Veteran Big Sky assistant coach Cherokee Valeria was hired as Sacramento State’s Defensive Passing Game Coordinator and Secondary Coach in February of 2019.
Valeria recently completed his seventh season at Eastern Washington where he served as the team’s cornerbacks coach and was also the recruiting coordinator for his final three years. Since joining the EWU staff in 2012, Valeria coached 10 cornerbacks to all-Big Sky honors. Among those honored were Josh Lewis who was an honorable mention selection in 2017 before earning second team accolades in 2018.
In Valeria’s first two seasons as cornerbacks coach, T.J. Lee III earned first team all-Big Sky honors and was an All-American both years. Lee finished his 49-game career with 35 starts, 263 tackles, four interceptions, 25 pass breakups, 3.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Following his collegiate career, he went on to sign a contract with the B.C. 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 2016, Nzuzi Webster was a third-team all-Big Sky honoree. That season, Eastern finished third in the FCS in turnovers gained with 31. That total included 10 takeaways by cornerbacks as Valeria’s group combined for seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
In his seven seasons with EWU, Valeria helped guide the Eagles to five NCAA FCS Playoff appearances. Eastern Washington won at least one playoff game in each of those seasons, advancing to the quarterfinals in 2014, the semifinals in 2012, 2013 and 2016 and the FCS Championship game in 2018. Part of the team’s success can directly be attributed to Valeria who spearheaded EWU’s recruiting efforts. The 2017 recruiting class for the Eagles was ranked third in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision by 247 Sports (133rd overall at the Division I level), and the 2018 class was in the top 10 in FCS (136th overall).
Valeria was an assistant coach at Southeast Missouri in 2011 when 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. He served as the director of football operations, assisted the defensive staff and was the pro liaison at Cal Poly in 2010. That season, the Mustangs ranked 14th in the FCS in rush defense. He also started the Mustang Pride program, helping Cal Poly football players reach out to the local community.
Valeria’s first stint in the Big Sky came in at Idaho State from 2007-10. With the Bengals, he coach D.J. Clark to pair of all-Big Sky awards. Clark finished his career ranked third in ISU history with 15 interceptions and went on to be a member of the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. Valeria also developed and implemented a study hall program that helped produce 17 Big Sky all-academic selections in his three seasons.
From 2005-06, Valeria coached cornerbacks at Central Washington. The Wildcats won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title during his first season with an 8-2 overall mark and an undefeated record in league games. 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.
He and his wife, Mindy, were married in July of 2017. He has two sons (Cameron and Ayosgi Uwasa) and a daughter (T’Kia Li).