OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — UW Oshkosh will begin a new era of football this weekend as first-year head coach Peter Jennings coaches his first game, but there will still be a slice of the old era on the Titans sideline.
Legendary UWO quarterback Nate Wara, who played for the Titans from 2009-12, has returned to the program as an assistant coach.
Wara, who was also with UWO as a graduate assistant coach in 2013 and '14, said it all started with a text from Jennings.
"He asked me if I had any interest coming back or helping him coach; it kind of sparked my interest," Wara said. "I thought about it and I said 'why not?' I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get back here."
Most recently, Wara had been an assistant coach at Fond du Lac high school, but Oshkosh holds a special place in his heart.
In his senior year he quarterbacked his hometown school to a perfect regular season, a WIAC Championship and a Division III Final Four appearance.
He, as much as anyone, kick-started UWO's rise to the top.
"Throughout my time here - all the way back through 2009 - I've been a part of the bad and I've seen it rise up and kind of being back a part of it now, I think it's great to be a part of that," Wara said.
Jennings said UWO has watched some tape of Wara's era and, according to the new UWO coach, Wara can still sling it.
"I feel pretty confident that I have one of the better arms on staff as a former quarterback, but I can't hold a candle to Coach Wara," Jennings joked. "That thing pops out of his hand."
Unfortunately, his eligibility has long run out. But Wara's traits as a coach and his knowledge of the UWO program have helped Jennings transition into his new role.
"Having him part of the staff is awesome," Jennings said. "He has insights into the legacy and some of the things that this program is built on.
"That shows through every day in meetings and every day on the practice field," Jennings added. "We are blessed to have Nate part of the staff."
That feeling is mutual. In his short time on the job, Jennings has made quite the impression on Wara, who previously played for former Titans coach and WFCA Hall of Famer Pat Cerroni.
"He's very uptempo. He says what's on his mind. I think he does a great job getting all the kids to buy in," Wara said.
"Those kids are working really hard and busting their butts. It's just been an honor being back here and being in his presence."
Right now, Wara is the Titans tight ends coach, but he said he still sometimes works with the quarterbacks.
Down the line, the Oshkosh native has his sights set on something bigger.
"I want to be an offensive coordinator or a head coach some day," Wara said. "Just taking those stepping stones to get there and I'm just kind of waiting for my opportunity."
UW Oshkosh begins its 2022 season Saturday afternoon. The Titans host East Texas Baptist University at JJ Keller Field at Titan Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.
UWO went 6-3 last year, missing out on the Division III playoffs for the second time in three seasons. They last won a conference title in 2019.