LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — It’s no coincidence that Lee’s Summit North is home to one of the top football recruits in the country.
Top-ranked defensive end Williams Nwaneri committed to Missouri just two weeks before the first football game of his senior year in a ceremony that’s becoming an annual ritual at the Kansas City suburb high school.
The year before, offensive tackle Cayden Green announced his commitment to Oklahoma, where he begins his freshman year this season.
And the program is more than just Power 5 recruits. The Broncos are coming off of back-to-back seasons of making the Missouri Class 6 state semifinals (2021) and then going to overtime in the 2022 state championship.
Both losses were to St. Louis’s Christian Brothers College High.
But because of the program that head coach Jamar Mozee has built, LSN is built to be a perennial power at the highest class in the state.
Turning the program around
Although LSN was the second high school to open in Lee’s Summit R-VII School District in 1995, its football history has not achieved the heights of the rival West Titans.
Lee’s Summit West opened in 2004 and has three football state championships; one in Class 4 in 2007 and two in Class 5 in 2010 and 2013.
The Broncos reached their first state tournament game in 2008 when they lost the district championship to Blue Springs South.
Mozee joined Lee’s Summit North as an offensive coordinator in 2014. The former Blue Springs two-time all-state running back is a familiar face in the KC area. Most know him for going to Oklahoma before transferring to Nicholls State.
Mozee was Park Hill South’s offensive coordinator prior to running the Broncos’ offense.
Even before he took the OC job at LSN, the perception of the program was in the gutter.
“The worst Class 6 team that you could play,” Mozee said. “We looked forward to them having them on the schedule because we knew we could beat them.”
“Not as many people out here,” Mozee’s son Isaiah said. Isaiah is a junior wide receiver already holding 30 FBS offers. “We’ll go through practices, nobody would catch a ball. It was crazy.”
Knowing that it was a steep climb from the bottom just made Mozee want to take the job even more and it was basically his for the taking.
“We were statistically the worst Class 6 football team. So there were not a lot of people knocking down the door to be a coach here,” LSN Athletics Director Mike McGurk said.
With LSN wanting an offensive HC, they put out feelers for other candidates before choosing Mozee in 2015 who showed them his vision and immediately got started.
“What he brought to the table early was a work ethic,” McGurk said. “He knew how much work had to be done.”
“When you get in here and you get the chance to meet the people and get around, you see that it’s doable,” Mozee said.
McGurk said one of the biggest challenges was keeping kids from transferring to other local powers like Rockhurst and West.
For Mozee? It was instilling a culture, any kind of culture, into Lee’s Summit North football.
“As a coach, when you go to a program with no culture, they have to buy into you because you can’t bounce it off anything else,” Mozee said.
“My thing was to create the family environment. I want my guys to feel loved when they come to work. Because this is work, you know, I want them to feel love like ‘Coach cares about me’ and I do and I prove that to them. So it’s not just lip service. So that was part of it too. The buy-in, like ‘This dude’s serious like he cares about my grades. He cares about my home life. He cares about what I’m doing off the field.
“‘He’s like actively checking on me. And so those types of things are part of it too.”
That part of the program is apparent when any kind of signing day occurs. Coaches are all smiles, Mozee makes it a point to shake hands or hug almost everyone he knows in the room and the energy of the team always feels positive.
“He tells them he loves them every day, multiple times a day,” parent Donnie Chatmon Jr. said. Chatmon Jr.’s son Quade (junior running back) has played with Mozee’s son Isaiah since they were children.
He has been close with Mozee since their sons began playing together and their sons are close as well.
“The program is definitely based off of love. Love and respe ct for each other and for coaches and everything,” Chatmon Jr. said.
“I feel like he does the program to help the kids. It’s not for him. It’s not anything,” Isaiah said. “He just wants to help people.”
Also part of the culture is a good weight room program which Mozee personally took over to ensure success. And it’s not a big, fancy weight room that most modern high schools have today.
It can get cramped for big teams at a Class 6 school. But it obviously gets the job done.
“The weight room is a cultivator,” he said. “So it’s my voice. It’s me blowing the whistle, it’s me getting on you, it’s us building that connection, it’s us laughing and having fun. It’s us listening to the music that we wanna listen to.
“All those pieces build the culture of a team.”
The HC also started bringing in eighth graders to become ingrained in the program early. Tactics like that lead to 10 experienced sophomores starting in a state championship game.
“You’re almost weird or different if you don’t. To be in our program, they already know to survive, they have to do these things. And so that’s the culture of it. Like it’s tough. It’s hard. But after about two years, they don’t even know that it’s hard.”
Another key part of a football program is accountability which Mozee began to do himself at the beginning of the tenure. He took kids to their homes and home with him so they could do homework.
Some kids he has to do that with but the team holds each other accountable for the most part.
While the culture was set early, Mozee’s tenure wasn’t a steady climb.
He took over for a 1-9 team that didn’t surpass six wins until 2018 when the Broncos fell to Rockhurst in the district championship. Since then, they have made the state playoffs every year leading up to this season where expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for the program.
Moving forward as a power
Now that LSN is the hot program in town, they’re receiving a few of the transfers that they used to lose.
Quarterback Elijah Leonard transferred in from Liberty North before last season and is committed to Missouri State and Moore’s family moved from Grandview after his mother talked to Green’s mother. Nwaneri also transferred from Grandview but Mozee had to convince him to play football his freshman year.
Mozee also mentioned around 50% of last year’s seniors are in college to play football and estimates it will be 50% again this year. He also estimates around 100 players have went on to play college football in the eight years he’s been HC.
McGurk feels that the perception of the program is that players transfer into the program as highly-rated recruits but he and Mozee said that highly recruited players are the results of the program.
“Our staff does a tremendous, a tremendous job of developing talent. And I think people see that. And I think people want their kids to be part of that,” McGurk said.
McGurk believes that Mozee feels like he has a burden to be a successful Black coach to lay a foundation for other Black coaches. He cited the recent hirings of William Chrisman’s Michael Rose-Ivey and LSW’s Willie Horn as examples.
“I think at some point during his coaching career he was told that he was not going to be a head coach,” McGurk said. Mozee confirmed that the interaction happened before he joined LSN.
McGurk also added that Mozee choosing his predominantly Black staff for a predominantly Black team also helps development as well.
With a ’21 state semifinal and a ’22 state championship runner-up on their belt, the Broncos feel confident that winning the program’s first state championship trophy is right on the horizon.
It’s a goal that Mozee and his staff preach to the team every day.
“Are we living up to that every day? Was your effort state championship level effort? When you walk down the hall, is it like a state champion? Are your grades state championship-like?
“Losing that game just stirred the pot.”
As for Mozee, it seems like the sky is the limit for the young, successful coach. Any coach who can build a program that creates a lifelong bond between players and coaches will have a long career.
He hasn’t stated his long-term goals but he can surely stay at LSN for as long as he wants.
“When people talk about Blue Springs in their heyday, it wasn’t just one or two years. It was a long period of time where they were successful. Rockhurst, you know,” McGurk said. “I think he wants to have Lee’s Summit North in that same conversation.”
“I also look at how kids talk about him after they leave, and even when he’s here. He’s left his mark. I mean, he just, he just has, and it’s, it’s kind of cool to see that.”
Lee’s Summit North opens their season at home against another star-studded team in Liberty North on Friday at 8:30 p.m.