The Southern Miss football team has seen the highs and lows of college football. From the winless to the victorious, Southern Miss has been on a sure ride back to the top.
One coach has been on the staff since 2013, when the Golden Eagles captured their first victory in over a year.
John Wozniak, who has been at Southern Miss since former USM Head Coach Todd Monken hired him in 2013, has been around the world in college football.
Between his time at Alabama as a football analyst and at West Georgia as an offensive coordinator, Wozniak has seen almost all facets of the offensive side of the ball. He even served as a special teams coordinator in some capacities.
“You go from being promoted, and you got this football thing figured out, [too] all of a sudden, you’re not sure if you’ve got a job,” Wozniak said. “But that’s part of it and that’s what we signed up for. I’ve learned a lot and been around a lot of really good people.”
Coaching is important to Wozniak, hence the reason he has been coaching for the past 17 years. Although he has been on the sidelines himself, there is one coach that stands out to him.
“We were really close [and] I really got a lot of good memories of coach [Les] Miles,” Wozniak said. “I’m sad for him, but it’s been a great run. I hurt for him and I hurt for the players, because I know what he means in their life.”
Wozniak was with coach Miles as an offensive graduate assistant in 2004 at Oklahoma State where Miles was the head coach. Then, Miles brought Wozniak along with him on the trek to LSU in 2005. Wozniak then returned to LSU in 2007 in a season where the Tigers were crowned BCS National Champions.
“You have so many good players, you don’t learn a lot as a coach,” Wozniak said. “It’s really pretty easy to coach in that sense. I learned more when I left there.”
The craziest part about Wozniak’s story may not be that he was able to capture a national championship in just his eighth year on the sideline. It may be the fact that the C-USA Western Division crown means more to him than a national championship ring.
“To be honest, winning the West division here a year ago meant more to me than winning the national title at LSU or Alabama,” Wozniak said. “Those are probably places that would have won it without me.”
Southern Miss, a mid-major program that had gone through the likes of 0-12 before Monken arrived on campus to elevate it to 9-5 in 2015, meant more to Wozniak than a major power in the college ranks.
“Being here for the process of going 0-12 to winning a division, that’s probably meant more to me as a coach,” Wozniak said. “I look on that ring and that process as more meaningful in my career. It’s about the process more than the result to me.”
Wozniak had seen it all with the Southern Miss program, even after coming after the 0-12 season. In 2013, the team had won their lone game at the end of the season. In 2014, the Golden Eagles had a good track record, finishing the season 3-9 after Nick Mullens went down with a foot injury.
“The Process,” as Wozniak calls it, is something that means a lot to him, and he doesn’t mind shying away from it when talking about bigger collegiate programs.
“It means not worrying about the outcome,” Wozniak said. “Worry about today, what can we do today to be better, be a better football team and not worrying about championships, not worrying about next week’s game, not worrying about the bye week, not being outcome or results- oriented is really what it means. It’s really about making sure you do things right.”
Although to some the emphasis on a division ring in C-USA is not as big as a national championship, Wozniak would not have it any other way.