Staff
Head Coach
Mark Speir

Mark Speir, who has spent the bulk of his collegiate coaching career at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, was named head football coach at Western Carolina University as announced by Director of Athletics Randy Eaton during a press conference held in the Ramsey Center on Dec. 22, 2011.

Speir (pronounced "spear"), who got his coaching career start at Western Carolina under former Catamount head coach Steve Hodgin from 1991-96, is the 13th head coach of the WCU football program all-time.

Since his arrival in Cullowhee, Speir has been a driving force in the revitalization of Catamount football, guiding WCU to back-to-back seven-win seasons in both 2015 and 2014, the latter its first winning record in a decade with the 7-5 finish. It was just the second finish above .500 since 2001 for the Catamounts. Speir led the Catamounts to a second-place finish in the Southern Conference in 2014, its highest finish in the final standings since 1986 -- and just the fourth runner-up finish since joining the league in 1977 -- before following it up with a third-place showing in 2015.

For their plaudits, Speir and his staff were finalists for the 2014 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award given at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.

During the off-season following the success of the 2014 season, Speir was granted a four-year contract extension which was approved by the WCU Board of Trustees in February of 2015. With the extension, Speir is under contract June of 2020.

Since taking over as head coach in 2012, 28 Catamounts have earned All-Southern Conference first-or-second team accolades while 16 have earned All-Freshman distinction. In 2014, a school-record tying 14 Catamounts received all-conference plaudits with 13 collecting honors following the successful 2015 campaign.

Also, eight players have earned Capital One All-District III selections from CoSIDA with running back Darius Ramsey garnering Academic All-America honors in 2014.

Speir's return to Cullowhee in late-2011 came after spending the nine previous seasons at Appalachian State where he was a part of three-consecutive FCS National Championships from 2005-07, serving as the program's recruiting coordinator from 2004 through 2011 while coaching the inside linebackers prior to the move. He also coached the Mountaineers' running backs (2003-04), defensive line (2005-08) and defensive ends (2009-10) while on staff at Appalachian State.

In 2009, Speir was tabbed as the NCAA Division I FCS Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The award has been handed out every year since 1997 at the five levels of football including the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), FCS, Division II and III, as well as NAIA levels.

Prior to Appalachian, Speir also made coaching stops at both at Presbyterian (1997-99) while the Blue Hose were a NCAA Division II member institution, and at Elon (2000-02) the year after the program made the transition to a NCAA Division I school.

A native of Kannapolis, N.C., Speir broke into coaching while an undergraduate at Clemson University, working as a student assistant from 1986 through 1989, helping the Tigers to three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championships during his four years. Following his graduation with a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1990, Speir landed on Hodgin's staff in Cullowhee, first working with the running backs from 1991-93, then the linebackers in 1994 before coaching the defensive line and serving as the program's recruiting coordinator from 1995-96.

Throughout his collegiate coaching career, Speir has made a name for himself through the recruiting process. He has held the title of recruiting coordinator at three NCAA FCS institutions (WCU, Elon and ASU), most recently organizing the efforts that landed Appalachian State six-consecutive crops of freshmen that have been widely considered to be among the top in NCAA Division I FCS recruiting classes and that helped the Mountaineers to three-straight national titles.

On the field, Speir has coached multiple All-Southern Conference selections. In all, he was a position coach for nine all-conference honorees that have earned the distinction 13 times in his nine seasons on staff in Boone.

Six of Speir's position players have garnered All-America honors during his tenure at ASU including the most recent recipient, linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough, who was selected to the second team by The Sports Network. Additionally, defensive ends Jabari Fletcher, Jason Hunter, Marques Murrell and Gary Tharrington and defensive tackle Anthony Williams combined for All-America honors a total of six times.

Speir is married to the former Paige Holt of Pickens, S.C., and the couple has two sons -- Zeb, who is in his second year at Appalachian State and a walk-on for the Mountaineer football team, and Jackson.

Associate Head Coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator
John Holt

John Holt joined Mark Speir’s coaching staff at Western Carolina in January of 2012 from his alma mater, Appalachian State, where he had worked the four previous seasons. Serving as the program’s offensive line coach since 2012, Holt earned his biggest promotion during the spring of 2019 as he was elevated to the role of associate head coach and co-offensive coordinator, sharing the latter role with wide receivers coach, Tyler Carlton. Together, the two will guide the high-powered Catamount offense with Holt continuing to oversee the offensive line.

Known for his work ethic and personal approach with his players, Holt worked his way into his current position after assuming the role of player personnel director in 2015 and a year later, carrying the title of offensive run game coordinator. He additionally oversees WCU’s football camps and clinics.

In his time at WCU, Holt has mentored All-Southern Conference selections along the offensive line in tackle Josh Wineberg (2014-15), center Jake Thornton (2014-15), and Zach Weeks (2017-18). He also worked with SoCon All-Freshman selections, Weeks and Nathan Dalton in 2015, and Walker Lanning (2016).

Behind WCU’s offensive line, the Catamounts had their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 as Detrez Newsome posted the fourth-best total in single-season in school history with 1,109 yards on the ground in 2015. Holt’s offensive line helped pave the way for Newsome to eclipse the 1,000- yard rushing mark he next two seasons marking the first running back in WCU history to compile three-consecutive, 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

WCU's offense produced an unprecedented fourth-consecutive, 1,000-yard rush in 2018 as QB Tyrie Adams to eclipsed the mark, leading the SoCon in rushing yards per game at 91.5 yards per game – the only player in the league to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2018.

Prior to coming to Cullowhee, Holt spent three of his four years on staff at ASU working with the Mountaineer tight ends including coaching four-time All-SoCon selection Ben Jorden during three of his four all-conference seasons.

In 2008, Holt began his coaching career by serving on head coach Jerry Moore's staff in an offensive quality control capacity. His duties included assisting the offensive staff with day-to-day non-coaching duties, specifically offensive line coach Shawn Elliott. Thanks in large part to Holt's efforts, App State's offense ranked among the nation's top 10 in scoring, rushing, pass efficiency and total offense in '08.

A native of near-by Leicester, N.C., just outside of Asheville, Holt played in 55 of ASU's 56 games during his four-year career (2004-07) including all 15 games as a senior in 2007. He served as a team captain while also earning third team All-America honors from The Sports Network as a senior. A versatile offensive lineman, he saw significant playing time at right guard and both tackle positions during his collegiate career.

The son of Michael Joe and Susah Holt, John graduated from Appalachian State in 2008. His brother, Sherman, followed him to Boone, playing for the Mountaineers from 2007-11.

Holt was married to the former Ms. Krystle Thomas of Ivanhoe, N.C., on May 23, 2015. The couple had their first child, John Thomas (JT), in April of 2019.

Assistant Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Mark Rhea

Mark Rhea came to Western Carolina in mid-March, 2010 as the defensive line coach and was promoted to the program's recruiting coordinator during the spring of 2011 by the previous WCU coaching staff. Under head coach Mark Speir, Rhea continues to hold the top recruiting position as the longest active tenured assistant coach on the Catamount football staff. After two seasons of specializing in coaching the defensive ends, Rhea resumed coaching the entire defensive line as a unit during 2016 spring drills.

Remaining on board after the coaching change in 2011, Rhea was elevated to Assistant Head Coach in late October of 2011, and then on Nov. 13, 2011, was named Interim Head Coach and led the Catamounts against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 19, 2011. During the summer of 2015, Rhea was again promoted to the Assistant Head Coach level by Speir.

During the spring of 2019, Rhea moved position groups, working with the Catamount outside linebackers.

Under the watchful eye of Rhea, three Catamount defensive linemen have garnered Southern Conference plaudits. Caleb Hawkins was a two-time All-SoCon selection in 2014 and 2015, leading all of WCU's defensive linemen with 54 tackles including 27 solo stops and 11.0 TFL in 2014. Tackle Derrick Davis earned SoCon All-Freshman team honors in 2014 with Nate Link collecting All-SoCon recognition following the 2017 season.

Rhea, who played and coached at the University of Toledo, joined the Catamount coaching staff from Division II-member, Tiffin University.

A four-year starter at the Univ. of Toledo from 1988-91, Rhea got his start on the Rockets' staff serving as an administrative assistant and graduate assistant from 1992-94. He has served as a defensive line coach at four different institutions and most recently was the defensive coordinator last season at Tiffin University in Ohio.

Rhea coached for six seasons at Idaho State before returning to his alma mater. During his tenure at Idaho State, he coached a defensive line that had all four linemen earn All-Big Sky honors four years in a row and earned a combined 22 all-conference honors, including eight First Team All-Big Sky picks and seven Academic All-Big Sky selections.

Prior to his stint at Idaho State, Rhea was on the staff at Austin Peay and before that he coached at the United State Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

In his career, Rhea has mentored three players who have gone on to the professional ranks. In 2006, he coached J.P. Bekasiak, who later became a first-round pick of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Rhea also coached two players at Idaho State who went on to the NFL in Jared Allen with the Minnesota Vikings and Jeff Charleston who played for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints last season.

Allen, a two-time All-American and winner of the Buck Buchanan Award as the I-AA Defensive Player of the Year in 2003, was drafted in the fourth round by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 2004. Charleston had 19 tackles for loss and was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year in the Big Sky in 2005. He signed as a free agent out of college with Houston in 2006.

After earning his bachelor's degree in athletic administration from Toledo in 1992, Rhea assisted the Rockets' coaching staff before working two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. The Beavercreek, Ohio, native had a standout playing career at Toledo that saw him named the team's outstanding defensive lineman as a senior and play a pivotal role on the Rockets' 1990 Mid-America Conference (MAC) co-championship team.

Rhea and his wife Stacey have a daughter, Madeline.

Assistant Coach/Defensive Coordinator
John Wiley

John Wiley enters his third season as the defensive coordinator at Western Carolina, bringing his aggressive 3-4 defensive schematic and over 30 years of coaching experience to Cullowhee in December 2016. Wiley worked with WCU head coach Mark Speir at Appalachian State from 2003-09, five of those seasons on the defensive side of the football.

Wiley returned to the familiar mountains of western North Carolina after spending six seasons in the eastern part of the state at East Carolina. Before the move, he accepted an associate head coaching position at Texas State under former App State player, TSU head coach Everett Withers. Wiley resigned his position at Texas State prior to the 2016 season citing personal and family reasons, allowing him to join the Catamount staff.

Over his first two seasons, the Catamount defense has averaged over 20 takeaways including 23 turnovers that led to 89 points in the program’s seven-win season in 2017 as Wiley had an immediate impact for the resurgent Catamounts. Three WCU defenders landed on the 2017 All-Southern Conference team. A year later, linebacker Mitchell Chancey led the SoCon in tackles with 135 total stops, averaging 12.3 tackles per game in garnering All-SoCon honors.

During six seasons as the associate head and linebackers coach at East Carolina, Wiley was a part of helping guide the Pirates to four bowl game appearances and helped transform ECU’s defense into one of the nation’s top 40 units in two of his final three years. He was instrumental in producing six all-conference players including three first-team selections, a Freshman All-American, and a conference freshman of the year.

In 2014, the Pirates ranked among the top 11 in rushing defense nationally after allowing just 111.8 yards per game and giving up less than 100 yards over seven games. ECU was among the top 13 defenses in third-down percentage at 34.2 percent, 37th in passing efficiency (120.21), and total defense after giving up 367.3 yards per game.

A year earlier, ECU ranked among the nation’s leading rush defenses and led the conference after surrendering just 116.7 yards per game and less than 100 yards in six games.

Wiley’s All-Conference USA selections Bigger and Kyle Tudor also played pivotal parts in helping ECU stand among the country’s Top 20 units in red-zone efficiency defense with a No. 19 rating in 2013.

ECU was among the top 45 teams in rushing defenses in 2012 after improving 60 spots from the previous year. His linebackers also recorded four of the team’s 12 forced fumbles and Bigger was the team’s third-leading tackler with 77 stops. He also netted five batted passes -- the highest total for any member of the front seven in 2012.

In 2011, Jeremy Grove earned Freshman All-America honors from four publications and was selected the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.1 tackles per game and leading the Pirates with 122 stops.

Wiley directed walk-on Dustin Lineback to a 119-tackle season in 2010 after inheriting the position group. He also helped the Pirates implement a 3-4 defensive scheme that helped ECU to jump 64 places in the FBS total defense rankings after allowing 102.5 fewer yards than the 2010 campaign.

Wiley made the move to East Carolina after an illustrious stint as a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Appalachian State for a total of 19 years. There, he was the architect of the Mountaineer defense that played a key role in Appalachian State’s three NCAA FCS National Championships, and a total of seven Southern Conference championships under head coach Jerry Moore. App State also appeared in the FCS Playoffs 12 times during Wiley’s stay in Boone where he coached seven All-America defensive backs and 87 All-Southern Conference performers including 30 all-conference players in the secondary.

Five players who Wiley coached at App went on to be selected in the NFL Draft including Keith Collins (1990, San Diego Chargers), Gary Dandridge (1992, Seattle Seahawks), Matt Stevens (1996, Buffalo Bills), Corey Hall (2001, Atlanta Falcons), and Corey Lynch (2008, Cincinnati Bengals). Lynch also set the school’s career records with 31 interceptions and 52 passes defended under his tutelage. In 2008, Mark LeGree earned Consensus All-Southern Conference honors after breaking a 35 year-old record and tied the SoCon single-season record with 10 interceptions as a sophomore first-year starter. LeGree was later drafted by Seattle in 2011.

Wiley is married to the former Kelly Ponder of Raleigh, who has a national championship of her own. She was a four-year member of the Appalachian State cheerleading squad, and was a part of the Mountaineer’s 1989 UCA national championship team. The couple has three children – daughter Megan and sons Jaxon and Lucas.

Assistant Coach
Arketa Banks

A Western Carolina assistant football coach from 2009-12, Arketa Banks has returned to Mark Speir's Catamount football coaching staff. Banks, who was initially retained by Speir upon his hire in 2011, returns to Cullowhee after spending the 2018 season on staff at Gardner-Webb where he coached the running backs and tight ends, continuing that role in his new appointment.

“We’re thrilled to have Arketa and his family back as a part of our Catamount football family,” said Speir on the addition of Banks to his coaching staff. “He is an outstanding recruiter, football coach, and mentor for our young men. He understands our culture and will promote the vision of our football program and this university. We are so happy that he is back in the Purple & Gold.”

Banks – who Speir coached as a player during three seasons at Elon – returns to again lead the Catamount running backs and will add the tight ends. He coached that same position for three of his previous four seasons on the WCU sidelines, mentoring 2009 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in Catamount RB Michael Johnson. During his first stint in Cullowhee, he also served as the team’s community service liaison and assistant director of camps and clinics.

During his first stop in Cullowhee, three Catamount running backs collected SoCon All-Freshman honors including Johnson, Shaun Warren (2011) and Darius Ramsey (2012). Ramsey went on to collect first-team Academic All-America honors in 2014. WCU’s offensive scoring on the ground increased from seven TDs in Banks’ second season in 2010 to a dozen in 2011 and 22 in 2012 – which was the most since WCU rushed for 25 TDs in 2001.

After leaving WCU, Banks coached at NCAA Division II powerhouse Lenoir-Rhyne for five seasons from 2013-17 where he was the slotbacks coach in 2013-2014 and wide receivers’ coach from 2015-17. Under his tutelage during the 2014 season, the Bears’ slotbacks rushed for a school and D-II national-record 416.2 yards per game. Seniors, Chris Robinson and Jarrod Spears earned all-league and all-region honors under Banks’ watchful eye as Robinson rushed for 1,418 yards, the most by an L-R back in 20 years, earning NCAA Division II All-American honors. The Bears went 11-1 in 2014 and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the nation.

While at Lenoir-Rhyne, Banks also served as the Director of High School Relations and In-State Recruiting for the Bears.

A heralded defensive back and track & field standout, Banks got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Warren County High School in Warrenton, N.C., in 2004 as the junior varsity head coach, taking over at the varsity level in 2005. It was in the latter year that he posted a 6-5 record and mentored QB Victor Hunt to the NCC Player of the Year honor. He also coached prep football at Wakefield High in Raleigh in 2006-07, coaching defensive backs and quarterbacks.

He earned his first collegiate coaching position at Brevard College in 2008 coaching the defensive secondary and was the program’s recruiting coordinator before making his first move to Cullowhee prior to the 2009 season.

A 2003 graduate of Elon, Banks was a four-year letter and an All-Big South Conference performer on the football gridiron, collecting second-team plaudits as a receiver and a kick returner in 2002. During his career with the then option-oriented Phoenix between 1999 and 2002, Banks helped establish the program as one of the top independents in NCAA Division FCS before Elon’s first season in the Big South in 2002, receiving team MVP honors in 2001 after catching 22 passes for an average of 24.5 yards per reception with six touchdowns.

Going into his senior year at Elon, The Sports Network (now STATS FCS) deemed Banks the “fifth-best kick returner” in NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) football after earning All-Independent as a return specialist in 2001. During his career, he led Elon in receiving from 2000-2002, amassing 1,371 yards on 54 catches with 17 receiving touchdowns.

Banks and his wife, the former Ms. Latora Pettaway of Henderson, N.C., were married during the summer of 2009. The couple has three children; Shymia, Kimora, and Arketa, II.

Assistant Coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator
Tyler Carlton

Tyler Carlton joined Western Carolina's coaching staff in July, 2014 as the wide receivers coach. Carlton came to Cullowhee from head coach Mark Speir's alma mater, Clemson, where he spent four seasons under renowned offensive coordinator, Chad Morris.

During the off-season prior to the 2019 season, Carlton was promoted to co-Offensive Coordinator alongside offensive line coach, John Holt. Together, the two will guide the potent Catamount offensive unit with Carlton continuing his oversight of the wide receivers.

In 2018, three different wide receivers amassed 550+ receiving yards in the high-powered Catamount offense, seeing the emergence of Daquan Patten and Nate Mullen who combined for seven receiving touchdowns. Mullen led the way with 55 receptions. Adding in redshirt senior WR Jordan Mathis, WCU had three receivers average over 50+ receiving yards per game in 2018.

Carlton mentored WCU's all-time career receptions leader, Terryon Robinson (2013-17), who flourished under Carlton's leadership. He finished his playing career with a benchmark-setting 230 catches while also ranking fifth with both 2,839 career receiving yards and 19 career touchdowns. A two-time All-Southern Conference selection, Robinson also posted the fourth-best single-season with 71 catches in 2016.

Another former standout WR Spearman Robinson also benefited from Carlton’s guidance, finishing with eight career 100-yard receiving games and 17 touchdowns, a mark that ranks him eighth in the program record books, with Steffon Hill also collecting all-conference plaudits in 2017.

Serving as an offensive analyst at Clemson, Calrton's duties included assisting the offensive staff on a day-to-day basis while also aiding in video breakdown of opponents. Carlton also served as a video graduate assistant at Clemson, helping the Tigers to 42 victories, four top-25 final rankings and an ACC Championship in 2011. He was also a part of four bowl appearances with the Tigers including a pair of Orange Bowls in both 2012 and defeating Ohio State in 2014, as well as wins over LSU in the 2012 Chic-Fila-A Bowl and over Oklahoma in the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.

Originally from Sapulpa, Okla., Carlton played collegiately at Tulsa as both a wide receiver and punter from 2004-06 where he was a member of the 2005 Conference USA championship squad. He also earned a bowl ring as the Golden Hurricanes won the Liberty Bowl.

A 2009 graduate of Tulsa, earning a degree in exercise science, Carlton got his coaching start at Tulsa as a student assistant in 2008-09, progressing to offensive quality control assistant in 2010 under Morris. While on staff, he was a part of two bowl appearances including a win over Ball State in the 2008 GMAC Bowl and defeating Hawaii in the 2010 Hawaii Bowl.

All told, during his career as an assistant on a collegiate staff, Carlton has been a part of six, 10-win seasons.

Carlton was married to the former Lisa Giordano in June, 2013; the couple has two sons, Tennyson (aka “Deuce”) and Tucker.

Assistant Coach
Phillip Ely

Phillip Ely joined the Catamount football coaching staff in mid-March 2019 as the program’s next quarterbacks’ coach. Ely comes to Cullowhee after two years as the quarterback's coach and a co-offensive coordinator at Tiffin University.

Ely earned his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, first on the defensive side of the ball with the secondary before moving back to offense where he mentored with the Cyclones’ quarterbacks and wide receivers. From there, Ely landed the quarterbacks coach and co-coordinator role at Tiffin University that also included play-calling duties.

In his first season at Tiffin, Ely coordinated a passing attack that featured a freshman QB in Nick Watson who went on to complete nearly 61-percent of his passes for 2,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last season, Tiffin averaged 30.4 points and 271.2 yards passing per game, throwing for just shy of 3,000 yards collectively as a team. Watson improved to 65-percent passing with 23 TD strikes against just eight interceptions, collecting All-Great Midwest Conference honors.

In 2018, Tiffin opened the year with nine consecutive wins and its highest national ranking at No. 15, but just missed the postseason following a pair of consecutive losses in the final two weeks of the season.

A two-time graduate of the University of Toledo, Ely was a two-year starter on a pair of bowl championship teams in the Rockets’ fast-tempo, spread offense. Twice elected team captain, Ely threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions in 2015, collecting All-Mid-American Conference honors. He guided the Rockets to an 11-2 record including wins over No. 12 Arkansas and No. 21 Temple, the latter victory coming in the Boca Raton Bowl in which he collected MVP honors. He parlayed that season into an invite to NFL preseason camps with both the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spring of 2016.

Ely began his collegiate career at the University of Alabama as a highly touted recruit from Plant High in Tampa, Fla., where he played in three state championships, winning a pair of Florida state titles. He was additionally dubbed a U.S. Army All-American as a prep. Ely played in seven games in 2012 for the Crimson Tide while serving as the back-up to A.J. McCarron for two seasons.

Assistant Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
Keith Henry

Veteran assistant coach Keith Henry joined the Catamount football coaching staff in mid-March 2019 prior to the start of spring drills. Henry, who will coach the nickelbacks and serve as special teams coordinator, has nearly three decades of coaching experience at all levels of football including 18 seasons at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Henry joins the WCU coaching staff after most recently working at Charlotte with stops at his alma mater, Catawba College (2013-16) for four seasons, and Wake Forest (2001-2011), where he was a part of five different postseason bowl games over 11 years.

Henry served as assistant head coach at Catawba for four seasons and was the Indians’ defensive coordinator while coaching the defensive backs. Back in 2015, Catawba’s defense produced All-America linebacker Kyle Kitchens, who was named South Atlantic Conference (SAC) and region Defensive Player of the Year as the Indians won the SAC championship. The Henry-led defense forced 28 takeaways including a league-leading 11 interceptions while also ranking second in the NCAA Division II ranks with a mere 15.8 points per game allowed.

Prior to returning to his alma mater, Henry spent 17 years on the coaching staff of Jim Grobe between both Ohio University and Wake Forest. He was a six-year assistant at OU under Grobe, making the move to Winston-Salem with the Bobcats staff. During his 11 years at Wake Forest, Henry served as special teams coordinator in 2011 and also coached the outside linebackers, defensive ends, and defensive backs.

He helped the Demon Deacons to five bowl games while on staff including the 2007 Orange Bowl after the 2006 ACC Championship. Over a three-year stretch from 2006 through 2008, he helped Wake achieve a remarkable 28-12 record and three-consecutive bowl game appearances.

While at Ohio, Henry was a part of helping post a 27-20-1 record in the Mid-American Conference over a six-year run.

Other coaching stops in Henry’s career include a three-year stint at North Carolina A&T, a year as the defensive backs coach at Charleston Southern, and a season as a graduate assistant at Gardner-Webb. Henry also interned during the summer with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, serving as an assistant with the inside linebackers during training camp and into the preseason.

A 1989 graduate of Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., with a degree in physical education, Henry was an All-America safety, four-time All-SAC selection, and a two-year team captain that garnered the Harvey Stratton Player of the Year award. He graduated with a then-school record 398 career tackles and 20 combined interceptions. Henry went on to play professionally in the Arena Football League, spending single years as at wo-way player – wide receiver and defensive back – with the Albany Firebirds (1990) and the Charlotte Rage (1991).

Henry was a prep standout at Maiden High School and began his coaching career at Bandy’s High School after graduating from Catawba. He earned his master’s degree in athletic administration from North Carolina A&T in 1995 after spending three seasons on staff at NC A&T as the linebackers, wide receivers, and defensive backs coach during his time in Greensboro.

In 2000, Henry was inducted into the Catawba College Sports Hall of Fame and in 2001, was inducted into the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame. He also coached baseball at North Carolina A&T, winning a MEAC title and conference Coach of the Year honors in 1994.

Henry and his wife, Nicole, have four children: Kirstie Foster, K.J. Henry, Maya Henry, and Isaiah Henry as well as two grandchildren: Makhi and Malachi.

Assistant Coach/Defensive Passing Game Coordinator
Tripp Weaver

Former James Madison assistant coach, Tripp Weaver, joined the Catamount football defensive coaching staff as the defensive backs coach and the defensive passing game coordinator in March of 2018. He oversees the secondary

Weaver was a part of three-consecutive conference championship seasons including a 2015 Southern Conference championship at The Citadel and back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship teams at JMU. He was also a part of a Dukes’ football program that made consecutive appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Championship game, winning the national title in 2016.

In his first season in Cullowhee, Weaver's enthusiasm, energy, and passion for the game of football was contagious -- and resulted in a solid season for the secondary, recording seven of the team's 12 interceptions. Safety Marvin Tillman landed on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List for the top defensive player in the NCAA FCS, while freshman Ronald Kent Jr., burst onto the scene and appeared on the Jerry Rice Award Watch List given to the nation's top freshman. Both received post-season accolades including second-team All-SoCon and HERO Sports All-America for Tillman -- who went on to be invited to the Kansas City Chiefs' mini-camp -- while Kent a two-time Freshman All-America selection by Phil Steele and HERO Sports.

Combined, Weaver has seen five of his defensive backs earn All-America plaudits over the past three seasons between his last two coaching stops.

An Asheville, N.C., native and graduate of T.C. Roberson High, Weaver got his start in collegiate coaching after two and a half years as a volunteer student assistant at his alma mater, East Carolina, spending two seasons on the sidelines with the Pirates where he worked under current Western Carolina defensive coordinator, John Wiley.

He coached Robinson to All-America accolades, as the junior was named AFCA First Team All-America, Associated Press Second Team All-American and a Third Team All-American by both STATS and HERO Sports. Both Robinson and Moreland were named First Team All-CAA selections at cornerback, marking the first time in school history that JMU put two corners on an all-conference team in the same season. Miller was also First Team All-CAA punt returner and was voted CAA Special Teams Player of the Year, marking the second year in a row Weaver coached a JMU student-athlete to the award.

Weaver coached Taylor Reynolds to All-America honors, as the senior became the first JMU corner to earn the distinction since Clint Kent in 2005 and just the third corner dating back to 1994. Reynolds had two of the unit’s eight interceptions and ranked 34th in the FCS and second, in the CAA with 1.14 passes defended per contest. He paced all CAA players with 14 pass breakups. Joining Reynolds with two interceptions apiece were Jimmy Moreland, Curtis Oliver, and Rashad Robinson. Aside from Reynolds’ team-high 14 breakups, Moreland was second for JMU with nine, while Oliver tied for third with seven.

In the national championship game, Oliver came up with a key interception off the foot of a Youngstown State receiver on the opening possession of the second half. That takeaway eventually led to a JMU touchdown, giving the Dukes a 28-7 lead. Earlier in the season, Reynolds corralled an interception in the end zone with 1:22 left to preserve a seven-point lead versus William & Mary.

Prior to making the move to Harrisonburg, Va., and JMU, Weaver spent two seasons at Southern Conference-member, The Citadel (2014-15) on Mike Houston’s staff as the outside linebackers coach.

The Bulldogs’ defense showed a drastic improvement from 2014 to 2015, giving up nearly seven fewer points per game and limiting opposing offenses to 86 fewer yards, while tallying 19 more takeaways. The Citadel led the country with a school-record 515 interception return yards and five interceptions for a touchdown. It also led the SoCon and ranked third nationally with 20 interceptions, the third highest single-season total in program history, and with 31 turnovers forced. The Bulldogs also topped the SoCon passing touchdowns allowed (10), fumble recoveries (11), third-down defense (36.5%) and tackles for loss (6.5). They ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (21.8), total defense (356.2), rushing defense (157.3), and sacks (2.08).

In 2012, Weaver coached the safeties and helped mentor ECU defensive MVP Damon Magazu and Godfrey Thompson, both of whom earned All-Conference USA honors. ECU safeties accounted for more interceptions (8) than the Pirates had the year prior (5), helping the squad finish 8-5 overall and 7-1 in conference play to earn an invitation to the R&L Carriers Bowl.

Weaver is married to the former Leigh Hatcher of Asheville, N.C.

Assistant Coach
Reuben Wright

Reuben Wright joined the Western Carolina football coaching staff as the running backs coach in mid-May, 2017. During the off-season prior to the 2019 campaign, Wright returned to the defensive side of the football, assuming the role as the defensive line coach.

A veteran assistant coach with a knack for defense, Wright returns to the defensive line where he inherits a youthful - but talented - side led by Adam Henderson (28 tackles) and Ricky Palao (24 tackles).

In 2017 and 2018, Wright worked with a very talented group of running backs that included All-America tailback Detrez Newsome. He helped mentor the eventual Los Angeles Chargers signee to his third-consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season in 2017. During the 2018 season, two tailbacks in Connell Young and Donnavan Spencer split the reps, both eclipsing the 500-yard mark respectively behind 1,000-yard rushing QB Tyrie Adams. Spencer scored four TDs while Connell had five scores - two on the ground, three through the air out of the backfield.

Wright came to Cullowhee with a wealth of coaching experience including eight different stops at the high school level. He most recently served as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for a season at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, S.C. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as the head coach on the sidelines at Carolina High School and Academy in Greenville, S.C., where he mentored Zykiesis Cannon who went on to play at Louisville.

Wright's coaching stints also include serving as the assistant head football coach at Eastside High in Taylors, S.C.

Between his numerous prep stops, Wright has also coached at the collegiate level, spending two seasons at Presbyterian College where he worked primarily along the defensive line. In his first season with the Blue Hose defensive linemen, he mentored end Sherman Burnett to All-State honors. His unit ranked inside the national top 20 for defensive tackles for loss. He also helped recruit current Arizona Cardinals three-time Pro Bowl selection, Justin Bethel.

Prior to making the jump to the collegiate ranks, Wright spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Blythewood High in Blythewood, S.C., just outside of Columbia where he was also the strength and conditioning coordinator. While at Blythewood, he helped mold the Bengals in their inaugural season in 2006, helping the squad to a 14-1 overall record and the 2006 South Carolina AAA state title. Wright's defense featured all-state performer and Georgia signee, Charles White, and held opponents to just 14.7 points per game in the 2006 season.

Additional prep coaching stops in the Palmetto state include defensive coordinator at Seneca High (2004-05), and as an assistant coach at Northwestern High (2001-04) where he helped the program to a Big 16 state runner-up finish in 2001. His career started at Greer High (1994-2000) where he patrolled the sidelines for seven seasons, working alongside Glenn at both Seneca and Greer. The two helped guide the Yellow Jackets to an undefeated, 15-0, season and the AAA state championship in 1994, and two Upper-State runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2000.

Captain of the 1993 Catawba football team, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in history from the college in 1994 before earning his Master's in education from Converse College in Spartanburg. Wright is married to Ms. Dena Wright, and has two children, daughter Kennedy and son Cade.

Assistant Coach
Chris Brookshire

Chris Brookshire has an extensive resume as a coach and an educator spanning 25 years of service. A Western North Carolina native, Brookshire rejoined the WCU football coaching staff during the spring of 2019 after coaching at nearby Mars Hill University where he worked with the fullbacks and tight ends in 2018.
His first stint with the Catamount football program came as an offensive quality control role on Mark Speir’s staff in 2014 -15 before he returned to the high school coaching ranks at Smoky Mountain High in Sylva.
Brookshire played a major role in turning around Smoky Mountain’s football fortune. The Mustangs had not had a winning season in over 17 years (1999-2016) before a 7-5 mark in 2016. Over his two years at the helm, Smoky Mountain ranked among the most explosive offense in the mountains, breaking every school record in that span.
Brookshire’s coaching experience includes a head coaching stop at Erwin High in Asheville for five seasons, guiding the program to a playoff appearance in 2006 – the school’s first in a four-year span. While at Erwin, he coached WCU’s current offensive line coach, John Holt. Brookshire was also the head coach at John Battle High in Bristol, Va., in 2008.
Brookshire starred as a receiver and defensive back at Tuscola High School in Waynesville, N.C., before earning a football scholarship to Wingate. Brookshire transferred to Western Carolina where earned Academic All-Southern Conference honors in track and field as a sprinter. He graduated from WCU in 1993.
Brookshire and his wife, the former Heather Silver, have two children, Tanner and Taylor Grace.

Assistant Coach
Deane Cheatham

Deane Cheatham joined the Western Carolina defensive coaching staff in the summer of 2018 as the defensive assistant coach, working primarily with the cornerbacks.

Alongside secondary coach Tripp Weaver, Cheatham worked with Ronald Kent Jr., a two-time Freshman All-America selection (Phil Steele, HERO Sports) and Southern Conference All-Freshman defensive team honoree. Kent, who graced the Jerry Rice Award Watch List for the nation's top freshman, tallied 45 tackles and a team-best 12 pass break-ups - a mark that ranked him tied for sixth in WCU's single-season record books and the most by a Catamount since 2002.

A former All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tight end at James Madison, Cheatham came to Cullowhee after a year as a graduate assistant coach at Conference USA-member Marshall. At WCU, he will work alongside former JMU assistant coach, Tripp Weaver, in assisting with the secondary. He will also be involved in video film study, game break-down, and assisting in the press box on game days.

Cheatham spent five-years as a student-athlete at James Madison from 2011-2015, playing tight end and fullback for the Dukes’ offense. He played in 34 games during his collegiate career making 33 starts, finishing with 94 receptions for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns. He added eight rushes for 25 yards and six kick returns for 124 yards coming in his senior season in 2015.

Named a captain his senior year, Cheatham was a second-team All-CAA honoree after ranking 10th in the CAA in yards per catch (13.7), while also collecting a pair of All-State plaudits from VaSID and the Roanoke Times.

Originally from Mechanicsville, Va., Cheatham played as a prep at Hanover High in where he was a two-way starter at running back and linebacker. He was the Capital District Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2010, helping guide his high school team to its first Capital District Championship. Out of high school, he was a two-star recruit according to Rivals.com when he was signed by JMU.

Cheatham is the son of Deane (III) and Cindy Cheatham.

Assistant Coach
AL DEGRAFFENREID

Following in the footsteps of his late father – Western Carolina Hall of Famer, Al “Mutt” DeGraffenreid – Al Degraffenreid is a Catamount legacy and has been a staple around Cullowhee and WCU Athletics for much of his life.
After spending two years as a football student assistant coach, Al – a Cullowhee native and a 2017 graduate of Western Carolina with a degree in sociology – moved into the offensive quality control role entering the 2017 season. In 2019, DeGraffenreid assumed the role of assistant running backs coach. He is involved in aiding film study, game breakdowns, and assistant the offensive coaches on game days.
DeGraffenreid is also active in the social media work publicizing the Catamount football team, as well as with camps.
While an undergraduate, DeGraffenreid worked as a student manager with the Catamount men’s basketball team.
A graduate of Smoky Mountain High in Sylva, DeGraffenreid was a defensive back and wide receiver as a prep, earning an All-Appalachian Athletic Conference selection for the Mustangs in 2009. He was also part of their 2-A Western Regional runner-up basketball team. DeGraffenreid originally committed to play college football for Fayetteville State before returning to finish his degree at WCU.
DeGraffenreid’s older sister, Cetera, was a girls’ basketball standout at Smoky Mountain HS before playing collegiately at North Carolina. His mother, Pam, works on campus in Cullowhee as the supervisor of the WCU Bookstore.

Director of Football Operations
Nick Mashburn

Nick Mashburn joined the Catamount football support staff in the spring of 2019, moving into the Director of Football Operations position from across the WCU campus where he had spent a little over a year working as an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

In his current role, Mashburn manages all aspects of the team from roster maintenance to team travel including meals.

Prior to returning to his alma mater in admissions, Mashburn held a variety of positions at the middle and high school ranks. While service as the in-school suspension (ISS) coordinator at Enka Middle in Asheville, he aided the middle school football program in coaching the defensive ends and assisting with the offensive wide receivers and tight ends, while also coaching middle and distance runners for the track & field program. He then made the move to Owen Middle in Black Mountain, N.C., where he taught health and physical education while also serving as the defensive coordinator and line coach on the gridiron while continuing to work with the track & field programs, coaching the throws and jumps.

In the summer of 2017, Mashburn made the move to the high school ranks at McDowell High where he taught social studies in the classroom and worked as the defensive coordinator for the junior varsity squad while continuing to coach both the offense and defensive linemen on the football field.

Originally from Candler, N.C., Mashburn graduated from Western Carolina University, earning his B.S. in Education in May 2013, and is currently enrolled in WCU’s Masters of Sport Management. While an undergrad in Cullowhee, Mashburn held leadership positions as a resident assistant and an orientation counselor, while also serving as the vice president of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, and was involved in WCU’s University Participant Program.

Director of Scouting/Quality Control
Justin Speros

Justin Speros joined the Catamount football support staff as the Director of Scouting / Quality Control during the summer of 2019 prior to the start of fall camp.

Through his position, Speros will work extensively with the football coaching staff, director of football operations, and other football support staff with all video aspects of the football program including practice and game film, as well as film trade for scouting and recruiting. He will also assume social media roles in the promotion of the team (@CatamountsFB).

Originally from Virginia, Speros comes to Cullowhee after spending the past six months as a coaching assistant with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. In addition to his time with the Browns, Speros also interned with the Jacksonville Jaguars football operations staff during the summer of 2018.

A 2017 graduate of Clemson, Speros served as an offensive student assistant coach with the Tigers football program while an undergraduate student, parlaying that into a position as the recruiting operations assistant in January of 2018.

Speros comes from a football family. His grandfather, Leo, was a running back at Maryland in the 1950s while his brother, Jimmy, played collegiately at Richmond. His father, Jim – also a Clemson alumnus – was an assistant coach in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, serving on the staff of the 1982 championship squad under NFL and NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, and also the Buffalo Bills. A highly successful businessman, Jim went on to own a Canadian Football League team in Baltimore, Md., the Baltimore CFL Colts – later known as the Baltimore Stallions – as well as expansion into the United Football League.