Norcross’ Kevin Mouhon has been selected as the Daily Post’s defensive football player of the year. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
For any high school football player, the senior season can be fraught with distractions.
However, few players ever had to deal with the potential distractions Norcross’ Kevin Mouhon had to face this fall.
Even after putting the pressures of college recruitment behind him early with a verbal commitment to Tennessee in July, the 6-foot-1, 226-pound senior had plenty more on his plate to occupy his mind.
“I just took it one day at a time,” the 2013 Daily Post Defensive Player of the Year said. “I just had to keep my head up. It was my senior year, but I didn’t expect all this.”
“All this” ran the gamut. From the pressure of living up to his own personal expectations as one of the nation’s top senior linebackers. To the pressure he and his teammates felt trying to defend their 2012 Class AAAAAA state championship and a preseason No. 3 national ranking. To a humbling 1-2 start to the season that included a well-chronicled, nationally-televised 55-0 loss to Florida powerhouse Booker T. Washington.
But all those distractions paled in comparison to the biggest, most personal one that occurred when his father suffered a stroke in October.
However, Mouhon points out that he had plenty of support even beyond that of his immediate family to help him cope with everything that was thrown at him.
“The whole (Norcross) community kind of rallied around me,” Mouhon said. “Going to practice (each day) was (a break from the stress of his father’s health). And I was able to be with my teammates, and they’re not just my teammates. They’re like my brothers.
“In a way, it motivated me to be a better player because you don’t know what life will bring. … You just have to make the most of each day.”
Through it all, Mouhon made the most of his 2013 season.
He posted 200 combined tackles and assists, tops among all Norcross, and Gwinnett County, defenders, including 26 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks, with nine quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and seven pass break-ups this fall.
Blue Devils head coach Keith Maloof was definitely pleased with the way Mouhon made the most of his physical tools this season.
“To go back and look on film and watch his closing speed, it’s amazing,” Maloof said. “There were a couple of times where I thought the running back had the edge on him, and all of the sudden, he closed on him. He not only closed on him, but he made the tackle.
“That’s hard to do when you’re going full speed. And he brings it with him when he hits.”
But as impressed as Maloof was with Mouhon’s play on the field this season, he was even more impressed with his maturity in coping with his own distractions as well as demonstrating plenty of leadership as the Blue Devils (13-2) recovered from what could’ve been a devastating start.
He anchored a defense that gave up an average of just 8.2 points as Norcross won its last 12 straight games en route to its second straight state title.
“He just did an outstanding job of leading while he was definitely playing with a heavy heart,” Maloof said. “The whole time I knew with the guys, particularly Kevin, going through what they went though, … they would come together as a team. I knew it was just a matter of time.”
With the season now behind him and his father steadily making progress in his recovery, Mouhon’s focus can now turn toward the future.
Among the things he’s looking forward to is playing in the U.S Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 in San Antonio, as well as National Signing Day in February and the rest of his senior year of high school before he heads off to Tennessee in the summer.
However, his approach to the future is the same it’s been all season.
“Right now, it can be overwhelming thinking about it all,” Mouhon said. “I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”