Damon Mason is the latest River Parish native to express interest in the head football coaching position at East St. John.
Unlike others who may seek the job, Mason has a few big names from the coaching profession on his side.
One is Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden.
Mason played for Gruden for five years with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, winning a pair of championships along the way.
“I’m proud to say he and I are still friends today. I have his number in my phone and actually contacted him to send a letter of recommendation to (St. John Parish Schools) Superintendent Kevin George,” Mason said Monday evening.
A native of Laplace, Mason played high school football at Destrehan. It was while a member or the Wildcats that he met up with another name coach – Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe. Rebowe served as Mason’s secondary coach at Destrehan.
“Coach Rebowe is like a big brother to me. We planned for years that whenever he got a head coaching job in college that he would bring me home,” Mason said.
Ironically, he got a call from Rebowe when he first got the Nicholls job, which was the same time Mason was seeking the East St. John position the last time it was open.
“He called me and asked me and asked if I wanted the job or not,” Mason recalled. “Some things went on with my family in Georgia and I couldn’t take the opportunity at that time. It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. At the same time, I was passed over the job at East St. John for Coach (Alden) Foster, who also is a friend of mine. I played against him in high school.
“All those doors were kind of halfway opened and closed. All I could do is have faith that if God presented the opportunity once before it would come around once again. Here I am three years later with East St. John opening up and Tim Rebowe being one of those gentlemen I’m proud to say is my friend, and yes, I have reached out to him for another letter of recommendation for this opportunity at East St. John.”
Following his days at Destrehan, Mason went on to play for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
He played for Gruden and the Predators from 1998-2001. Mason went on to play for the New Jersey/Las Vegas Gladiators, Carolina Cobras, Grand Rapids Rampage, Austin Wranglers, Utah Blaze and New Orleans Voodoo.
Mason had three other stints with Orlando in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010. He retired from the Arena League in 2010 but came out of retirement to play the final six games of the 2011 season with the Voodoo.
Mason came out of retirement to play for New Orleans so his wife, a Hahnville native, could be closer to her family as the couple expected their first child.
He closed out a 13-year playing career as the AFL’s all-time leading tackler while making the all-league team three times.
While playing in the AFL, Mason began coaching at Dunwoody High in Georgia. He later formed Level Up Athletic Marketing to help provide exposure for high school student athletes.
Mason served as defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Sharks, who won the National Arena League title in 2017.
Now living on Conyers, Ga., Mason said he would like nothing better than to return home.
“I know I have a lot to offer the kids of my hometown. I know the people. A lot of the parents now are people I grew up with. I’m very passionate about this.”