Former Mizzou OL, Columbia native Jonah Dubinski hired as Battle's football coach
It was only two years ago that Jonah Dubinski was playing college football.
The Columbia native medically retired from the sport as a member of Missouri's roster in August 2019, but stayed around the Tigers as an offensive assistant.
While medically retiring right before the start of his senior season wasn't his plan at the time, it set up his direct path into coaching. He spent the 2020 season as Rock Bridge's offensive line coach. In May, he followed Joe Collier to Capital City to become the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator.
But two weeks ago, as Atiyyah Ellison's departure from Battle was finalized when he transitioned to become the Tigers' director of player development, Dubinski saw an opportunity to take the helm of a program.
On Tuesday, Battle named the 24-year-old the third head football coach in the school's history.
Ellison held the post since May 2019, taking over for Justin Conyers, who led the Spartans from 2013-19.
Dubinski becomes the first player coached by former MU head coach Barry Odom to hold a high school football head coaching position.
'I really think about serving the kids'
Several Missouri alumni from Gary Pinkel's tenure have led prep programs such as Ellison, Tolton head coach Michael Egnew and former DeSmet head coach Robert Steeples.
"Once you get done playing, you start to have a different concept of time. It feels like it was a long time ago. It feels like it's been a long time since I've played," Dubinski told the Tribune on Wednesday. "I never really thought about if I was the first guy in the Barry Odom era to get a head coaching job or anything like that. I really think about serving the kids."
Battle High School athletic director Alex Huck, who was part of the group in charge of the hiring, addressed Dubinski during the interview process about his age, knowing he'd be only six years older than some of his players.
Huck was impressed by Dubinski's response, talking about his time of transition and working with plenty of coaches at MU.
"He really eased any worry of that lack of experience, if you will, because of the experience that he's had — and he immediately went into college-level coaching," Huck said of Dubinski. "He has had that levels of coaching experience. Obviously, in a condensed amount of time that we've been given, the array of experiences that he's had, he's going to be really great for our program and for our kids."
Jonah Dubinski's Mizzou football roots helped shape him into a coach
Dubinski credits former MU offensive line coach Brad Davis, who currently holds the same position at LSU, with shaping his mindset from the transition from player to coach.
The new Spartans head coach believes in five traits that makes successful people and teams — respect, responsibility, passion, positivity and adaptability.
Dubinski believes instilling those values into Battle's players will help continue the winning tradition on Columbia's east side. The Spartans have won six district championships in seven years of postseason eligibility.
"I was lucky enough to be coached by and get to work or study under Brad Davis, who really taught me about serving leadership," Dubinski said. "It's really about understanding why you're doing what you're doing. And as a high school football coach, and as a coach at any level, I'm here to serve the kids and make sure that they get out of this experience they want."
Battle starts fall football practice on Aug. 9, 13 days after Dubinski's hiring. The Spartans first game is in about a month.
Dubinski doesn't plan on making any major staff changes, but does plan on rounding out Battle's coaching circle with a few individuals.
The former Rock Bridge offensive lineman quickly identified the positive actions of the Spartans' current coaches and players in dealing with late-offseason adversity in setting Battle up for success in 2021.
"Just in my short period of time getting to actually be within the program instead of on the outside, the key is really what they've been able to do in developing leadership," Dubinski said. "... We have leadership at every level, student-athletes, coordinators, head coach, position coaches.
"We're going to be in a great spot. And to see that even in the face of transition, a little bit of adversity, we've got coaches coaching, doing a great job leading, coordinators are doing their jobs at a high level and we've got student-athletes that are leading each other. And they have great accountability."
'I've been given this great opportunity'
From the outside, Dubinski has always been impressed by the Spartans' football program. During his senior season in 2014, he played in the first Battle vs. Rock Bridge game, seeing a young program hang with the more seasoned Bruins squad.
Although Battle lost that game 25-11, it ended up winning a MSHSAA Class 5 state championship a few months later.
That's the precedent Dubinski believes he can continue at Battle with little time to wait or waste before the pads go back on.
"This is what we do it for," Dubinski said of the quick start. "As a coach, you got to get excited for stuff like this. It's what I've prepared for since I started coaching, and little did I know, it's what I was preparing for when I was a player. For the entire time as a player, you're observing what's going on, you're weighing the decisions made by other people, the process is set up, things like that, and trying to understand how you would do it if you got to do it on your own.
"And I've now been given that opportunity. And I've taken a lot of time, I've spoken with people who have done this at a way higher level, for a way longer amount of time, about their processes and their mindsets. ... So I feel really comfortable. I don't have to make decisions in 12 days because I put in a lot of the work ahead of time."
Contact Eric Blum at email@example.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.