In the fall of 2021, Jon Wholley began teaching for the first time inside a classroom At Avon Old Farms School. However, many will say he is a natural, and that’s because he’s been coaching on the football field since he finished grad school in 2008.
“I’ve been giving presentations to young guys for years, and I think a lot of the same things I learned in coaching apply to teaching: tell stories, don’t lecture; make the material connect with the guys and show them how to use the information they’re learning to be the best they can be; teach in a way that helps them understand the whole and master the details.”
So, why the shift from college ball to high school? As Jon explains, it was a much-needed move for the stability of his family. The long and odd hours of college football required him to be away from home seven days a week, from before sun up until well after dark, and with young children at home, he was missing out on being with his family.
“When you’re successful it’s easy to get caught up in the advancement opportunities, and I certainly was pursuing a coaching career in the NFL, but when the pandemic hit, it helped me to reevaluate my priorities. It’s not about the status, the job, or the money. It’s about helping others be their best selves and feeling good about what you’re doing with your life. For me, my family had to come first.”
Jon came to Avon with the experience of coaching at Mississippi State, three years as the UConn Huskies' linebackers coach and, prior to the 2017 season, three years as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Fordham University. After years of building an impressive resume, he was interviewing with the Giants, the Patriots, and others when the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on everything. Jon shares that he often joked that one day he might retire and come work at Avon Old Farms, as he’d always thought it was a special place when he would visit campus on recruiting trips. In 2020, Jon worked virtually for Penn State while a serving as a stay home dad while his wife, Carly, returned to work as an APRN. Then, the opportunity to coach at Avon Old Farms became available.
Our campus’s careful balance of an idealistic setting in the woods only a short drive from all of life’s needs and easy travel made for a nice fit for Jon geographically. The all-boys environment also allows the school’s values to closely align with those of teams on the field, and creates a school of boys who want to be here and are willing to push themselves to learn and grow. So, with his family in mind, Jon took the job at Avon Old Farms.
A Southington, Conn. native, Jon was a member of the UConn football team from 2001-04 as a running back, joining the team as a walk-on. He later earned a scholarship and was a member of the 2004 Motor City Bowl championship team. After earning his undergraduate, Jon worked as an assistant coach at Central Connecticut State for the 2005 season. Jon then returned to UConn as a graduate assistant coach for the 2006-08 seasons working on the offensive side of the ball. He was part of the coaching staff that led the Huskies to a share of the 2007 BIG EAST Championship and an appearance in the 2007 Meineke Car Care Bowl before moving on to roles with Fordham. Over the course of his football career—both as a player and a coach—he’s been a member of four conference championship teams, five bowl games, and a state championship as a high schooler in Southington, Conn.
Jon teaches math and is the The Kevin J. Driscoll '72 Head Football Coach. In the classroom, Jon tells his students that while they may not use the exact formulas in life again, what they will use are the critical thinking skills they’ve gained from working with equations.
John, his wife and their two children, Luke and Tyler, live on campus in the Coop.
- If you’re from Connecticut, you may know Jon’s father from the Better Bedding mattress commercials.
- Until age 12, Jon thought it was normal to have double vision. When he learned it wasn’t, he underwent surgery to correct it.
- During his college years, Jon won more than one rap competition. He has an affinity for 90s and early 2000s rap music.