Kadeem Wise is a 2009 graduate and former football player for Berkmar High School. He is his third season as the director of football operations for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, his college alma mater. UTC is a Division I program that competes in FCS. As a player, wise was the only UTC player in school history to be named All-Southern Conference in each of his four years. Ended with 11 career interceptions.
Staff writer Taylor Denman and Wise discuss his years at Berkmar and his duties as director of football operations. He son, Jaylen, is eight years old.
TD: Can you go into detail about your responsibilities as director of football operations at UTC?
KW: As director of football operations, I’m pretty much oversight for our football team. Whether it’s travel, meals, scheduling meetings, being the liaison to various departments — whether it’s academics, marketing, accounting. Also with moving the team, I’m in charge of the budget when it comes to travel, so the hotels, the buses, the rooms. And in addition to that, I’m also the administrative assistant to the football department. That’s when it comes into play with the coaches. So, travel reimbursements and rental cars, when they’re out on the road recruiting, and anything administratively they need on a day-to-day task.
TD: As an alum of UTC, also, did you get started as a graduate assistant or an intern at some point after your football career?
KW: I actually moved back to Lawrenceville for six or seven months. Then I moved back to Chattanooga, and I was in training in the marketing department while also working in a truck-driving logistics job. I got a call from my former head coach (Russ Huesman) that the job was open. I got an interview for it and got the job starting in February of 2016. That was while I was a grad student at Southern New Hampshire University.
TD: You were able to do that while finishing your master’s degree?
TD: Can you tell me a bit about your playing years at UTC?
KW: I started playing in 2010, I was Freshman of the Year in 2010 and I went on to make the all-conference team all four years while playing. In 2013, I made the all-American team and that was also the first year that we won the SoCon championship in I think 27 years. Before arriving, one of the biggest things, when I came to this university, is I wanted to make history. I did my research on it. I knew that in the earlier years they had a bunch of success here. When I got here they were finding their way back to that success. I knew I wanted to be a part of something different and restore the glory and change the history of UTC.
TD: Did you feel like your contributions helped accomplish that?
KW: I do. I felt pretty good once I graduated, once we won the championship in 2013. In 2014 and 2015 they won the SoCon Championship back-to-back years and made the playoffs in 2014, 2015 and 2016. So I do feel like we helped restore that glory on that end during my playing years here.
TD: I’ve read you finished your career with 11 interceptions, so would you describe yourself as a ball-hawk?
KW: I would, and it’s kind of weird. My first year I had six, so I actually broke my head coach’s record. It was funny because I came in and told him, “I think I’m going to break this record, here.” And the media guys would ask him, “Are you not going to start him so he doesn’t break your record?” Then I moved from field corner to boundary corner, which is a totally different style of play. I would say ball-hawking, but they it became more man-to-man once I moved to the boundary side. That’s when I saw the interceptions decline.
TD: Is there anyone on the football staff who carried over or was on the team when you were there?
KW: I believe all the guys are gone. … When I first got here, we had a bunch of guys who were still on the staff when I played. As of now, looking down the list we don’t have anybody left.
TD: So your senior year at Berkmar was 2009?
TD: Can you describe your football experience at Berkmar? You were a standout player there on a program trying to pick itself up.
KW: We had our ups and downs. I think if you look back, there were a lot of times where we were close in games, but we couldn’t get over the hump. The crazy thing about it is, me and a bunch of the guys still talk. We had about as much talent as anybody in Georgia, we just couldn’t put it all together.
I enjoyed my time. It helped tremendously from a mental aspect. It helped us understand that, so we’re not winning games but we’re close and we started to build leadership throughout the team. There are guys there who on a daily basis I still talk to today.
TD: Were there a lot of players that went on to play in college, or were you unique in that way?
KW: A few did from that 2009 team. I know that Troy Davis is currently playing with the (Toronto) Argonauts in Canada.
TD: You had two different head coaches, right?
KW: Yeah we had Wendell Early and John Thompson during my time there.
TD: Berkmar has a head coach (Willie Gary) that helped them get their first region record in a while and their best overall record in a few years. In your opinion, what do you think Berkmar needed most to help the program get onto a winning track?
KW: I think they’re doing a good job now. The head coach there now is doing a tremendous job, as you mentioned. They got their first region win and one of the better records they’ve had in years. They’re buying into the system, which I think they’re doing. And ultimately if the community has bought into the system, I think that will help the stability. Having the players see that there’s a community that cares about them and keeps pushing for him and also having the student body showing support as well.
With Berkmar, it’s all about relationships. That’s one of the greatest things about that school. You build a lot of great relationships there with the staff and the teachers. I think that’s a big piece of it.
TD: How often do you keep up with your former teammates.
KW: We have a group chat, so messages are going on daily in there. I try to stay close, try to keep the friendship there and if there’s a chance we’ll meet in Atlanta to catch up.
TD: Do your high school friendships tell you something about how playing football can impact people off the field?
KW: It’s a game that shows you about life. It develops you in every aspect of your life. It helps you go through situations that you’ll go through in life once you start your job. There are going to be situations that you learn from football and situations that will hold true forever.
TD: Did you play other sports at Berkmar?
KW: I ran track.
TD: What events?
KW: I was in the (400-meter relay), 100 and 200.
TD: Dead sprinter, huh?
KW: Anything over 200 meters, I was done. I tried to run the 400 meters and I would come in last almost every time. I told the coach, “Anything 200 meters, I am good to go. Once I get over 200, it’s a struggle for me.”
The funny thing is, I actually made the baseball team my senior year, but I stopped to run track.