For future Southeast Missouri State offensive lineman Zane Coon, his football career has been interesting to say the least as he enters what is his second and final year with the Jackson Indians.
Last fall was Coon’s first season at Jackson after playing his first two years of high school football in Kansas at Dodge City, where his father Ricky Coon was the head coach for three seasons at the local community college.
Coon’s father then accepted a job at SEMO as the defensive coordinator for the Redhawks, where he had previously coached for four years prior to taking the job at Dodge City. Along with now playing at two different high schools, Zane has also had four different head coaches through four years.
Making things more difficult for Coon was that his mother and siblings stayed up in Kansas when he and his father first moved back to Missouri. This was only because Zane’s older sister was a senior at Dodge City.
“My mom, my two brothers and her stayed back, so it was just my dad and me here,” Coon said. “I was basically by myself at a new school, so it was a little rough at first. Once they got back down here, though, it started to pick back up and has been good.”
Even though Coon has had plenty of change over his career, this didn’t stop him from becoming a highly sought after lineman in the Midwest. Zane fielded a total of seven Division-I offers along with SEMO, which included Eastern Kentucky, Georgia State, Mississippi Valley State, Missouri State, North Alabama and Western Carolina.
Out of his offers, Coon went on four visits, which were SEMO, of course, Georgia State, North Alabama and Western Carolina.
“It was a surreal experience,” Zane said. “From being a younger kid and figuring out how the whole system works with Division-I and things like that, it was definitely cool to go on those visits and see the stuff that you’ve been working for your whole life basically. I’ve been blessed to have those opportunities and see all the different places and cultures.”
Despite Coon’s dad being a coach at one of the schools he had an offer from, Zane said he still wasn’t pressured by his father in any way to sign with the Redhawks. Coon said it was a difficult process because of all of the interest he had, starting with North Alabama becoming his first offer in early May.
“[My dad] told me it was my decision — he wanted me to go wherever I felt it was best for me,” Coon said. “I’m really appreciative of that because I didn’t feel like he was pushing me anywhere, but I still ended up here. I think it’s a great decision for me.
“After North Alabama offered me, I got three more that weekend and my recruiting just kept picking up. I narrowed it down to four schools, and I had really good relationships with all of those coaches. It’s kind of tough to cut those off and move on, but I think it worked out well.”
Aside from joining his father to begin his college football career, Zane is excited to play for a program like SEMO’s that enters the 2023 season nationally ranked at No. 11 in the preseason FCS Coaches’ Poll.
“As a coach’s kid, I’ve gotten to see the growth of the program firsthand from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs,” Coon said. “Seeing what they do and all the work they put in, and seeing it payoff makes me happy for my dad. Then as an incoming player, it’s really encouraging to see SEMO is one of the top teams in the country. From an FCS aspect, you can’t get much better than a program like SEMO.”
On the offensive line, Coon said he is able to play all five positions as he’ll be lining up at offensive guard for Jackson this season. Zane, who stands at 6-foot-3 and weights 300 pounds, said he believes that his athleticism is what makes him stick out, which allows him to move unusually well compared to most high school lineman.
“That helps a lot, especially against high school defensive lineman because they’re not all the most athletically gifted,” Coon said. “Also having the brain to be able to play all five positions on the offensive line really helps.”
What Zane has noticed the most since coming to Jackson is his technique as a lineman as well as his strength. Last fall, Coon was under the tutelage of former Indians head coach and MFCA Hall of Famer Brent Eckley and is now being coached by Jackson’s new head coach Ryan Nesbitt.
With his commitment, Coon is the fourth Jackson lineman in the last four years to continue their playing career at the D-I level, following in the footsteps of 2021 graduate Connor Tollison (Mizzou), 2022 graduate Ashton Flinn (Murray State) and 2023 graduate Tony Terry (Kansas).
“It’s great being able to carry on the tradition,” Coon said. “Being a program that produces those types of guys is a great look on your program, but it also speaks to the player. Being in this program isn’t easy, so we go above and beyond to do our best. Those guys before me were obviously great players, and I’m to be able to be in that same boat with them.”
What Coon enjoys the most about playing Jackson football is the “brotherhood” aspect. Zane said the emphasis of being together as one as a team is unique compared to the other programs he’s played for. He said just not many high school programs encompass that.
“My teammates know I love them, and I let them know it, especially my o-line unit,” Coon said. “I might have to get on to them sometimes during practice, but they know I mean well. Once we get off the field, we’re right back to being brothers.”