Football Announces a Promotion and Four Additions to Coaching and Support Staff
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars

NEW YORK – Following the Lions’ best season since 1996, Columbia has named three new assistant coaches, one new staff member, and promoted one assistant from part- to full-time.

Cheston Blackshear, who served as the Lions’ tight ends coach in 2006, has been named the squad’s offensive line coach, replacing Kris Sweet, who left to become offensive line coach for the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders.

“Cheston brings a strong presence to the offensive line,” says Norries Wilson, Columbia’s Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football. “He will instill the values for what it takes to have a very good line. He knows from experience.”

Blackshear competed in four bowl games as an offensive guard at Florida, and went on to coach for the Gators and at Illinois.
William Irwin joins the Columbia staff and replaces Blackshear as coach of the tight ends. He comes to the Lions after one year at Western New England College, where he was offensive line coach, academic coordinator and assistant recruiting coordinator.

“Billy is very knowledgeable about what we’re doing offensively,” says Wilson. “He was a smart player who knew how to get us in and out of the right protections.”

As offensive line coach at Western New England, Irwin was instrumental in the creation of a new offense. He developed his own practice plans and was responsible for the breakdown of game and practice film. As the academic coordinator for the team, Irwin monitored the academic progress and success of the football student-athletes. As the assistant recruiting coordinator, Irwin was responsible for recruiting in Long Island, New Jersey, and northeast Pennsylvania. He also was in charge of organizing open houses and maintaining the recruiting database.

As an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, Irwin was a three-year starter for their first Division I-A football team, where he was a four-time student athlete award-winner for outstanding academic achievement.

Denauld Brown joins the Columbia staff as defensive line coach after helping to lead Blinn Junior College to the national JuCo title. He coached defensive line at Blinn, which posted a 12-0 record, a No. 1 junior college ranking and the 2006 national championship.

Brown attended Kutztown University, where he was an American Football Coaches Association All-American Tackle. He also was awarded the Dennis Roth Academic Scholarship and the Presidential Award for Academic Progress.


Brown then began his professional career as a free agent acquisition at defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins in the NFL. He was also selected 18th in the NFL Europe Draft by the Frankfurt Galaxy and competed for the 1999 World Bowl champion team. He returned to the United States as a free agent playing defensive tackle with the Seattle Seahawks in 1999.

Brown coached for four years in Europe before returning to the United States. He coached defensive line for the Barcelona Dragons in Spain in 2003, the Scottish Claymores in Scotland in 2004 and the Hamburg Sea Devils in Germany in both 2005 and 2006. Before his stint in Europe, Brown was a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater from 1999 to 2001 and, from 2001 through 2003, the University of Connecticut, where he coached with Wilson.

He replaces Andrew Cohen, who left to become Bucknell’s defensive coordinator.

Aaron Smith is the Lions’ new coach of wide receivers, replacing Jeff Larson, who has taken the head coaching position at Bulkley High School in Hartford, Conn. Smith comes to Columbia after one year coaching the wide receivers at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

At Coast Guard, Smith was responsible for collaborating with the offensive coordinator to design a weekly passing game plan, designing and conducting individual drills for practice, and editing and reviewing game tapes.

“Aaron possesses excellent attention to detail,” notes Wilson. “He knows our pass game and has a good work ethic.”

As an undergraduate, Smith played football at both Maryland and UConn. While competing for the Huskies, Smith was presented with two Scholar Athlete Awards: one in the fall 2005 and one in spring 2006.

Matthew Hamme joins the Columbia staff as the coordinator of video services. He comes to Morningside Heights after one year coaching outside linebackers and punt returners at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. While working at the Merchant Marine Academy, Hamme was responsible for running individual practice, assisting in weekly game planning, recruiting, and handling all video operations.

“Matt wants to get into coaching and is willing to break in by serving as our video coordinator,” Wilson says. “He has good defensive understanding.”

Hamme attended Albany, where he played quarterback for one year. After his first year, Hamme became the student assistant for defensive backs. As the student assistant, he was responsible for coordinating meetings and analyzing practice films, among other duties.

Hamme also played lacrosse at Albany for four years. His team was both the America East regular season and tournament champions. Hamme was named to the Athletic Academic Honor Roll and the American East Academic Honor Roll.