University of Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley learned most of what he knows about coaching from John Pease.
From dealing with players, humility and a calm demeanor on game day, to aphorisms such as “my embarrassment” and “four and a score,” Pease will forever be an integral part of Scalley’s life.
So when Pease, the popular Utes assistant, died Monday at the age of 77, the news naturally hit Scalley hard. He learned of his mentor’s death just before practice that day. Afterward, he reminisced with Utah coaches and players.
“We spent a lot of time in the defensive staff room just talking about memories — memories about John Pease,” Scalley said Wednesday.
Scalley said he could spend hours talking about Pease and how much of an impact he made on his life as a coach. One of the things that stood out to Scalley about Pease was his demeanor.
“He was a master at just ignoring the big play against you,” Scalley said. “He was just nails up there in the booth. Nothing fazed him, and I loved that about him.”
The late coach was a rock on game days.
“If he called something that we didn’t have in a package or he screwed the deal up, [he’d say] ‘My embarrassment’ instead of ‘My bad,’” Scalley recalled. “He hated ‘My bad,’ but ‘My embarrassment’ was OK for him.”
And Pease provided Scalley and others with countless memories away from the field.
Scalley recalled a coaches’ retreat at Snowbird when Pease was writing some defensive concepts on a board at 6 a.m. All of a sudden the group heard “this loud squealing” coming from outside.
“He stops mid-sentence, turns and says, “Well, it’s either really, really good or really, really bad,’” Scalley said. “He provided the laugh.”
Scalley was a young Utes assistant in 2009-10, the same time that Pease was the assistant head coach and defensive line coach. After some time away, Pease returned to Utah in 2015, when Scalley was coaching special teams and safeties.
After Pease’s final retirement in 2015, Scalley took over as defensive coordinator and has been in that position ever since.
Pease graduated from Utah in 1964 and served three tenures as an assistant coach, including as a defensive coordinator 2015. Other positions he held were linebackers coach in 1977, assistant head coach and defensive line coach from 2009-10.
In between, Pease was the University of Washington’s defensive line coach (1978-82), then served as an NFL assistant coach for 19 years between the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Scalley credited Pease with the mentality of the team to get as many takeaways on defense as possible, and giving that focus a name: “Four and a score,” which means if a team gets four takeaways and scores once, it wins 99% of the time.
“It was always a focus under [Utes coach] Kyle [Whittingham], but to term it and to really focus on it and work after it, a lot of credit goes to John,” Scalley said.
An outpouring of support came through after the announcement of Pease’s death. Whittingham made a statement on Twitter, and the team’s official Twitter account released a video of him dancing on the field.
And for Scalley, the loss of Pease seems like he not only lost a friend and a colleague but a piece of himself.
“He was just the best,” Scalley said.