When he steps onto the field at Tucker Stadium, new Tennessee Tech quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall will return to the scene of some his greatest triumphs.
As a prep standout at Brentwood Academy, Oatsvall led the Eagles to a pair of DII-AA state titles on that field in 2015 and 2016, and each in crazy fashion—a 56-55 double-overtime shootout in Oatsvall’s junior season that saw the signal-caller account for four touchdowns, more than 400 yards total offense and the title-clinching two-point conversion.
As a senior, he was somehow even better on the big stage—356 yards through the air, another 142 on the ground and four total touchdowns, including the game-winning rushing score with 25 seconds to play.
The good times in Cookeville continued during Oatsvall’s freshman season at Austin Peay, when the man who would eventually earn Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year scored twice—once rushing, once receiving—in a 35-28 win that kicked off a season-ending three-game winning streak, one that Oatsvall still believes should have been enough to earn the 8-4 Governors a playoff berth.
So to say there’s history for the newest Golden Eagle on the turf at Tucker Stadium is an understatement. And after a year in Memphis following his transfer from Austin Peay, Oatsvall is excited to be back in the midstate, back in the OVC and back, in a tremendous twist of fate, with the offensive coordinator who helped make his first Austin Peay season such a success in Wes Satterfield, who came to the Golden Eagles after three seasons at Richmond.
“Being reunited with him, in a system I ran for two years, is ideal,” Oatsvall said. “The connection for us has been great since 2017 at Austin Peay. It was like all the puzzle pieces started coming together and I’m so excited to be here.”
“Jeremiah is familiar with what we’re doing and I have a good understanding of what he does well,” Satterfield said. “It’s impressive how much remembers [of the system] and how easy that fit has been. We have common ground and common experiences we can refer back to and I can translate things that are new for him and build on some of the good coaching he’s experienced in other places and other times.”
Much has changed for Oatsvall since that 2017 season. In 2018, he threw for more than 1,600 yards, ran for more than 500 and accounted for 26 total touchdowns, but the Govs fell to 5-6 on the season.
He played fantastically to begin the 2019 campaign but a devastating season-ending injury robbed him of the final 13 games of a season that saw the Govs win the OVC and make a deep run in the FCS Playoffs—an experience he appreciates for what it taught him about the cost of taking the step from good to great, as a player and program.
“I was fortunate enough to be part of the 2019 team that won a title and I have an idea of what it takes, work-wise, to be a championship team,” he said. “We [Tennessee Tech] have a long way to go but the pieces are there.”
He returned for the truncated fall of 2020 and started three games for the Govs. By this point, with another coaching change on the horizon, Oatsvall would be under his fourth head coach in Clarksville, in his fourth system. So much had changed.
It was, frankly, time for a change of scenery.
Oatsvall’s transfer to Memphis, where he was asked to learn multiple positions at different times but did not see action, led to a season that could have frustrated many players. He had been The Man for so long, and at Memphis he was one of the guys. There’s little worth reporting on his time in the Bluff City—he built strength, worked hard and stayed patient. He was ready should he be called on.
“Sometimes things don’t turn out how you expect them to,” he said of his time in Memphis. “Sometimes, things just don’t work out.”
What he has in Cookeville is familiar. It’s a coach who knows him, a system he’s comfortable with, a league he’s had success in. What he has is a recipe for success.
And a quarterback room looking for guidance from a guy who knows what he’s doing in Satterfield’s system.
“[We’ve] got a lot of good, young quarterbacks here,” Oatsvall said. “They needed a mature guy who has played ball before to help mold these young guys, who are going to be very good. To say that it all worked out perfectly is an understatement.”
They’ve got weapons too, a fact Satterfield brings up when discussing the similarities of taking over the offense for Tennessee Tech from when he took over for Austin Peay in 2016.
“We had some all-conference caliber players on the team [at Austin Peay], but we had to develop them and get some things going in the right direction,” Satterfield said. “We have to do a good job [at Tennessee Tech] to put together a good plan, give guys the opportunity to make big plays for us. We can make some hay, we can move the football and put up some points with the guys we have here.”
Oatsvall will have a treasure trove of tools to play with as a Golden Eagle. David Gist led Tennessee Tech in rushing in 2019. Kevin Chandler (Air Force) and Raekwon Heath (Western Carolina) transferred in with pedigrees indicating a bevy of talent to be unlocked. Metrius Fleming was an All-OVC talent before injury sidetracked his season a year ago. Quinton Cross and Tanner Shiver have flashed plenty of potential.
Oatsvall’s job is twofold—put those guys in position to succeed and help them get acclimated to Satterfield’s system. Doing both will help him build trust with his new teammates.
“Earning the trust is going to be huge,” he said. “Being familiar with the system opens lanes of communication for guys to come me and ask questions and we can build trust through open communication.”
Nothing is guaranteed, which Oatsvall’s experience as a Division I athlete has certainly taught him. But there’s a little nugget of kismet remaining, a bit of fate he hopes to fulfill that stretches back to the early days of his collegiate career.
Something that, if he and the Golden Eagles shine on the field, he believes will help bring his career full-circle.
“My sophomore year [of college], I’m at a camp at Austin Peay,” he begins his story. “A guy comes up to me and shakes my hand and says, ‘You don’t know who I am. My name is Sonny DeFillipis and I’m the only player in Austin Peay history to win OVC Player of the Year.’ He asked for my address and sent me his plaque and said he wanted me to send it back once I won OVC Player of the Year.
“It hit me pretty strong. I still have that plaque. It’s sitting up right here with me and I look at it when I get up every morning, his OVC Player of the Year plaque, and I use it as motivation. If we’re going to be good, I have to work as hard as I can to be the best I can be.
"That’s the full circle that hit me, that maybe there’s a chance that we’re successful as a team and I’m successful as a part of that. Maybe I can get that Player of the Year honor and send his back to him and write him a note thanking him in the belief he had in me. I want him to know I never forgot about that and I appreciated the belief—and I want to be able to give him his trophy back because I got mine.”
His final collegiate campaign will take place on the same field of so many of Jeremiah Oatsvall’s greatest athletic memories. Why not go ahead and add a few more to the ledger?