Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Otten was small but mighty for Cavaliers
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Standing 5-5 and just a hair over 150 pounds, Charles "Chip" Otten didn't exactly fit the physical mold of an all-star high school quarterback.
As a junior in 1976 however, the pint-sized speedster had a knack for making defensive linemen twice his size humorously look like they were chasing a butterfly whenever he carried the pigskin.
That season, in fact, Otten and the Cavalier faithful had quite a few chuckles as Coldwater ended the campaign 10-0 and became the first unbeaten Midwest Athletic Conference school since Parkway accomplished the feat four years earlier.
"I played in a couple of games at quarterback when I was a sophomore after our regular starter was hurt and I also played special teams, so heading into my junior season, I felt very comfortable," explained Otten. "I really tried to go the extra length to prove myself because I didn't want anyone to think that I was the quarterback because my dad was the coach," he continued, referring to his father Barney, who owns Coldwater football's highest winning percentage as a head coach since the MAC formed in 1973.
"I absolutely loved playing for my dad, though - he gave me a lot of confidence and always made sports fun for me and for the players he coached," added Otten.
His playing days under his dad were short-lived though, as prior to the start of Chip's senior campaign in 1977, Barney stepped down after three seasons and an overall record of 26-4. Although the Cavaliers slipped to 8-2 in Gabby Wilker's first season at the helm, their 6-1 finish in the league awarded them a tie for the conference crown with St. Henry - Coldwater's third piece of the title in as many years.
"Coaching your own son is a wonderful experience," explained the elder Otten. "I moved here to coach in 1974 and the next year, my family joined me from Kettering. I wanted to be very careful with Chip being a transfer and also the coach's son. He was strictly junior varsity as a sophomore and then the opportunity came for him to play quarterback near the end of the season. He did very well the rest of that year and of course again the next."
Although he had twenty-plus games under his belt at quarterback, Otten's outstanding running abilities were what helped him elevate his game to the collegiate level, where he lettered at tailback for four years at Bowling Green State University. He originally walked on at the Mid-American Conference school in the spring, but within a few months he was enjoying his first of four years with a full scholarship.
"After high school I knew I wanted to keep playing, but being only 5-6 and 160 pounds at the time, no one really recruited me. My older siblings had gone to Bowling Green and a good friend of mine from junior high was heading there on a football scholarship," Otten pointed out. "My dad sent their staff some film and my friend also helped me to get noticed which eventually earned me a shot, and I stuck around there for four years."
When his senior season rolled around, the jack-of-all-trades was utilized as a tailback, receiver, and a punt and kick returner. He finished his career with 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards rushing, as well as 60 receptions and close to 90 total kick and punt returns. In his role as a "slash" athlete, Otten was also the holder on extra points and field goals and threw a pair of halfback passes for touchdowns.
In his final year, he was named Second Team All-Mid American Conference and twice earned the conference's academic honors. His final performance was also his most precious in the 1982 California Bowl, where the Falcons fell by one point to the Fresno State Bulldogs. In the tight battle, Otten scampered for 131 yards, caught 11 passes, and scored a touchdown, earning him selection as the Offensive Player of the Game.
"I told Chip that if he wanted to play football that he was going to have to continue to work hard because at the college level, his size was definitely a disadvantage," his father recalled. "When he had the opportunity to walk on at Bowling Green, it was an interesting situation. He arrived in camp, and was about seventh on the list of tailbacks. Eventually he worked his way up the depth chart and ended up making a career of it there."
Following college, Otten pursued his father's coaching footsteps and now is enjoying his 27th season on the gridiron sidelines. His career has been dotted with stints at the college level as well as high school, including six years as the head coach for the Middletown Middies. Eight years ago, Otten returned to his alma mater where he coaches centers and defensive ends for John Reed's Coldwater Cavaliers.
He and his wife, Diane, enjoy spending what free time they have with their four children. Samantha is a sophomore at Ball State, while their sons Brady (senior), Troy (sophomore), and Drew (eighth grade) all play football in the Coldwater program.
"Today I am very fortunate - I have an awesome wife and great kids," complimented Otten. "I teach at Coldwater and love it, and I have the opportunity to coach with an outstanding staff and players."
Aside of football, Otten and his boys also find a common bond on the golf course, where he openly admits that his athleticism isn't exactly what it was on the football field.
"Having three boys, we have a natural foursome when it comes to golf and we get out whenever we can," he said. "None of us are all that great, but we do have a lot of fun!"
Last winter, The Daily Standard introduced a weekly series entitled, "Passport to History" in which correspondent Robb Hemmelgarn reflects on various athletic-related events from the rich history of the Grand Lake area. The weekly feature, now called "One More Curtain Call," includes stories pertaining to players, games and seasons from history in relation to the current sports season. It runs on Thursdays from now until summer. If you would like to submit story ideas, contact Hemmelgarn at dailystandardsports at yahoo dot com.