PHOTO: New Monticello head football coach Jon Kyte is excited to be back at his alma mater. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Jon Kyte, new head football coach for Monticello High School, is setting his goals high.
“My ultimate goal – it’s not going to happen next year, but a five-year plan, is to go back to the days when I was here in high school, having a freshman team, a JV team and a varsity team,” Kyte said. “That’s what I want to get to. And getting that interest back up for the football program.”
A 2000 graduate of MHS, Kyte is excited to return to his alma mater in hopes of returning the football program to its glory days.
“I want to reestablish and rebuild the program to where we’re competing on a yearly basis for a playoff spot,” he said. “And down the road, a district championship.”
The first step in achieving these goals is improving the program’s numbers. On that score, Kyte is off to a good start, based on recent player meeting he held.
“At our initial meeting, we had about 53 guys that initially signed up, and since then I’ve had another handful of guys, so we’re nearing 60 guys, (grades) 9-12 that have expressed interest,” Kyte said. “So I’m excited about those numbers.”
Kyte was approved as Panther football coach at the May 20 meeting of the Monticello School Board, and since the news spread, Kyte said he has been primarily approached with two questions:
• What is he going to do for a full-time job?
• Who are the assistant coaches going to be?
Regarding the former, Kyte said he has applied for a couple of associate openings within the Monticello district.
“Right now I don’t have my teaching license,” he said. “I have my undergrad in business/public relations, and then I have my masters in education leadership. My two-year plan is to get my teaching endorsement.”
If he doesn’t land an associate job in the district, he hopes to substitute teach.
“The big thing is, I want to be in the high school, around the kids, so they get to know me and I get to know them,” Kyte said. “They see my face every day, and I get to see how they’re doing.”
Kyte said he is in the process of assembling a staff of assistant coaches, but can’t name names prior to school board approval.
“Depending on what coffee spot you go to in the morning, if you go to Darrell’s, or Java (Jones), or Kelly’s there are different rumors going around about who the staff’s going to be,” Kyte said with a smile.
“I’ve had conversations with guys that have expressed interest to me. We’re getting close to putting the staff together, but at this time I can’t put out any names.
“I’d like to get that done so we can start meeting as a staff, and start talking football, and putting our offensive and defensive game plan together.”
Another thing he is keeping close to the vest is the team’s game plan.
“It would be nice to surprise people on the field a little bit,” he said. “I have an idea, offensively and defensively, what we want to do. But my ultimate goal, is when the opponent is watching us on film, or scouting us on Friday night, they say, ‘This team gives relentless effort, they’re physical, they’re tough, they’re smart in what they do on the field, they don’t make any foolish penalties or any mental errors.’
“Through that we’re going to play physical football on both sides of the ball, having 11 guys around that football. Just relentless effort.”
Kyte has worked at a variety of college coaching jobs, most recently as a defensive line and special teams coach with the University of Dubuque, a position he held for two years. A former all-district player at Monticello, he played at Wartburg College for two seasons.
He returns to Monticello after being gone for 13 years. While he said the town has changed a bit in his absence, he is most impressed with the facility changes in that time, along with the support of the Monticello Athletic Booster Club.
“I’ll tell you one thing, the facilities we have here athletic-wise are the best around,” Kyte said. “I went to a lot of places recruiting-wise when I was at UD, and our facilities now are top-notch. It’s great to see that we have that support.”
Kyte said that he welcomed the opportunity to return to Monticello, even though it meant leaving a college job he enjoyed.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head coach,” he said. “I had a great two years at UD. I really enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, that’s for sure.
“I have to be honest, when I graduated high school here in 2000, and as I progressed through my coaching career, did I ever see that I’d end up back here? Maybe down the road, but not at age 31.
“But when the opportunity presents itself, you just have to jump at it and go full bore. Not too many guys get the opportunity to take a program that’s their alma mater, and put a statement on it.”
His approach to the team is similar. It is believed this fall’s team will be the 101st Monticello High School team to take the field. In that respect, Kyte said, each year’s team is unique.
“They’ll be the only 101st Monticello team in history,” he said. “So I ask them, ‘How will you put your stamp on it?’ ”
In addition to organizing a coaching staff and preparing for the coming season, Kyte has other things to take care of. Last year, believing he was going to be at UD for the foreseeable future, he purchased a condo in Dubuque.
“I’m actually meeting with a real estate agent to put that back on the market,” he said. “Once that is sold, I’ll move back to Monticello and live here.” Kyte is not married.
“I joke with people that since I graduated college, I’m married to the game,” he said.
Away from football, Kyte said he enjoys working out, and occasionally playing golf. He is also an avid reader, focusing primarily on leadership and motivational books.
“I am learning from those, so I can take key points and add them on to our guys here in the program,” Kyte said.
Kyte has added a “Monticello Football” to Facebook, and the program is also on Twitter (MonticelloFball). Through both, parents, players, fans and the community can keep updated on what is happening with the football program.