WAVERLY – Wartburg College announced Thursday, July 1, the promotion of Chris Winter to head football coach upon Rick Willis‘ acceptance of the inaugural vice president role for student recruitment.
Winter becomes the 14th head coach in Wartburg football history and has been on the Knights’ coaching staff since 2005. He succeeds Willis, who is the all-time coaching wins leader and has been at the helm since 1997.
Willis will begin his VP role on Aug. 1 and will continue to serve as the director of athletics through the end of July. As the vice president for student recruitment, Willis will oversee the Admissions and Financial Aid offices, Athletic Department and the Wartburg-Waverly Sports & Wellness Center. Ryan Callahan, Wartburg’s head athletic trainer, will serve as interim athletic director.
“Chris has earned the opportunity to be Wartburg’s head football coach,” Willis said. “He is a Knight and has demonstrated an unbelievable and unwavering commitment to Wartburg and our football program for over 20 years. He has excelled in every aspect professionally and is impressive as a coach both technically and strategically. Chris is one of the very best recruiters on our campus. He builds strong relationships and cares deeply about our players and this program. I am excited to watch him lead our football program for many years to come.”
Since 2011, Winter has served as defensive coordinator and he was promoted to assistant head coach in 2013. Winter has also served as the head strength and conditioning coordinator since 2008, overseeing strength and conditioning operations for Wartburg’s 23 varsity sports and over 600 student-athletes. A 2004 Wartburg graduate, Winter was a four-year member of the football and baseball teams and 2017 Wartburg Athletics Hall of Fame inductee.
“I am extremely excited and grateful to receive the opportunity to lead the Wartburg football team. This has been a goal of mine since my coaching career started and is truly a dream come true. The experience I had as a student-athlete at Wartburg impacted the course of my life significantly, and shaped who I am today. My goal is for our football program to continue to have that same impact on our current student-athletes as well as future Knights.”
While overseeing the Wartburg defense for eight seasons, the Knights won five Iowa Conference Championships including three-straight from 2017 to 2019. The Wartburg defense led the conference in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense, and pass inefficiency at least four seasons during his tenure.
Winter’s defense has ranked among the top 25 nationally in several defensive categories, including the second most tackles for loss in 2012 and fifth most sacks in 2013. He has coached 54 All-Conference, 14 All-Region, and four All-American defensive players.
“I am sorry to no longer have Coach Willis leading our football program,” Winter said. “He has been a coach, mentor, and friend to me for 20 years of my life. The fact that he has confidence in me to lead this program is the best compliment I could receive, and I hope to uphold the standard that he has worked so hard to set during his career.”
“The foundation of our program will continue to be built on the concepts of Team and Toughness. These two principals have been a constant in the program since Coach Willis became the head coach. The success of Wartburg football has been built around individuals who are willing to put the needs of the team in front of their own, ready to do the work it takes to reach their full potential, and able to make the sacrifices it takes to consistently compete for an American Rivers Conference Championship.”
His wife, Tara, a 2001 Wartburg graduate, is the executive director of admissions and cheerleading coach at Wartburg. They reside in Waverly with their children, Emmry and Maddox.