Jonathan Decoster is just 33 years old but he's almost a decade removed from what he describes as a "mid-life crisis."
Decoster, who starred as a tackle at the University of Louisiana from 2007-2010, was two years into his career as a IT project manager in southern Louisiana when he had an epiphany. He was envious of his former teammate, Brad Bustle, who was working as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech, and missed everything about the game he loved so much. He had to find a way back into the locker room.
"I had no passion for what I was doing," Decoster said. "I missed football."
Soon thereafter, Decoster heard from his former offensive line coach, Ron Hudson, who had an opportunity for him as a graduate assistant at the University of Nevada. It was a ground-level opportunity for Decoster to get back on the football field and back into a line of work he could find new ways to love every day he got out of bed.
Eight years, multiple steps up the ladder and a national championship later, Decoster is set to take on his first NFL coaching opportunity with the Browns. After a one-year stint as Old Dominion's tight ends coach, Decoster is Cleveland's new offensive quality control coach.
Decoster replaces Seitu Smith, who left to become the running backs coach at Yale University. He's the only new coach on Cleveland's 2021 staff, which is set to come back in full after its strong debut together in 2020.
"I'm very excited and very fortunate," Decoster said. "This is a unique opportunity to join an NFL organization, but especially the Browns and what they're doing over here. They're building something special. Getting to work with some pretty famous offensive minds in Coach Stefanski and Coach Callahan as well, it's an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
Decoster comes to Cleveland after a unique, one-year stint at Old Dominion University, where he served as the team's tight ends coach. Old Dominion did not play in any games because of the COVID-19 pandemic but the team went through a fall practice period that was similar to spring football.
"It was really different," Decoster said. "We installed our offense and defense and had the kids build confidence in themselves and the system. It was the first time ever we signed a recruiting class where you don't go out and don't see the kids at all. It was really unique and it made you a better coach because you had to install and learn and learn with your players over Zoom."
Decoster coached alongside a number of current Browns, including LB Jacob Phillips, CB Greedy Williams and S Grant Delpit, during a three-year stint as a graduate assistant at LSU from 2017-19. Decoster worked closely with the offensive line during his first season and then shifted to tight ends for 2018-19. He helped develop future NFL tight ends Foster Moreau (fourth round, 2019), Stephen Sullivan (seventh round, 2020) and Thaddeus Moss (undrafted free agent), who set the LSU single-season record for receptions (47) and receiving yards (570) by a tight end.
The Tigers, of course, ran the table in 2019 and won a national championship in dominant fashion.
"I was there when we lost to Troy and I was there when we won the national championship. Every year was a growing experience for me," Decoster said. "We were around some really good talent and changed our offense a little bit in 2019 and it was a catalyst for an amazing season."
In his first of two years at Nevada, Decoster worked closely with G Joel Bitonio, whose strong senior season helped him become a second-round pick with the Browns in 2014. Decoster will work closely with Bitonio, the rest of the Browns' offensive line, tight ends and more as he digs into a new job in Cleveland, where he plans to "work, grind and learn as much as I can from everybody."
"With this organization, the sky is the limit and I think the fact no coach left this offseason is unique, not only in the NFL but college, too," Decoster said. "I think that goes into the vision they have and a culture they have over here."
Jonathan Decoster's Coaching Background:
2013-14: University of Nevada, graduate assistant offensive line coach
2015-16: West Virginia State University, offensive line coach/recruiting coordinator
2017-19: Louisiana State University, graduate assistant tight ends coach
2020: Old Dominion University, tight ends coach
2021-present: Cleveland Browns, offensive quality control coach