Morgan Scalley remembers the late John Pease: ‘He was an amazing mentor to me’

Utah defensive line coach John Pease watches players execute drills during a practice at the University of Utah, Aug. 19, 2010.
Utah defensive line coach John Pease watches players execute drills during a practice at the University of Utah. Aug. 19, 2010. Colleague Morgan Scalley fondly remembers Pease, who recently died. | Michael Brandy, Deseret News

The Utes’ defensive coordinator was a young, up-and-coming assistant on Kyle Whittingham’s staff in 2009 and 2010 when Pease coached the Utes’ defensive linemen

No doubt, John Pease made a big impact on Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley.

Scalley was a young, up-and-coming assistant on Kyle Whittingham’s staff in 2009 and 2010 when Pease coached the Utes’ defensive linemen. After retiring, Pease returned to coach at the U. again for one more season in 2015.

Pease died Monday at age 77.

On Wednesday, Scalley reflected on Pease’s contributions to Utah’s program and the friendship the two built.

“He’s an amazing man. He’s the ‘Utah Man.’ That’s the guy right there. He was an amazing mentor to me. I take a lot of my coaching style from John,” Scalley said. “He’s a very player-oriented coach. He was all about the player. Very humble. Never took credit for anything. I love him. I love Chris, his wife, and his family. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Pease taught Scalley about how to handle game days with “calm.”

Utah Utes coach Morgan Scalley watches during the Red and White game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley watches during the spring game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Scalley was an up-and-coming coach when John Pease was coaching the Utes’ defensive line.

“He was a master at just ignoring the big play against you and the next-play mentality,” Scalley said. “He was just nails up there in the booth. Nothing fazed him. I loved that about him. He was calm with the players on game day.”

Scalley said he and the coaching staff learned about Pease’s death before Monday’s practice.

“It was a tough one,” Scalley said.

After that day’s practice, the coaches shared memories of Pease. “He was always a guy that provided the laugh,” Scalley said.

Scalley recalled attending a coaching retreat at Snowbird with Pease. It was 6 a.m., and Pease was writing information on a board.

“All of the sudden you hear this loud squealing from outside,” Scalley said. “He stops mid-sentence and says, ‘Well, it’s either really, really good or really, really bad.’ He provides the laughs. He was a guy that taught me so much about preparation, about how to handle game-day issues. He was just the best.”

There are at least two phrases that Pease liked to say that Scalley uses today as a coach. One of them is “my embarrassment,” instead of saying “my bad,” when a mistake is made.

The other is “four and a score,” which, Scalley explained, means “four takeaways and a score (by the defense), and you’ll win 99% of the time.”

“Over the past six years, we’re No. 1 in the country in takeaways per game. It’s always the focus under Kyle,” Scalley said. “But to term it and really focus on it, a lot of credit goes to John.”

Pease last coached in 2015, when he served as the Utes’ defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for one season after Whittingham brought him out of retirement.

“John Pease was one of my favorite people, ever,” Whittingham said. “He was my friend. It was an honor working with him, learning from him and knowing him. He impacted the lives of countless people and will be missed by all. The Utah Football family lost a great one and we send all our love and condolences to his wife, Chris, and his loved ones.”

A former Utah player, Pease coached for two decades as an NFL assistant from 1968-82. He was also the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2001-02. He spent his final two seasons in the NFL with New Orleans in 2004-05.