Junior Mohns is blazing his own path in football as a successful coach

Jason Mohns is proving to be a chip off the old block.

The 38-year-old son of former CFL official Greg Mohns is blazing his own path as the head coach at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. The program lost in the 2019 state final after six straight title wins.

article continues below

Heady stuff, considering hockey was Mohns's sport of choice growing up in Arizona.

"I played football when I was younger but I really got into hockey," Mohns said. "All through high school I played club hockey . . . so coaching football was never on my radar.

"I played every sport growing up, I loved to compete and was blessed to be around some awesome teams with my dad. But football wasn't my first love and it was one of those things that kind of fell into my lap."

While attending Arizona State University, Mohns worked with the city of Scottsdale and became involved in community youth sports programs, coaching girls basketball and flag football for grade 7-8 students. When many of those players went to play Pop Warner, Mohns followed as a volunteer coach.

He founded the Scottsdale Argonauts youth club (for players aged eight to 14). In 2007, he was hired as the head coach of Saguaro's freshman team.

"When they called me up out of the blue I told them I didn't think I was qualified to coach high school football at any level," Mohns said. "I'd only had fun coaching youth sports and was volunteering to coach Pop Warner and it wasn't anything I was trying to do as a career.

"I ended up taking the job and kind of caught the coaching bug. All the experiences I had with my dad . . . there was definitely something inside of me and once I started doing it I fell in love with it."

But at the expense of hockey.

"My hockey bag just officially made the move up to the attic," Mohns said. "Our program is recognized nationally and it's a year-round deal and takes up a ton of my time.

"When I have free time I try to devote it to my wife and two kids so it's hard. My buddies who I played with still play and they've been trying to get me into the old-guy leagues. I was really close but ice times are at 10-11 p.m. and I was like,' Guys, I can't do it.' I miss it like crazy . . . but I might officially be retired now."

However hockey equipment still exists at the Mohns household.

"We have hockey sticks throughout the house," he said. "My son is 16 months old and I'm teaching him how to handle a stick and we have the mini goal and nerf pucks set up."

Greg Mohns spent the better part of two decades in the CFL. He served as a player-personnel director, assistant GM and head coach with Hamilton (1991-94), Memphis (1995), Toronto (1996, 2003-09) and B.C. (1998-2000).

Mohns was also an NCAA coach and served as a scout and co-ordinator of pro scouting with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. He won two Grey Cups with Toronto ('96, '04) but died in 2012 at age 62 due to throat cancer.

Adam Rita, the longtime CFL coach/GM who worked with Greg Mohns in Toronto, Memphis and B.C., isn't surprised the junior Mohns eventually landed in football.

"I kind of had a suspicion when he named the team he organized in Arizona the Argonauts," Rita said. "I think it's no different than when your father is a carpenter and you follow in his footsteps . . . you gain an interest and expertise in something you feel comfortable with it and you move on with it.

"I can tell you his dad would certainly be proud."

Twice Jason Mohns was named the AIA Division III's top coach (2013-14). He received the '15 National Football Foundation Arizona coach of the year honour and two years later was recognized as the Arizona Cardinals outstanding high school coach.

Mohns was also a '17 finalist for the NFL's Don Shula National coaching award.

But one of Mohns's proudest accomplishments was being named Saguaro's head coach in 2012 while his father was still alive.

"Just him seeing me make that climb and get the opportunity to be the head coach at a top program, he was extremely proud of me," Mohns said. "I wish he could've been there with me on the sidelines for a game . . . but I've always known he's been with me.

"I have no doubt he's had a role in all the success I've had and everything that's happened for me."

Predictably, NCAA programs have taken notice but Mohns said he would take a special offer for him to contemplate leaving Arizona.

"I've got a great situation here," he said. "A great job in a beautiful part of the country, I get to be a part of my kids' lives every day and my family and my wife's family are here.

"The competitor in me, if the right thing comes along, I'd love to give it a shot but I'm not going to chase it. I'm not going to take the wrong job just to say I made it to that level. I think I've got a good perspective seeing my dad and his career."

Mohns still keeps in touch with Rita, former CFL player-coach Joe Paopao and longtime scout Craig Smith. He's also developed relationships with Paopao's nephew, Jordan — a coach at UNLV — and former Hamilton quarterback Timm Rosenbach, now Montana's offensive co-ordinator.

Mohns admits he has a lifetime's worth of CFL memories. Two favourites involve Toronto's '96 snowy Grey Cup win over Edmonton, and a recollection of former Argos quarterback Doug Flutie.

"I was on the sidelines for the Snow Bowl and got to sip champagne from the Cup with my dad at the celebration afterwards," he said. "You never forget things like that.

"I got to travel to a game that year in Winnipeg. The Argos won and afterwards dad and I were walking to grab a bite and Doug Flutie asked to join us. He tore it up that game, Toronto scored 40-something points, but all Doug talked about were the mistakes he made, the reads he missed. I never forgot that."

Time has allowed Mohns to come to terms with his father's passing, in part thanks to one of his dad's most unique possessions.

"Something dad did that was very cool was keep a helmet from every single team he was with, college and pro," Mohns said. "In my office, I have a wall that's lined in chronological order with helmets from his first job to his last.

"College coaches come in all the time and ask, 'How do you have a B.C. Lions helmet,' or "How do you have a Memphis Mad Dogs helmet?' I talk about him all the time, I talk about him on a weekly basis and that's really helped me cope with not having him.

"It's easier than it used to but every now and then it jumps up and bites you. It's never not tough but it gets easier when you talk about it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Find out what's happening in your community.

Most Popular