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The City Journals

Legendary JDCHS football coach hangs it up; new coach just moves over a chair

Aug 12, 2020 02:27PM ● By Catherine Garrett

John Colosimo (left), who retired after heading up the football program at Juan Diego Catholic High School for 21 seasons poses with former player Jamie Markosian following a state championship and Greg Williams, who is replacing Colosimo as the head coach after serving as the team’s offensive coordinator during that entire span. (Photo courtesy Mickelle Marston)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Heading into his 21st season as the Juan Diego Catholic High School head football coach last fall, John Colosimo knew it would be his last – and he quietly informed his coaching staff. Then, he proceeded to do what he has always done: lead his team deep into the state playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. 

This spring, the news of his retiring became official as arguably one of the most successful high school coaches in state history left the sidelines atop the Utah high school record books with eight state championships, including a three-peat from 2015 through 2017. During his 21-year span, he also led the Soaring Eagle program to 13 region titles and was recognized repeatedly with coaching honors, most notably the National Federation of High School Associations Coach of the Year award in 2004 and USA Today’s Best High School coach in Utah in 2013.

“John Colosimo is the football program,” Juan Diego Catholic High School Athletic Director Chris Long said when asked what the only football coach the school has ever known has meant to the campus that opened in 1999. “In the last 20 years, John’s teams have won over 80% of the games they played in. But, the thing that metrics cannot see is the love John’s players have had for him and the respect that his fellow coaches have for him.”

Morgan High School football coach Kovi Christiansen said, “John epitomizes everything that is special about a high school coach and an example of the type of coach that is fleeing far too fast from high school athletics. He has an uncanny knack for getting his players to believe in him and his system and I have been amazed by that for years. He extracts every ounce of talent and energy that a player can give and they do it willingly for the coach they love and respect.”

Colosimo coached alongside his brother, Joe, who was his defensive coordinator and Greg Williams, who ran the offense, for the entire 21 seasons. “John Colosimo is a pioneer and amazing coach that has stuck to his identity and shown that you don't change a system to conform to the ‘new fads’ of what people see as today's football,” Christiansen said. “He has been so successful doing what they do because of his amazing attention to detail.”

Colosimo will continue in his Academic Vice-Principal role at the school that was recently honored with a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence honor from the United States Department of Education. 

“Yes, John is a great football coach, but he is an even better example of how we should interact with youth and adults alike,” Christiansen said. “Probably the best thing I can say about him is that the game, Juan Diego, and the state of Utah are so much better today thanks to John's impact and legacy on those aware enough to allow this outstanding man to change us.” 

So, with the retirement of Colosimo from coaching, and his brother Joe who went out with him, Williams decided to step into the head coaching spot after holding the offensive coordinator position. “I was prepared to coach with John forever and I was supposed to join them on their way out, but you always wonder if you can do it,” Williams said. 

“Greg has been the offensive mastermind of the most successful high school team in Utah history. In the last 20 years, Juan Diego has averaged 37 points a game, far and away the best in Utah,” Long said. “Greg is a soft spoken, humble person who gives the credit for Juan Diego's success to John Colosimo.”

Williams has been involved with football since he started played at 8 years old. After playing for Bingham and Snow College, he got into the coaching ranks at Bingham and at Jordan High. After seven years, he resigned. The very next day, he had a chance encounter with a Colosimo family member which ultimately led to Williams returning to coaching to be offensive coordinator at the newly-built Juan Diego Catholic. “I did not want to get back into coaching,” Williams said. “My wife encouraged me so I decided to help out a year or two to get them going.” 

That was 21 years ago.

Williams, who has also been a P.E. teacher at the school the past five years, said he doesn’t anticipate making too many changes to the already successful Juan Diego program he was part of building as he now takes over the top job. 

“There’s not really one thing that John did that I wouldn’t do,” he said. “I’m demanding and push for attention to details through learning from film and putting in solid effort on the field. I’ll just go with what I’ve learned from all of my mentors. Coaching’s all about stealing.”

Assisting Williams this season will be former Utah Blaze coach Ron James, who spent nearly 30 years in the collegiate and professional ranks and will be the defensive coordinator, and former JDCHS All-State running back Tana Vea who will head up the offense, along with special teams coordinator Danny Larson. 

Also on the coaching staff are Mike Ashmore, Taylor Campbell, Paul Ceballos, D’Shaun Crockett, Connor Dumont, Ben Farrar, Andrew Markosian, Keegan Mataele and John Morby.

Juan Diego’s top returning players for 2020 are Michael Clay, Logan Huggard, Michael Hulverson, Dominic Lewis, Trace Monson, John-Sione Vea, Diego Valdez and Kayden Viczian. Newcomers of mention are Nelson Arapa, Nicholas Ceballos, Rangi Colombel, O’Pharoah Crockett, Tyler Easter, Leo Fibeul, Jag Gill-Martin, Brook Gutierrez, Harevaa Hatitio, Jack Jones, Dallas Larson, Charlie Morby, Noah Naha, Matty Richardson, Maui Roopinia, Bode Seim, Maoake Tahirori, Jonah Takemoto and Aidan Watts.

“Juan Diego is part of a great community with great kids and people,” Williams said. “Working with these kids and seeing them get better in multiple areas as we work toward a common goal is so rewarding. It sure becomes a lot more than the scoreboard; it’s about the relationships.”