By Kyle Daubs
Life as a quarterback isn’t always glory and long touchdown passes. You face pressure. You have to make important decisions. Sometimes, you make a bad decision and the pass goes right into the opponent’s hands.
If anyone knows about that life, it’s 2005 Charleston High School alum Jon Adkins.
The former Trojan standout quarterback has navigated that mantra as a head football coach as well. The head coach of the Mahomet-Seymour Bulldogs is the No. 4 ranked team in Class 5A. With Apollo and Final Four aspirations, this season has been in the making for almost a decade.
“I’m having a blast, to be honest,” said Adkins. “These kids make it a joy to come to work every day. I think most people that are winning will tell you I’m having fun, however, it’s more than just winning with this year’s team. The locker rooms, the practices, the bus rides, the team meals. These kids are just a great group of kids to be around and I’m lucky to be their head coach.”
Adkins always wanted to coach. He was a First-Team All-Apollo quarterback his senior year and held numerous single-season quarterback records. He could have played college football, but instead chose to serve as an assistant coach to CHS coach Brian Halsey while attending Eastern Illinois University.
Adkins was the youngest coach in the IHSA when he was hired in 2010 by Peoria Heights. Adkins suffered through two 0-9 seasons before the team jumped to 4-5 in 2012. The team subsequently won just two games the following two seasons before qualifying for the playoffs in 2015 – the first time the Patriots had made the playoffs in 12 seasons. That would be his final season with Peoria Heights.
Adkins then spent a year as an assistant in Cape Coral, Florida before returning to Illinois.
The Bulldogs went 4-5 during his first season. The COVID season featured 2-3 years with more growing pains.
Last year, the Bulldogs made an enormous lead by breaking out to an 11-1 record that featured an Apollo Conference championship and an Elite 8 appearance.
“Growing pains is a good word to use to answer this question,” said Adkins. “Everyone has to start somewhere, and honestly I’m glad and thankful for the experience that I’ve had along the way. It hasn’t been easy but it taught me a lot. Continuing to build my resume and get all different aspects of football including a stop in Florida has really prepared me for the nature of this job at Mahomet-Seymour.”
Adkins once said he always envisioned himself at Mahomet-Seymour. When he was hired, he told the Mahomet Daily News that he remembered his junior football season the most. After Charleston was eliminated from the playoffs in 2004, Adkins said he traveled to Mahomet-Seymour the following week to see the Bulldogs play Mount Zion in the second round.
“When I saw the kids coming down the ramp, the band playing, the atmosphere, and the community support, I knew this was a special place,” Adkins had said when hired.
The evolution to a state title contender can be special.
It’s Adkins’ fourth season with the team and a ride where the current seniors were freshmen when he started. From the coaching staff to the student-athletes, Adkins believes that it’s been easier to get to this point because everyone has bought into two words: Family Strong.
“I can attest to the success of a lot of things,” said Adkins. “The coaching staff, the players who were freshmen my first year here and not in year four of a system, the community support. But if I had to just pick one I would say it is the culture we have created here and everything that goes into our ‘Family Strong’ motto. We stand for character, discipline, effort, and accountability.”
Adkins said that there is a special relationship with this senior class which helped lead the charge in creating this culture.
“I want to shout out to the senior class my first year,” said Adkins. “Those guys were kinda the guinea pigs of it all. New coaches come in with a different way to practice, different ways to enter the field, what to wear, etc. They probably thought I was crazy when I came in trying to build. But it’s because of those guys going through those changes and buying in that ultimately helped the younger kids ‘fall in line’ with what we were trying to build. I told those guys after they graduated, I said you will be able to look back on your program and know that you started that success. And I can only hope that those kids are smiling watching last year and this year’s run knowing they had an impact on this success.”
The Bulldogs have begun the year 3-0, which means that the team has won 14 of their last 15 games. The team returned seven All-Apollo players. With that experience, Adkins believes it has helped the team go out with a new mentality that they can handle the pressure.
“Pressure makes diamonds, and we truly believe that,” said Adkins. “Our kids are very mentally tough and enjoy the pressure/target. We have talked about it all offseason in the weightroom how this year we are not going to surprise anyone and every team is going to give us their best game. We have a target on our back and everyone is coming for us. That motivation has forced our kids to grit their teeth even more and embrace the target and go out and perform on Friday nights so far.”
One of those returnees is senior Wyatt Bohm, a First-Team All-Apollo quarterback. It’s a small world when you have an All-Apollo quarterback pairing of head coach and quarterback.
“Wyatt and I have a great relationship as I did with Braden Finch, the quarterback my first two years,” said Adkins. “Both have a different skill set but both were great kids and very coachable. Our offensive staff has done a great job putting both of their skill sets in the best position for them and our team to be successful. I’m extremely proud of the year that Wyatt had last year as far as statistics are concerned but I’m even more proud of the leadership role he has taken on this year.”
With the talent on the roster, Adkins believes that this team can make a run for the state title. The Bulldogs won a state championship in Class 2A in 1977. Adkins said the team wants to make history and more.
“To be honest, I want to do more than make the Final Four,” said Adkins. “I want to win a state championship. There are several reasons why people get into coaching: have an impact on a kid’s life, help prepare them for life, and try to mold them into becoming better husbands and fathers someday, But again in sports we don’t participate in them or coach them to just win 1 game or even a couple. The ultimate goal is to hold that state championship above the head. It would mean a lot to me from a standpoint of I would want every player I have ever coached to know they had a part in that trophy. And as far as this year is concerned I want it bad for these kids and this community. These kids deserve this and this community has been nothing but supportive of me from the minute my family and I have gotten here. It would be a great way that I can repay the favor to everyone involved.”