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Joe Pawlak to coach Montana Grizzlies offensive line

Pawlak_Joe
Posted at 12:18 PM, Feb 06, 2024

(Editor's note: University of Montana news release)

MISSOULA — University of Montana head football coach Bobby Hauck announced Tuesday that Joe Pawlak has been hired to coach the Grizzly offensive line.

Pawlak (pronounced PAV-lik) comes to Montana after five seasons coaching the O-Line at North Dakota where he helped the Fighting Hawks reach the FCS playoffs four times, including a quarterfinal run in 2021.

Prior to his time at North Dakota, Pawlak was a Graduate Assistant at Iowa where he assisted in leading a Hawkeye front that won the 2016 Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in college football.

As a player he was a three-year starter and all-conference performer at Northern Illinois where he helped the Huskies win the 2011 MAC championship.

Pawlak replaces former UM O-Line coach Chad Germer who has moved on to pursue other opportunities.

“Joe is a terrific young offensive line coach. The way his lines compete really pops off the film. He is an outstanding man and mentor for our players. We are very excited to have Joe join the Griz football family,” said Hauck.

Pawlak arrived at UM on Monday and will immediately begin working with the team as it prepares for winter conditioning.

“It’s a humbling opportunity and I’m excited to be a part of the university, the community, and the Montana football tradition,” said Pawlak.

“I’m also really excited to get around the players, get to know everybody, and be part of this team. Talking to the guys early on I know we're going to be tough, smart, and physical. Those are the three traits we want to embody, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Under Pawlak, the Fighting Hawk O-Line helped produce one of the top five rushing attacks in the Missouri Valley in each of the last three full seasons, helped along by five-time All-American left tackle and fifth-round NFL Draft pick Matt Waletzko.

In 2023, UND advanced to the playoffs and earned a 49-24 home win over North Dakota State to highlight a season where the O-Line protected for quarterback Tommy Schuster, who had the fifth-best completion percentage and the seventh-best 3rd down conversion percentage in FCS football.

Pawlak’s Fighting Hawk O-Line again helped UND quarterbacks to one of the best completion percentages in the FCS at No. 11 that season. The protection up front also allowed the Hawks to find the end zone 91.5 percent of the time when in the red zone – the sixth-best conversion percentage in the nation.

The Fighting Hawks were anchored up front by two-time All-MVFC left tackle Donny Ventrelli in both those seasons, All-MVFC Newcomer Brayden Bryant in 2022, and All-MVFC Newcomer Cade Borud in 2023.

In 2021 Pawlak’s O-Line was led by Waletzko and finished as the top passing offensive line in the nation with only three sacks allowed. They also ranked at the top of the conference and inside the top-3 of the FCS with the fewest negative plays allowed. Waletzko was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round (155th overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft.

UND turned back to its dominating running ways under Pawlak in 2020, helping the squad rank inside the top half of the conference in rushing offense, time of possession, total offense, turnovers lost and passing offense. The Hawks upped their scoring as well, leading the MVFC with 29.9 points per game.

Seniors Nathan Nguon and Ryan Tobin each earned all-conference accolades, with Nguon earning All-America status from the Associated Press. Waletzko also earned an all-conference selection and entered the 2021 season as an NFL draft prospect.

In his first year coaching the offensive line at UND, Pawlak helped the offense turn to a passing attack. The Hawks broke multiple offensive passing records in the 2019 season while the offensive line surrendered only 19 sacks. The offensive line also paved the way for a rushing attack that eclipsed over 1,600 yards and 18 scores.

Prior to coming to North Dakota, Pawlak spent the previous three seasons as a graduate assistant at Iowa he assisted with the Hawkeye offense. While in Iowa City, Pawlak helped the Hawkeyes win a combined 28 games over three seasons, matching the third-best total in school history over any three-year period. He helped coach the offensive line to a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his three seasons, including a pair of backs who crossed over the 1,000-yard plateau in 2016 for the first time in school history. The Iowa offensive line earned the 2016 Joe Moore Award, which is presented to the best offensive line in college football.

Pawlak served as a graduate assistant on the Northern Illinois coaching staff for two seasons before moving to Iowa. There, he helped the Huskies earn back-to-back bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015, including six straight appearances in the Mid-American Conference championship game.

A three-year starter at NIU, Pawlak started the final 41 games of his career and appeared in 52 total games. As a member of the 2011 MAC championship team, he was part of an offensive line that allowed just 12 sacks to rank 10th in the nation for fewest sacks allowed as the NIU offense broke 12 single-season records led by future Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch at quarterback. Pawlak earned all-conference honors in 2010 and academic all-conference recognition in 2011.

Pawlak graduated from Northern Illinois with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 2011 and a master's degree in sport management in 2015. He also completed his master's degree in leisure and recreational sports management at Iowa in 2018. He is married to Natalie Pawlak.