oriented attack in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 Buffs featured a prolific passing attack, ranking 18th nationally at 279.3 yards per game. Colorado's 2004 team produced a 1,000-yard rusher and a 2,000-yard passer for just the second time in school history.

This past season, Colorado senior quarterback Joel Klatt re-wrote the CU record book under Watson's guidance. Klatt finished his Buff career as the holder of 44 school records, including most career pass completions, attempts and passing yards.

Watson began his collegiate playing career at Illinois in 1978, but transferred to Southern Illinois in 1979 and played two seasons with the Salukis as a safety.

Watson Background

Born: Sept. 21, 1959, in Carbondale, Ill.

Family: Wife, Anita; Children, Amber (25), Aaron (19) and Adam (17)

Education: Southern Illinois, bachelor's in health education, 1982; High School: Carterville (Ill.) High School

Coaching Experience: 1982, Southern Illinois (graduate assistant coach); 1983-84, Illinois (graduate assistant coach); 1985, Illinois (assistant coach/tight ends and offensive tackles); 1986, Illinois (assistant coach/wide receivers); 1987-89, Miami (Ohio) University (assistant coach/tight ends); 1990-91, Miami (assistant coach/wide receivers), 1992-93 Miami (assistant coach/quarterbacks, recruiting coordinator); 1994-96, Southern Illinois (head coach); 1997-98, Northwestern (assistant coach/quarterbacks); 1999, Colorado (assistant coach/quarterbacks); 2000-2005, Colorado (assistant coach/offensive coordinator, quarterbacks).

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