Cherokee Valeria, a former college teammate of Eastern head football coach Beau Baldwin, enters his fourth season as EWU’s cornerbacks coach.
He started the 2014 season with just one experienced cornerback in D’londo Tucker, but then Tucker and two others were sidelined for the season with injuries. As a result, freshman redshirt Victor Gamboa was among the players thrust into the lineup and he earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. Eastern finished with 19 interceptions to rank fifth in FCS, and was 11th in turnovers gained with 28.
In his first two seasons as cornerbacks coach, T.J. Lee III earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was an All-American both years. Lee finished his 49-game career with 35 starts, 263 tackles (11th in school history), four interceptions, 25 passes broken up (sixth), 3 1/2 sacks and seven forced fumbles (school record). He signed a free agent contract with the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League in 2014. In addition, fellow starting cornerback Ronald Baines earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors both seasons, and backup Bo Schuetzle was a first team selection on special teams in 2013.
In each of his final two seasons, Lee’s tackles total and average per game were the best by a cornerback in the league. As a senior he had 114 overall and 7.6 per game, and as a junior he had 90 total and averaged 6.4.
A member of Central Washington University’s 1995 team which won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) football title, Valeria brought seven previous years of collegiate coaching experience to Eastern. Most recently, he coached defensive backs at Southeast Missouri State in 2011.
Valeria has had a player rank among the nation’s top 30 in interceptions in five seasons as a position coach, dating back to his two-year stint as coach at Central Washington. Including Eastern, he has coached six all-conference players at the college level. And prior to his time at EWU, he coached a pair of players who received all-region recognition and one preseason All-American.
In 2011 at SEMO, the school’s defense ranked 23rd in the FCS in passing defense, allowing just 182.7 yards per game. He also served as assistant recruiting coordinator and was the team’s pro football liaison. A year earlier and coached by 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year winner Tony Samuel, the Redhawks lost to EWU 37-17 on Dec. 4, 2010, in the first round of the FCS Playoffs at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Valeria spent the 2010 season as Director of Football Operations at Cal Poly, which joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012. He was that school’s pro liaison, and also worked with the defensive staff for the 7-4 Mustangs, who ranked 14th in FCS in rushing defense. Valeria also started the Mustang Pride program, helping Cal Poly football players reach out to the local community.
Prior to working at Cal Poly, Valeria spent three seasons as cornerbacks coach at Idaho State under John Zamberlin, a former EWU assistant and former head coach at CWU. Valeria coached D.J. Clark of the Carolina Panthers during his time with the Bengals football program. Clark earned All-Big Sky honors twice and finished third in ISU history with 15 interceptions. Valeria developed and implemented a study hall program that helped produce 17 Big Sky All-Academic players in his three seasons as academic coordinator at ISU.
Valeria was also the cornerbacks coach in 2005 and 2006 under Zamberlin at Central Washington, where Baldwin also served as an assistant coach from 1994-2002. Current Eastern defensive coordinator John Graham was on the coaching staff at Central when Valeria was there. Valeria coached with new EWU tight ends coach Brian Strandley at both ISU (2007-09) and CWU (2005).
In 2005, the Wildcats won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title after going 8-2 overall and undefeated in league play. Central Washington’s defense ranked 11th nationally in turnover margin, with both of Valeria’s cornerbacks (Brandon Kennedy and Josiah Wilfong) earning first team All-GNAC honors that year. Kennedy received third team all-region honors and finished ranked third in CWU history with 14 interceptions. Wilfong earned second team all-region honors in 2005.
Valeria has also coached in minor league professional football, including the Everett Hawks of the National Indoor Football League in 2004. He was named the 2004 Northwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year by Minor League Football News after helping lead the West Sound Saints to the Northwest Football League (NWFL) title game. In 2003, he coached the Eastside Hawks in the NWFL.
From 1998-2004, Valeria coached two seasons each at Cedarcrest and Ellensburg high schools in Washington State.
As a player, Valeria was a wide receiver at Central Washington from 1993-97, and helped lead the Wildcats to the 1995 NAIA National Championship. He graduated with a degree in biology in 1999 and the 1995 Central team was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005. Baldwin played for the Wildcats from 1990-93 before beginning his coaching career in 1994 at CWU.
A 1993 graduate of Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawaii, Valeria was born June 13, 1975 in Honolulu. His given first name is Brandon, but he goes by Cherokee because of his Native American/Italian descent. His mother is originally from Missouri and is a member of the Cherokee Indian tribe, and his grandfather was in the military stationed in Hawaii. He has a son named Ayosgi Uwasa (which means “Last Warrior” in Cherokee) and a daughter named T’Kia Li (which means “Message from God”).