New Head Football Coach Announced for Ben Davis High School

Ben Davis High School has appointed Russ Mann as the new head football coach, replacing Jason Simmons who left for a college football job at Miami of Ohio in the past month.

Mann, who was the Giants secondary coach last season, has been elevated to the head coaching position. Before joining the Ben Davis team, he served as an assistant coach at various schools including North Central, Lawrence Central and Warren Central.

Jason Simmons had no intention of leaving his role as the Ben Davis football coach, however, he unexpectedly resigned a month ago to take on the position of running backs coach at Miami of Ohio. His resignation left behind one of the most prominent high school football coaching positions in the state, which was then up for grabs.

At the age of 41, Mann was the secondary coach for Ben Davis High School’s football team, having joined the coaching staff in July. With his experience and position within the team, he was a strong contender for the head coaching role. The Ben Davis school board approved Mann as the new head football coach on Monday night, making it official.

“Leaving is never easy,” says Ben Davis coach Jason Simmons as he steps down from his position.

“I’m thankful,” Mann said. “Because of the situation we are currently in for it to be an internal hire is a testament to what coach Simmons had in place here. A job this big a lot of times is opened up externally and you will have college coaches looking to snag a good high school job or an up-and-coming coach looking to jump up to a bigger job. I think the administration saw what they had here and believed what they had in place because of coach Simmons.”

Although this will be his first head coaching job, Mann is no stranger to the football sidelines in Central Indiana. He has been an assistant coach for 19 years, with experience coaching under Rick Streiff at North Central, Jayson West at Lawrence Central and Warren Central, and Mike Kirschner at Warren Central. Mann played football himself, having been the former quarterback for Concord and a captain for Butler, which has helped him gain valuable knowledge and expertise, mostly on the defensive side.

“I started with Rick Streiff and (former athletic director Paul Loggan) at North Central,” Mann said. “The funny part is Paul always said I was an up-and-coming head coach, but he always put me No. 2 behind Jason Simmons. I’d always say, ‘Come on Paul, I’m on your staff. Who is this Jason Simmons?’ I always joked with Jason about that once I got to know him.”

As the new head coach, Mann will lead a football program that had a 6-4 season and has several talented players returning, such as quarterback Thomas Gotkowski, linebacker Nylan Brown, and running back Alijah Price. Exciting news was announced last month that Ben Davis would be hosting IMG Academy, one of the top football programs in the country, for a regular-season game. The program has a rich history, with nine state championships, the most recent being in 2017. Simmons, the previous coach, had a record of 31-28 during his five seasons at Ben Davis.

Mann not only has a wealth of experience in coaching, but he also teaches geometry and algebra at Ben Davis High School. Throughout his coaching career, he has had the privilege of working with several successful and championship-winning coaches who have become his friends and mentors.

From 2006 to 2008, Mann coached on Mark Haste’s staff at North Central, and then in 2009 and 2010, he worked with Keith Shelton before moving over to Lawrence Central to coach with Jayson West. Following the Bears’ Class 5A state title win in 2012, Mann joined West at Warren Central, where the team achieved the first 6A title win in 2013.

Stacy Mitchell, the girls’ basketball coach at Warren Central, is another one of Mann’s close friends and mentors. In 2018, Mitchell led Warren Central to its only state title in girls’ basketball, which was the same year that the Warriors also won state championships in football and boys’ basketball.

“I co-taught in the classroom with Stacy for three years and still talk to him almost on a daily basis,” Mann said. “To watch the way he managed the day-to-day of women’s basketball taught me a lot. It might be a different sport, but a lot of managing a program is the same.”

Mann has an impressive background in football, having led Concord as a quarterback and defensive back to the Class 4A state football championship game in 1998, where he was named the Mental Attitude award winner. He continued his football career at Butler University, where he was a two-time all-conference defensive back. Although Mann started his coaching career on offense, he has mostly coached on the defensive side of the ball, showcasing his versatility and expertise in both areas.

“I’ve been trying for years to get back to the offensive side,” he joked. “Once I got to the defensive side, they never let me come back.”

Mann shared that the majority of the coaching staff has been decided and he is hoping to finalize everything by the end of the week. One coach who will be returning is Caleb Small, who will continue to serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Additionally, Russ Sumner will also be returning as the defensive coordinator, and the majority of last year’s coaching staff will remain in place, providing continuity and stability for the team.

“With what we have in place with the coordinators, coach Small and Sumner, I think it’s going to be a pretty seamless transition,” Mann said. “Coach Simmons did a lot of things behind the scenes to empower his coaches and a lot our visions align.”

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