Quite often life may take you away from the place you love in pursuit of what you love.
That’s what happened to Nate Mahon until last summer, when an opportunity emerged to return home, and he took it.
Mahon, 29, was hired as the head football coach at Northwest High School on July 13, 2013 – 25 days after becoming a father for the first time and 47 days before the season opener and his head coaching debut.
In his first season, Mahon led Northwest to a 9-3 record and the first playoff win in school history. Nine wins was a single-season school record, according to Northwest athletic director Joe Pollitt. In the first round of the Division II playoffs, the Knights beat conference-foe Harrison, 56-35, before losing in the second round to eventual state champ Loveland, 45-14.
“It was an exciting time, but it was stressful, too,” said Mahon. “The support from my wife, family and the school has been great. It really made the transition easy.”
Before the Northwest job opened up, Mahon had accepted the head coaching job at a high school in Pennsylvania and was at work preparing them. The chance to return home with his wife, Jinene, and their newborn son, Roman, was a dream.
His wife was first, and once she was on board it became real and a lot easier, Mahon explained.
“She (Jinene) loves this city (Cincinnati) and she’s an athlete,” said Mahon.
They’re both athletes, actually. Mahon’s athletic career could be aptly described as memorable – something he would very much like for his players at Northwest.
In high school, Nate starred in football and baseball at Hamilton (2003 graduate) and went on to play college football at Miami University (2008 graduate). Mahon’s experience at Miami would shape his path to becoming a coach.
If you’ve seen him coach, you probably guessed that Mahon played middle linebacker. Linebackers who go on to coach seem to coach exactly how they once played – tough.
“I liked being in charge out there and the camaraderie especially on defense,” said Mahon. “I was not athletically gifted, but I played with heart and effort.
“The fun part now is seeing guys produce. … You get to coach them and see them execute what’s been taught, that’s what’s really exciting now. … I get to live vicariously through them.”
Mahon’s connection to his roots is special for a multitude of reasons. This is the place he was raised, where he learned the game and formed lasting friendships.
Now, it’s where he’ll raise his children, teach the game and help mold the experiences of the young Knights.
Mahon will also tell you it doesn’t hurt that the high school football in this town is “second to none.”
“You can’t go 10 miles without running into a great team that can compete,” said the second-year coach.
Once October rolls around, it’ll be six or seven weeks into the football season when Nate and Jinene will welcome their second child, a little girl, into their home.
Years from now, Mahon will be able to tell his kids about the chances he took, leaving and coming home. He may tell them that even though life can take you away, it can always bring you back. ■