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Konold named new Willmar football coach

WILLMAR -- Willmar High School's new football coach Jon Konold is a former Viking -- Minneota, that is -- with coaching roots deep in the heart of Texas.

Konold officially accepted the position Monday evening. He was one of eight interviewed for the opening when Ken Heitzman resigned after 12 seasons as head football coach.

"We're excited to have this opportunity," he said Tuesday when reached by phone in Mankato, where he is an elementary teacher in the Mankato West school district. "We hope to strengthen the program and plan to do our very best."

Konold has been offensive coordinator at Mankato West the past two seasons. The Scarlets won the Class AAAA championship this past fall.

Konold said he plans to be in Willmar today to introduce himself to the team, get to know the staff and review the (football) budget.

He plans no radical changes regarding the coaching assistants.

"If they are interested in returning, they will have the first opportunity," Konold said.

He will stress a summer workout program and perhaps establish a summer mini-camp.

"We plan to move here early in August," he said. "For now, I'll be coming up a couple of times a week."

Konold and his wife, Meghan, a native of Okoboji, Iowa, are parents of a two-month-old daughter, Anna. Meghan works for Hormel in Austin and will be able to transfer to the Jennie-0 plant here, her husband said.

The Konolds have lived in Owatonna the past two years with both commuting to their jobs.

"It will be nice to work in the same town," said Jon.

He will teach sixth-grade math in a new three-grade setup at the junior-high building. He has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the College of St. Scholastica at Duluth.

Konold played football under coaching legend Gerhard Meidt at Minneota, graduating in 1993. He played football for four years at Concordia College where he earned a degree in elementary education. He played free safety on the Cobbers' 1995 MIAC co-champions.

He taught and coached in Grand Prairie, Texas, an inner-ring Dallas suburb, from 1998-2003. Konold said the high school had 2,700 students and played in the largest football division.

"Coaches were hired and fired in February and went to their new jobs immediately," Konold said. "You had to win to keep your job."

He was a head junior-high coach to start, then worked with the freshmen and finally spent 1½ seasons as a varsity assistant.

He opted to take a job in Austin in fall off 2003. "You could kind of see the writing on the wall (in Grand Prairie)," he said. "The year after I left, a new coach came in and wiped out the entire coaching staff."

He spent four years in the Austin football program under Tim Hermann, the final fall as offensive coordinator.

In 2007, he followed Mark Esch to Mankato West and became the Scarlets' offensive coordinator. They had worked together for three years at Austin when Esch got the Scarlets' head coaching job in 2006.

Konold implanted a new running attack and a "no huddle" offense in his second year.

"We're happy for Jon," said Esch. "I tell people, he's the only person I would allow to call the plays, other than myself. He will do a really good job."

The 2008 Scarlets went 13-1. The basketball team, equipped with many of the stars that led the football team, reached the AAA championship game.

Willmar and West are in the same post-season section and could meet again this fall.

Willmar activities director Jamie Thompson said Konold stood out in a "strong pool" of candidates.

"After the interviewing, we were all convinced Jon Konold was the person we would choose to lead the program," said Thompson.

He is the fourth man to head the program since 1945. The late Bill Hansen coached until 1977, followed by Deryl Ramey from 1978-1996 and Heitzman starting in 1997.

Heitzman, who teaches social studies at the high school, has stated he will do all he can to make it a smooth transition. He has worked in the Cardinal football program since 1988.