Coach Choss calls it a career

Jim Chossek coached championship football teams at Port High and Homestead
Ozaukee Press staff

Jim Chossek went out on top.

The Hall of Fame assistant football coach who helped guide Port Washington High School to its first state championship and Homestead to four titles won’t be on the sideline again this fall.

Chossek turned 70 and said it was time to call it a career. He coached 44 of the last 47 years, taking a break when his wife beat breast cancer.

For years, it was just Chossek and legendary head coach Al Urness on the sideline of Port High football. They racked up eight conference titles and made the state final four times.

“We didn’t need to talk much to each other,” Chossek said. “We knew what each other was thinking.”

While Urness called all the plays and handled the skilled positions and special teams, Chossek coached the offensive and defensive lines.

Urness, he said, “respected what I did and allowed me to do it.”

The pair had different styles. Al was more reserved.

“Yes, I was loud,” Chossek said with a smile. “But I mellowed. Except the last couple of years I got back into it.”

Urness was Chossek’s junior varsity coach at Port. Chossek was a 156-pound guard and linebacker — “a little slight” for those positions, he said.

After Chossek graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a teaching degree, he was hired as an elementary physical education teacher in his hometown in 1972 and coached the freshman football team.

Seven years later, Chossek joined Urness as assistant coach. They made the championship game in their first season together in 1979, losing, 33-14, to Kenosha Tremper on a frozen field at Oshkosh.

“I think back at that and I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Chossek said.

The Pirates made the final again in 1983, losing, 21-0, to Middleton.

In 1985, they  got over the hump. The Pirates beat Menomonie, 21-6, to win the championship.

Chossek said he knew that team would be good. They had everybody back from the year before that ended in a heartbreaking 6-0 playoff loss to Grafton.

The two previous title game losses helped the coaches prepare for their eventual victory.

“You have to keep it as normal as you can,” Chossek said of getting the team ready. “The practices have to be the same.”

Motivation, he said, isn’t an issue.

“The kids themselves know this is it. This is the last game.”

All his five championships were special, he said. The last four were with Homestead.

Last season, the Highlanders capped a 14-0 year with a 51-14 destruction of Brookfield Central. Chossek was the offensive line coach on a large staff.

Homestead coach Dave Keel had contacted Chossek 17 years ago and asked him to join the staff.

As offensive line coach, “Choss” as his players called him, set his priorities.

“They didn’t have to be fast. They had to be quick,” he said. “I always taught my kids to get off the ball. We always thought we could even teach the slowest kid to be successful.”

Good footwork and determination were key.

“You know where you’re going. He’s (defender) reacting,” he said.

Last year’s title was special for Chossek since the Highlanders only had one returning lineman. He took it as a challenge to develop a strong line.

He remembers the line making a statement in the chilling semifinal against Marshfield at Menasha. In 10-degree weather, the Highlanders got the ball back with six minutes left on the clock and a 12-7 lead.

They drove the field and ended the game. Marshfield never saw the ball again.

Coaching the line, he said, was about the process of moving the ball consistently. The touchdowns, Chossek said, will come.

The off tackle power play in which the halfback leads the fullback through the hole was his favorite. At Homestead, it was known as an inside trap. At Port, it was a straight dive play.

“If you could get that going, you were going to have success all night,” Chossek said.

Preparing teams changed over the years. Super 8 film projectors Chossek and Urness used gave way to VHS tapes and now digital footage.

Coaching teens, however, didn’t change as much. While Chossek would yell, he said it was with a purpose.

“It was always important to let them know why and teach them from that moment on,” he said. “To make a comment to them and not use it as a learning experience, they’re going to think the coach is just yelling at me.”

Youths’ size and strength has changed. Weight lifting, now a staple of offseason work, used to be in someone’s garage or  basement.

Offenses have changed to more spread formations and many are run out of the shotgun.

Decades ago, Port used more of the wing-T formation.

“The game was a simpler game when I was at Port,” Chossek said.

Technique has also changed. Linemen do more hand blocking now and are coached to keep their heads out of everything. Rule changes have helped the safety of the game, Chossek said.

    “It can be taught safely and played safely,” he said.

Chossek changed his teaching to adjust as time went on. His career included one year as a head coach at Port in 2001 and the team made the playoffs.

“I’m a better assistant coach,” he said.

He spent one season coaching receivers at Wisconsin Lutheran College, was offensive coordinator for one season at Whitefish Bay and enjoyed assisting his son Ben coaching at Grafton in 2010. Ben is now the New Berlin West head coach.

It was Ben who nominated his father for the Wisconsin Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Chossek was inducted in 2012.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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