Q&A with new Mercer football head coach Mike Jacobs

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young men sit and listen as a man stands at the front and talks
Mercer football head coach Mike Jacobs talks to the team. Photo by Mercer Athletics

Mike Jacobs was named the 21st head coach of the Mercer football program on Jan. 18. The 21-year collegiate coaching veteran has posted a 74-17 record in eight seasons as a head coach, and ranks sixth among active NCAA Divisions I and II skippers with an .813 winning percentage.

In his eight seasons as a head coach, Jacobs has mentored 17 student-athletes to all-region laurels, with seven of those standouts collecting all-America nods as well. His programs boasted 86 all-conference awards, including 62 in four seasons at Notre Dame College in Ohio, and six Academic All-America crowns.

A three-time conference coach of the year recipient, he was also tabbed as the National Coach of the Year in 2018 by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette.

The Den recently sat down with Jacobs to discuss a number of subjects, including his goals for the football program.

What are some of the things that attracted you to Mercer?

First and foremost it is just the commitment from the core administration — President (William D.) Underwood, (Athletics Director) Jim Cole. The alignment of the athletics department and the admin are on a super-high commitment level, not just on football but athletics in general. That, coupled with the high-end education, just makes Mercer a special place.

I know you’ve spent a lot of your time recruiting and meeting with the players. What has that experience been like, and what inspiration have you gotten for the program from those meetings?

The biggest thing is that the kids are just hungry. This isn’t your typical takeover where you’ve got to scrap everything because it’s a bad football team. These guys just went as far as this program has ever gone in the sense of the playoffs and success in the conference. We want to take that next step. We have a group that’s really willing to work, that’s excited and that’s on edge in a good way. Their habits have been working toward those types of things. It’s been fun to watch. Change is always tough, but when you get an opportunity to kind of hear things and see them in a different way, sometimes it gives everybody a clean slate, and they are just excited to get rolling again.

What are the core values you will instill into the culture you’re trying to build here?

I played for (former Ohio State head coach) Jim Tressel and the “Block O” life, and that was to help create well-rounded, well-centered men when they left the Ohio State program. We are going to base everything off the pyramid of success, and the core and the base of that foundation are things such as discipline — and I mean daily discipline such as their habits and attitude and appreciation for the things that we do have here. Trust is another big factor. Trust in both the coaches and the players and working toward a common goal. Effort is the nonnegotiable. Discipline, attitude, trust and effort are really the foundation of what our programs have been built on. There are some things that go on from there that take you to the next level.

a man, woman and two kids stand on a football field with a scoreboard behind them
Mercer football head coach Mike Jacobs with sons, Luke, 7, and Knox, 4, and wife Lacey. Photo by Mercer Athletics

You’ve already been successful in previous stops at Notre Dame College and Lenoir-Rhyne. What are the keys to continuing that success in Macon?

We’ve won a lot of football games because we’ve had really good football players. Mercer has got some really good football players. Now, we have to continue to push and advance the recruiting to get kids that fit here because the academic profile is different in a very good way. It really boils down to the recruitment of high-end athletes and students and the development of them while they are here. We have a great staff that can teach the fundamentals and basics of the game — I firmly believe in those. And then the next step is to retain those players. We are going to continue to add pieces to the program and get it going our way.

You’ve been able to build and put the finishing touches on your coaching staff through your first 30 days here. What has you the most excited about your staff?

I really think it’s just their excitement level for Mercer. A lot of these guys have been with me in some capacity in a couple of different places. Getting a guy like Jahmal Brown (Mercer’s new defensive coordinator and safeties coach) to come on your staff was big for us. We were able to attract a guy that was running a really good defense at Youngstown State, who is in one of the best leagues in the country, and get him to Mercer. I also added other pieces with guys that I know and trust, and I was able to retain that staff. I have also been blown away with the quality of the support staff here, not that I expected anything less. But I was very impressed with the recruiting operations, the director of football operations, the equipment staff, the strength staff and really everything. Those are big pieces to all of our success. Certainly, the assistants that we have been able to retain — I have been really impressed with how hard those guys have worked. I think that we are putting together a cohesive group of coaches that are going to work really well together and do a good job teaching.

What are your goals as a head coach as it pertains to spring football, and do you anticipate culminating offseason drills with a spring game?

Staying healthy is really always the thing that you want to do first. Other than staying healthy, we want to get the new systems installed in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams. We want to get as many quality reps as we can throughout our 15 practices. We will culminate with a final day, and we will celebrate it that way. We will have officials, but it will be a little bit more of a glorified practice. We will put them in scrimmage-type situations, but we won’t draft separate teams.

Personally or professionally, what makes you the most excited right now?

A new challenge. I’ve been chasing a championship, whether it be a conference championship or a national championship, since I started coaching, even playing, really. Being in a place like Mercer that has the support that we have — we can accomplish some of those things. I am excited about a new level of football, and a new conference, and all of the things that come with it.

 

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