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A passion for football

Behrendt celebrates a Blizzard touchdown during Green Bay’s game versus Sioux Falls on April 21. Matt Karweick photo

By Mallory Allen

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – For more than two decades, Matt Behrendt’s life has revolved around one thing: football.

From joining his first tackle team in third grade, to three National Championship victories at UW-Whitewater, to playing and coaching at the professional level, Behrendt calls this sport “a huge love of my life.”

Over the years, his football career made many stops all across the country, but Behrendt’s winding road has led him back to Green Bay — the city he now proudly calls home — as a coach for the team whose uniform he once wore.

Three championships

Born and raised in the small Chicago suburb of Westchester, Behrendt became a football junkie when he was just eight years old, playing for his local Pop Warner team.

“On the first day of practice, our coach asked who wanted to be the team’s quarterback and I raised my hand,” Behrendt recalled. “The coach said, ‘Cool, you can do it!’ and from there, it all worked out.”

After graduating from Nazareth Academy in 2011, Behrendt moved two hours north to play collegiate football at UW-Whitewater, where he became good friends with future Packers wide receiver Jake Kumerow.

“I know it sounds cliché, but those were the greatest four years of my life,” Behrendt said. “I had a few opportunities to go Division I-AA or Division II, but I tell people all the time that choosing UW-Whitewater was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

As a freshman, Behrendt was part of a squad that won the NCAA Division III Football Championship, although he only saw the field in one game that season.

“Then my sophomore year, I was the back-up to a different quarterback, and I didn’t start until the end of the season. We ended up having a really bad year — one of the worst seasons in Whitewater history — and missed the playoffs. So when I became the starting quarterback the following year, everyone thought the Whitewater dynasty was over,” Behrendt explained.

But he proved all the doubters wrong, leading the Warhawks to back-to-back undefeated seasons and national championship victories in 2013 and 2014. Behrendt was honored as the Stagg Bowl Most Outstanding Player after both wins and named the WIAC Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, along with earning Division III All-American honors.

“That was pretty surreal. Coming out on top like that two years in a row meant so much,” Behrendt said. “I was really lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to play for such a great program, for so many great coaches, alongside so many great players.”

The next step

Following his success at UW-Whitewater, Behrendt was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings for rookie mini-camp, but ultimately did not receive a contract.

Nothing panned out when he took part in the Chicago Bears’ pro day either.

As a result, Behrendt shifted his attention from the NFL to the IFL (Indoor Football League), making his professional debut with the Colorado Ice at the end of the 2015 season.

He then returned to his adoptive home state of Wisconsin after being signed by the Green Bay Blizzard and served as the team’s starting quarterback for the next two years.

Behrendt was a two-time IFL Player of the Week in 2016 and led the league in touchdown passes.

However, an ACL tear three-quarters of the way through the 2017 season forced Behrendt onto injured reserve.

“I loved it,” Behrendt said of his time playing for the Blizzard. “It was a great experience and I’m so thankful for it.”

He bounced back in 2019, making his IFL comeback with the Tucson Sugar Skulls, but it wasn’t long before Behrendt ended up back in Green Bay — just not in the way he expected.

Player turned coach

“When I played for the Blizzard, Coach [Corey] Roberson was an assistant coach, so he knew my football IQ and strengths as an offensive player. Once he got the head coaching job, he tried to get me to be his quarterback, but I told him I’d retired from football,” Behrendt said.

“Then he asked me if I’d consider coaching with him instead. I thought about it for a few days, called him back, and told him, ‘Hell yeah, I’m in.’ And just like that, I was onto the next chapter in my life.”

Behrendt is now in his third season as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Blizzard, an opportunity he doesn’t take for granted.

“Being here means a lot to me. It’s definitely special to come back to coach for your former team,” he said. “I’m trying to do all I can to bring success to Green Bay, because this city and organization truly deserve it. The Blizzard is one of the few teams in the IFL who really does it the right way, for the players and the community.”

“When you think of coaches, most of them are usually father figures to their players. But Coach Matt is like the cool big brother,” said Shaq Curenton, a Blizzard wide receiver in his second year under Behrendt’s offense. Curenton also played alongside Behrendt for the Sugar Skulls in 2019 during Behrendt’s final season as a quarterback.

“Coach Matt is the perfect example of cool, calm, and collected. He’s been in our shoes, so he knows the do’s and don’ts of the game. He wants us to be great, and he does everything he can to help us be great,” Curenton continued. “That’s why we respect him so much and go so hard for him each week.”

Looking ahead

Along with the title of “Coach” comes another new role Behrendt has embraced with open arms: Dad.

He and his fiancée, Katie, welcomed their first child on May 1 — a boy they named Quinten.

His initials? QB.

“I would love for him to play someday. It’s my passion; my whole life revolves around football, and he’s going to grow up around the game. Watching him on a football field would be a very proud moment for me,” Behrendt said.

Although the third grader who fell in love with football is now 30 years old, his goal has remained the same: make it to the highest level possible.

“Playing in the NFL has been my dream since I was a little boy, but coaching for an NFL team would be the next best thing. It may seem impossible, and I don’t know how or when I’ll get there, but the Blizzard has been an amazing stepping stone for me,” Behrendt said.

“I love this city and this organization, and I’m so glad I get to call it home.”

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