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Cerritos’ Nielsen Has New Challenge, Named Long Beach Jordan’s New Head Football Coach

JON NIELSEN brings to Jordan a prolific passing style of an offense that has the potential of putting up numbers that could be the best in the state, if anything, best in the CIF-SS. In 2007, while at Gahr as the co-offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator, Gahr led the state in passing; his nephew Corey Nielsen was second in the nation with 4,363 yards.


By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

May 25, 2022~When Cerritos resident Jon Nielsen was an offensive coordinator at Gahr High, he fell short of a CIF-Southern Section championship ring.

Now, the person who never slows down at anything thrown his way is embarking on a new challenge in his life that he hopes will get him that elusive ring.

Nielsen was recently hired as Long Beach Jordan High’s new head football coach, replacing Tim Wedlow who coached the Panthers to an 8-6 mark last season that ended with a 37-14 loss to Northwood High in the Division 11 championship game.

It was the first time the program had advanced to the championship game.

Nielsen has a plethora of coaching experience on the gridiron, most recently at St. Paul High last season where he was the offensive consultant and freshman offensive coordinator.

Before that, he was the offensive and recruiting coordinator at Cerritos High from 2017-2018 and Gahr’s assistant head coach as well as the offensive and recruiting coordinator from 2009-2013.

“I want a ring,” he said adamantly. “I want to be able to control everything. When you’re a coordinator or an assistant coach, you don’t get to run the defensive side and other things. I’m the captain my own ship. It’s the right time for me to do this, and again, I don’t want to have excuses blaming things on the defense as to why I don’t have two rings. I should have two rings from my time at Gahr.”

If it sounds like Nielsen has a chip on his shoulder, it’s not the case. In fact, he says the monkey is off his back because he gets to control the things he didn’t have control over when he was either an assistant or an offensive coordinator.

What Nielsen brings to Jordan is a prolific passing style of an offense that has the potential of putting up numbers that could be the best in the state, if anything best in the CIF-SS.

In 2007, while at Gahr as the co-offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator, nephew Corey Nielsen led the state in passing and was second in the nation with 4,363 yards.

The next season, Corey Nielsen was fourth in the state with 3,032 yards and left his high school career as the state’s 13th best passer and the 10th best in the CIF-SS.

In 2009 with nephew Casey Nielsen under center and averaging a nation-best 400.5 yards a game, Gahr led the state in passing again with 4,406 yards. D.J. Lopez would help Gahr lead the state in passing in 2010 with 2,976 yards as he averaged 330.7 yards a game and the next season, Eric Richardson was second in the state in passing and the Gladiators were tops in passing offense in the CIF-SS.

On top of that, Jon Nielsen was instrumental in getting college scholarships to numerous players, including a pair of NFL players in Josh Perkins and Dwayne Washington. But his talents didn’t end when he took on the same role at Cerritos. With nephew Colby Nielsen as the signal caller, he led the Suburban League in passing yardage in 2013. And last season at St. Paul as the offensive coordinator of the freshman team, the Swordsmen set school records for total offense as his son, Jarret, threw for 2,700 yards and 29 touchdowns in nine games.

“When my offense is the best in the state and tops in the nation and you play a little defense, you should win,” said Jon Nielsen. “That wasn’t the case. So now, I get to control the defensive side by my defensive coaches that I hired. It’s up to me; it’s on my watch.”

Nielsen will incorporate pretty much the same offensive style he ran at Cerritos and at Gahr with some minor modifications. He has now attached a run game that complements the run and shoot offense of the passing game after doing some research and chalk talk with some friends who have mastered that at the college level.

While this is Jon Nielsen’s first head coaching job at the varsity level, he’s been in this position at Carmenita Middle School (2002-2004) and was the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the original XFL and a trio of Arena Football League teams prior to his coaching days.

Jon Nielsen says had he chosen the path that was given to him in the early 2000s when he was done playing professional football, he probably would have been an NFL head coach by now. But he would have given up his relationship with Jarret and daughter Jadyn, a senior at Cerritos.

“I came back from playing professional football in Canada for a promise I made to Corey when he was in fourth grade; that I would come back and coach him,” said Nielsen. “Really, I came back to coach my family, and that’s the path I chose. I could have ascended and interned right away with NFL teams. I had a different opportunity presented to me at the time. But I chose the family portion of it.”

In less than a month on the job, Nielsen says he has already changed the culture at Jordan. The motto is ‘For the North’ and already, he wants his team to be competitive with Jordan’s neighbor 5.9 miles to the south on Atlantic Blvd., Long Beach Poly High. Three players have already received scholarship offers from PAC-12 schools. He has had more than 35 colleges come on the North Long Beach campus to recruit players, something that has not happened since John Ross played here and graduated in 2013.

“With the whole Long Beach thing, there’s two different dynamics,” said Jon Nielsen. “It’s the Battle for Atlantic. Poly has been famed forever, and rightfully so. They’ve done a great job. So now, I’m just trying to change the culture to make this a destination and start our history run from now. Poly is a very storied program and now I’m just trying to restore a legacy here in year one and the things we’re going to do here.”

He heard about the opening last season like most coaches do, which is following certain programs. Jordan also played St. Paul last season and he saw the talent that the Panthers had. His interview on Apr. 19 was in front of a 12-member panel that included administrators, a couple of former players, educators, coaches and parents, and lasted around 45 minutes to an hour. He was officially hired on Apr. 25.

“I knew those were the kids that I could coach,” said Jon Nielsen. “I like to coach hungry kids that don’t have an opportunity [and] kind of give them an opportunity to showcase what they can do.”

Since his hiring, he says it’s been tiring almost every day, which begins with morning meetings with the coaching staff, talking about players and dealing with transfers. Later in the day, he’ll come back for weightlifting, conditioning and practice. He added that he envisioned the head coach as someone who manages his coaches. He also has to worry about fundraising, uniforms, making sure his players are taking physicals.

“I let my good staff of people to let them coach,” said Jon Nielsen. “I trust what we do out there on the field. I’ve hired a great staff; I’ve hired pretty much a Division 1 quality, caliber staff that you don’t normally get in high school. The best thing is this. I have the biggest support in the system here which I’ve never had anywhere else I’ve been.”

Jon Nielsen’s coaching staff consists of running game coordinator Rocky Lucero, who will also be the offensive line coach, Corey Nielsen, who will be in charge of the passing game and is the wide receiver’s coach, Richardson, who will be the assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator and defensive coordinator Paul Guidry, who played at Gahr in the early 1990s and graduated there in 1992 before going to UCLA. Guidry and Nielsen played together in the CFL in 1998 and the joke was whoever became head coach first would hire the other as a coordinator. Eric Aguilar and Caleb Davis were also hired to be coaches of the freshmen team and help out with the varsity squad.

Jon Nielsen also added Roman Fennell to the staff as the team’s strength and performance coach in what he calls the biggest coaching coup in Long Beach. Fennell is Long Beach Poly’s winningest quarterback, who won a CIF state championship.

As far as the 2022 team, he says that the best way to sum it up is a different player surprises him and the staff. For Jon Nielsen, he says it’s rewarding to get the kind of kids on campus and to be able to get them absorbed in how to teach them to play football. And he added that taking a job that is not in Cerritos isn’t much different than coaching in the town he grew up.

“It’s the same; it’s four miles up the street,” said Jon Nielsen. “It’s the same area. It’s literally four, four and a half miles up from Gahr or Valley Christian. I consider that the same area. I don’t see anything different other than the north side of Long Beach. It’s up Artesia [Blvd.], four miles.

“For me, it’s the same kind of kids that I’ve coached the whole time,” he continued. “I just happen to have a bigger talent pool of kids who are super athletic. I had great kids when I was at Gahr. The only difference now is I have the interior kids to go with those skilled kids.”

Jon Nielsen added that for him, it was the right opportunity at the right time for where he is in his life to be able to brand his new adventure. He’s into marketing lifestyle things and now he wants to brand the Jordan program as his own.