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Alumnus Jeff Choate coaching for Florida Gators

IMG 0947Photo courtesy of UF Communications. University of Montana Western alumnus Jeff Choate was hired as the University of Florida special teams’ coordinator and outside linebackers coach beginning in April 2013.

Choate earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, Social Science Broadfield from Montana Western in 1993. He also played linebacker and defensive end for the Bulldog football team in addition to assisting as a linebacker coach while he was an undergraduate at UMW.

Choate’s career quickly advanced after graduating from Montana Western, and it was not long before he was regarded as one of the nation’s premier special teams coaches, which is why the 42-year old St. Maries, Idaho native now finds himself coaching on one of the most elite college football programs in the nation.

From Montana Western, Choate headed back to Idaho to serve as the head football coach at Challis High School. In 1996, he moved to the larger Twin Falls High School as the defensive coordinator. In 1997, Choate became the head coach at Post Falls High School before transitioning to a graduate assistant at Utah State University in 2002. He became the special teams coordinator at Utah State in 2003.

“I don’t ever want to get complacent or comfortable,” Choate said.

In 2005, Choate moved east to join Eastern Illinois University as the special teams coordinator. In 2006, he returned west to become the special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Boise State University. He eventually also coached linebackers and nickelbacks at Boise State until 2012 when he became the linebackers coach at Washington State.

In early 2013, Choate jumped at the opportunity to diversify his skill set and become the defensive coordinator at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

His time in El Paso would be short-lived, however; he was only at UTEP three months when he received a call from University of Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp.

“I was excited to call the shots on defense,” Choate said. “The decision to go to Florida was difficult because of the quality of people at UTEP. But when Florida calls it’s hard to not answer the phone.”

Ultimately, the opportunity to join the Gators was more than he could pass up. For Choate, the move was characteristic of his professional drive to continually challenge and improve himself.

“I don’t ever want to get complacent or comfortable,” he added.

Although he has come a long way from Dillon, Choate said his connection to Montana Western remains strong.

"...when I graduated [from UMW] I felt like I could compete against anybody in the job market.”

“I fell in love with the place,” Choate said of Dillon and Montana Western. “I met my wife Janet there. I was influenced by some of the best guys to come out of that program, guys like Bobby Beers, Mick Delaney and Mitch Dennehy.”

Choate said he also remembers a very special academic atmosphere at Montana Western.
Jeff Choate coaches from the sidelines at Boise State University. Photo courtesy of Boise State Media Relations.Jeff Choate coaches from the sidelines at Boise State University.
Photo courtesy of Boise State Media Relations.

 “It was very unique in that everybody I went to school with was like-minded in their education,” Choate explained. “In my program, my classmates were influenced by educators and wanted to become educators themselves. There was a camaraderie. Everybody was going through the same thing at the same time, and when I graduated I felt like I could compete against anybody in the job market.”

Choate’s spot on the sidelines at Gator football games this fall is certainly proof he is competitive in the college football coaching arena.

“Getting the call from Coach Muschamp was certainly exciting,” Choate said. “Florida is one of the top five or six programs in the country in terms of the types of opportunities it offers. Anybody in this business would like to be at this level.”

Choate is already busy on the road recruiting, and although he said the transition has been a whirlwind, a personal philosophy is serving him well.

“You don’t know when or where your opportunities are going to come from,” he said. “You just need to be willing to take that leap of faith.”

Jeff and Janet Choate live in Gainesville, Fla. with their son Jory and daughter Jacy.