Powell Named New Defensive Coordinator for Defending Champions

Maybe the ball-hawking, ball-stealing, points-scoring St. Paul Pioneers defense will now be known as the Wrath of Kahn.

Kahn Powell, a much-respected and longtime Pioneers defensive assistant, has been promoted to Defensive Coordinator, the Pioneers announced Sunday. Powell, who had been the Pioneers defensive backs coach since 2008, promises to stress taking the ball away from opposing offenses.

“This is just a great opportunity to step up and coach a great group of players,” Powell said about his decision to take the defensive reins for St. Paul, the NEFL’s top defense over the past two seasons. “I’m happy I can do it with the Pioneers.”

Pioneers Head Coach Mark Heiser, who was the team’s defensive coordinator himself in 2006 and 2007, said Powell will bring an excitement to the Pioneers’ defense. “And I am excited about the dynamics he will bring. Kahn is going to help make a great defense even better.”

Rob Neumann, the Pioneers’ Offensive Coordinator, was happy to hear the news that Powell had accepted the job.

“Kahn’s been instrumental in our success the past few years and I’m extremely excited that he’s going to be here for the foreseeable future,” Neumann said. “This is an opportunity he’s earned and I know he’ll be great at this.”

Powell replaces Jim Walsh as defensive signal-caller. Walsh will move back into his earlier role of defensive line coach, working in tandem with Scott Sether.

“I’ve had this defense for four years and we have had a great run, winning three championships.  But it’s time to let some fresh eyes and fresh ideas take over. If you don’t make changes at this level of football, things grow stale in a hurry,” Walsh said. “Kahn is a guy we all love and respect. Frankly, he is one of the best defensive coaches in the country. This is a no-brainer.”

The Pioneers made the move after it became clear that Powell was a hot commodity in local coaching circles. Powell said he appreciates the opportunity to stay with a team he considers family.

“I want to say thanks to a great friend and colleague, Jim Walsh, for all the help he has given me in getting this promotion,” Powell said.

Powell played college ball at Fort Hays State University, where he earned All-America honors in both football and track & field. He also has played professionally, in the Arena Football League, AFL2, the NIFL and the IFL, where he was a member of the Peoria Pirates undefeated (17-0) championship team in 2000. He also had a short stint in training camps with the CFL and with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL in 1996.

He has coached at all levels of the game, as well as in multiple sports. He has been a high school varsity coach in football, basketball and track & field. He has been a college coach, working with receivers at Macalester College in 2000 and with Macalester defensive backs in 2001. Powell also was the proud coach of the victorious Minneapolis team in the 2008 Urban Bowl All-Star game. For the past five years, he has been a certified Minnesota State High School League basketball official.

"Make no mistake," he said, "Football is what I live by, I walk by and I coach by."

Powell and his defensive assistants plan to meet with Heiser in the next week or so to start putting together a plan for the 2012 Pioneers. But Powell said he doesn’t want to get too locked into any particular scheme until he sees what kind of personnel the team will have this year. The Pioneers are scheduled to hold tryouts on Jan. 8 and on Feb. 19 at the Bethel University Field House in Arden Hills.

The new defensive coordinator said he plans to keep things similar to the past four seasons, but intends “to move some guys around and give some others fresh opportunities. We will make the scheme fit the players.”

He’s been hoping to move into a top defensive post for a while, Powell said. “Over the past three years, I have become a more integral part of the defense. With the knowledge of the players that I have already, it will be a good mix.”

Powell said he intends for the Pioneers defense to play “11 to the ball football, with unity and communication and attention to detail. It’s going to be like 11 pit bulls.”