A remarkable element of the CFL is how many American coaches dedicate decades of their life to this league in one position or another. That's the case with Greg Mohns, the famed CFL coach and executive who passed away from throat cancer Wednesday and was remembered fondly by people around the league. Mohns worked with the early-90s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the U.S.-expansion era Memphis Mad Dogs, the Doug Flutie-led Toronto Argonauts, the Damon Allen-led B.C. Lions, the Allen-led Argonauts and more recent Toronto squads, and both colleagues and old rivals had great things to say about him in the wake of his death all too soon at 62. Mohns gave much of his life to the CFL, and he made a substantial impact in this league. That should be remembered.
Mohns' football career started long before he crossed the border into Canada, of course. He played offensive line at smaller schools like Bradley University and Baker University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, then served as first a graduate assistant and then a full-time assistant coach with the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 1972-1979. He then worked as an assistant at Arizona State before taking over the head job at Ventura College, where he went 15-3-2 in two seasons of community college competition before joining the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs as a scout. He'd spend most of the 1980s with Kansas City, but then headed north of the border in 1991, and it may be his CFL tenure for which he's most famous.
Mohns started off with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as the director of player personnel, and he soon proved to both have a strong eye for talent and a solid work ethic. He served as an assistant general manager with the Tiger-Cats from 1992-94, and did a solid job. Then-Hamilton head coach John Gregory told Dan Ralph that Mohns was a capable and hard-working executive, but also an enjoyable guy to spend time with:
"The thing I liked about Greg was he was extremely loyal and an extremely hard worker," said John Gregory, who served as Hamilton's head coach and football-operations director from 1991 to '94. "He was very good at his job, a real pro. He was also a good guy and a very fun guy to be around.''
Those qualities aren't present in every football man, as the nature of the profession can result in some people who are obsessed with the job and don't have the time for social niceties. Make no mistake, Mohns was dedicated to his craft, and he proved that time and time again with the Tiger-Cats, Mad Dogs, Argos and Lions. The fond remembrances of him from figures like Adam Rita (who worked with Mohns in Memphis and Toronto) say a lot about his character both on and off the field:
"He was my wingman, that's what he called himself," Rita said. "He was very loyal and he worked extremely hard. His worth ethic was unbelievable, he was very trustworthy and he was a good teammate.
"The trust between he and I was very very good, I knew where his heart was and over the years we became very good friends. But that never clouded his focus on getting personnel and evaluating people and what players to bring in.''
What stands out about Mohns is that he was respected by coworkers, opposing coaches and players. That's not an easy trifecta to hit, but the comments in Ralph's story from everyone from Gregory to Rita to Lions' trainer Bill Reichelt to current B.C. head coach Mike Benevides to former Argonauts and current Lions receiver Arland Bruce III show just what an impact the man from Pasadena had up here. He chose to give nearly two decades of his life to the CFL, and he certainly made a major impact in the process. He'll be missed around the league.