By Bob Redd
For The Register-Herald
There was a time in high school sports when the same coach headed all the sports programs. At James Monroe High School John Mustain comes close to wearing that hat, albeit his leadership has not come in the same school year.
Mustain has been the head coach of the Mavericks in baseball, softball, girls basketball and boys basketball, and Tuesday night the Monroe County Board of Education named him the James Monroe head football coach, replacing retiring two-time Mavericks mentor Donnie Jackson.
“I played three sports. I coached three sports for 19 years. I guess it’s just in my blood. I’ve always been that way.” Mustain said. “I’ve never been one to say I was great at any sport, but I was decent at every sport and had a little bit of ability in each sport I played. That’s the way I feel about coaching. I feel I have something to offer in each sport.”
Mustain was a three-sport athlete at Union High School, where his present day coaching philosophy was heavily shaped by one of his coaches.
“The person that probably influenced me the most is a Peterstown/Union person because he did come and coach at Union a couple of years, my senior year and the year after, is Gordon Johnson,” Mustain said. “A lot of his ideas and the way he thinks about sports in general, not necessarily anything to do with schemes, or anything like that, but his overall philosophy on life and what we’re trying to teach young athletes to be.”
Johnson is now an administrator at Fort Defiance High School in Virginia.
Another person who has helped shape Mustain’s philosophy is the man he is replacing, Jackson.
“Getting to work with him for the past 18, 19 years, he’s had a major influence on me with some of my ideas about coaching and the whole philosophy of trying to put forth a winning attitude to the players,” Mustain said. “He always seemed to have that way about him, of getting across to the players that we expect you to win.”
James Monroe football recently has been known for it’s single-wing offense under prior coach David Witt and a more balanced attack under Jackson, who was coach before and after Witt. Mustain said expect to see a mix of the two schemes.
“Without totally giving away what we’re going to run, we will be doing some things that have some similarities of both,” Mustain said. “I feel like we have a chance to have a pretty sound ground game and I think we have a chance to put the ball in the air pretty well too.
“We have Reed McNeer returning at quarterback and while we did lose some pretty good receivers, we’ve got some pretty good ones coming back.”
Defensively, Mustain said the Mavericks will stick mostly with their bread-and-butter the last few years.
“Traditionally we have been a 52 set. I think that will probably continue to be our base,” Mustain said. “One of the things I’d like to see us do a little more is mix up what we’re doing defensively, throw in some nickel package when the situation warrants it, which we’ve done in the past too. I definitely want to mix in some different fronts, not necessarily sit in the same thing all the time. A lot of that is going to be determined by personnel.”
Mustain coached the Mavericks baseball team this past spring. Asked why he expressed interest in the head football job, he explained.
“I’ve been with football for 28 years. I’ve coached it every year I’ve been teaching,” Mustain pointed out. “It’s just something that I’ve always enjoyed. There’s nothing like Friday night as far as the excitement. It’s something I’ve pretty much had an interest in a long time in terms of if the position ever came open. I figured I am getting pretty close to retirement time, so if I ever was going to do it, it would have to be now. I’m pretty excited about it.”
The Mavericks finished the 2012 season with a 2-8 record and Mustain is excited about the opportunity to improve this coming year.
“We are pretty young and we’ve been young the last few years,” Mustain said. “I’m pretty excited about some of the things Coach (Pat) Boone and I are going to try to do this year.
“I think we’ve got a good opportunity to do well. I’ve never been one to make predictions as far as what we’re gong to do and where our success is going to be, but I definitely feel like there is a lot of potential there. It just depends on how hard these boys work.”
As of now Boone, the offensive coordinator, is the only coach on staff. Mustain is hopeful that he will be able to retain other assistants and credits the continuity of staff as one of the reasons for the long-term success of James Monroe football.
Mustain’s first game as head coach of the football Mavericks will be Aug. 30 at Greenbrier East.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org