Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Sean Mahan - Former NFL Lineman and Financial Advisor
From high school state champion to college standout to NFL lineman, Sean Mahan’s incredible football journey began in Jenks and now, has come full circle. The 1998 Jenks grad went from protecting quarterbacks to protecting people’s personal assets as a financial advisor. In this week’s edition of “Where Are They Now? Wednesday” the father of four reflects on his football career and reveals why he returned home to raise his family.
What are some of your favorite memories and moments from your time as a member of the Jenks football team? Mahan: Winning back to back state championships in ’96 & ‘97, spending time with teammates and our coaches, pep rallies, our weekly team dinners, and the immense support I received from the Jenks football family after the loss of my parents.
What was it like to play for Coach Trimble and be a part of one of the most dominant high school football programs in the country?
Mahan: I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to play for Coach Trimble and his staff. He is truly one of the best coaches and mentors in the world at any level. His leadership, passion and humbleness know no bounds. It goes without saying that he is an unbelievable x’s and o’s coach, but beyond that, he instills the tools for his players to become successful young men with unparalleled character, integrity, work ethic, community giving, and leadership above all else. I look back at my time at Jenks with great pride at what we were able to accomplish both on the field and off. Jenks has risen over Coach Trimble’s time as head coach to be mentioned with the top football programs in the nation. It is a testament to Coach Trimble, his assistant coaches, the students, teachers and administrators, parents and families, and the Jenks community as a whole. I am very fortunate to have been a part of the Jenks program and I have loved watching it build and evolve over the years.
Why did you choose to attend Notre Dame?
Mahan: My dad, sister, and uncle all attended Notre Dame so I grew up a big fan. I was fortunate to be recruited by many schools, so I took my time making a decision based on where I fit the most and where I could maximize my education, time, and opportunity there. I wanted to choose a school that gave me as many options as possible to be successful in football and life beyond. I loved the campus, the tradition, and the national respect the school received both academically and athletically. Notre Dame has a top graduation rate with a vast worldwide alumni network and a long line of producing NFL players. I felt that no matter what happened with football I could graduate with great opportunities to succeed in any field.
At such a tradition-rich program like Notre Dame, what was your favorite part of playing for the Fighting Irish?
Mahan: Home game days were my absolute favorite. We would stay off campus the night before and bus in to the Basilica on campus for pre-game mass. After mass, the team walks across campus to the stadium for the game. Thousands of fans and fellow students surround the team’s path to the stadium for what seems like miles and miles. You can smell all the tailgater’s grills cooking burgers and brats. Walking out of the tunnel for the game with my teammates and hearing the crowd and seeing the student section going crazy was an amazing experience every time. We played against great teams from all conferences across the country and all of the games were nationally televised so I knew I always had friends and family watching.
What do you remember about draft day and the emotions you experienced when you were selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Mahan: Draft day was an exhausting day filled with many different emotions. I was excited, nervous and anxious. I was projected to be a third round pick, and Mel Kiper (ESPN draft analyst) expected me to go to the Giants. I tried to keep myself occupied with other things as the draft went on. The third round came and went without my name called so I got nervous, concerned, angry, you name it. In the fifth round the Packers called and informed me that were taking me with their next pick, so I was immediately relieved and excited. I thought I was heading to Green Bay. Then my aunt yelled at me that my name came across the screen but it said Tampa Bay. At that point, Coach (Jon) Gruden called to say they were excited to pick me and to get ready for mini-camp next week. In the end it worked out great for me, but the uncertainty of it all made for a long day.
How difficult was it to make the transition from the college level to the pro game?
Mahan: It was difficult, but I was lucky to come from a great program in Notre Dame that had prepared me as well as possible. I was equally lucky to have one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL, Bill Muir, to coach me through it. Everything is elevated by a great deal when you transition to the NFL. The speed of the game is much faster, the playbook is bigger and much more detailed, and every player is bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter than anyone you’ve competed against. There is no more 20-hour rule like in college, so you practice longer and harder. You have meetings and watch film all day and most nights. The details are broken down to inches and technique is vital. My first practices I lined up against future hall of famers so it was rough at first, but I wouldn’t have changed it because those guys quickly helped me become a much better player.
How would you describe the coaching style of Jon Gruden?
Mahan: Coach Gruden is very passionate about football. He is highly energetic and was incredibly hard working and devoted to his teams. Without a doubt, he was the greatest offensive football mind I’ve ever been around. He would have us prepared for any situation that could arise. He is a great motivator and knows what to say to his players to get the most from them. He was fun to play for but very demanding. Mistakes were not tolerated for long.
After seven seasons in the NFL, and thousands of collisions at the line of scrimmage, what kind of toll did it take on you both physically and mentally?
Mahan: The collisions and hits at the professional level are incredibly violent. It takes a huge physical toll. Everyone plays with numerous injuries and pain throughout the season. Seeking treatment from the training staff is essential along with treatments at home. Off-season surgeries are pretty standard after every season. These physical tolls along with the cut-throat competition and mentality can take its toll pretty quickly. You have to love the game and have a real passion for football to succeed at the professional level.
Offensive line is one of the most important, yet most thankless jobs in football. Do you feel like linemen get the notoriety and credit they deserve? Mahan: Probably not, but I think earning the respect of your team mates and coaches are all that matters to most linemen. While it’s nice to get some recognition and credit, I personally enjoyed being a little below the radar and having some anonymity after seeing what guys like Ben Roethlisberger had to deal with at all times out in public and from the media, etc.
How difficult was it to leave football behind and focus on a second career in business and investments?
Mahan: It was a very difficult choice for a number of reasons. Football has been a part of my life since 1st grade and was all that I had known from a professional standpoint. Some people thought I was crazy for walking away from a high paying dream job, my teammates, a locker room office setting, etc. For me, the time was right to leave. I was getting pretty burnt out from the grind of it all, had accomplished my goals and was able to retire on my terms without too much physical damage to my body. I’ll always miss some of the things from playing, but looking back, I know I made the right decision.
Why did you want your kids to attend Jenks Public Schools and what does it mean to you to carry on the Trojan tradition in your family?
Mahan: My wife and I both loved attending Jenks. We both received great educations from Jenks and love the atmosphere both academically and athletically. The great thing about Jenks is the people involved. The teachers, administrators, coaches, students, parents and surrounding community make Jenks a unique and unparalleled school. I want only the best for my children and I truly believe that they can become well-rounded, successful individuals in the Jenks school system.