By Jim Walsh.
Since the team was founded in 2002, the St. Paul Pioneers football club has had six head coaches. Several enjoyed success. A few even won championships.
Only one won a National Championship. In fact, he won three.
Those crowns, along with eight league titles, a national runner-up finish and a regional crown, make Heiser the winningest coach in Pioneers history.
It’s a record without peer. It’s a record worthy of recognition.
And now, it’s a record worthy of the St. Paul Pioneers Hall of Fame.
For his on-field accomplishments, as well as his continued work and dedication behind the scenes, the St. Paul Pioneers are inducting the team’s longest-serving and most successful head coach into its hall of Fame at halftime of the season’s first home game May 14.
Heiser, currently president of the Pioneers Board of Directors, came to the Pioneers in 2006. For two seasons, he served as defensive coordinator under brother and former head coach Nate Heiser. Then, in 2008, Mark Heiser took the helm. That season would see the Pioneers ascend to a Midwest regional title and the Elite Eight of the North American Football League.
The next season would be even better. St. Paul would finish the season 15-1, winning games from Des Moines, Iowa, to central South Dakota, from Bellingham, Wash., to a final-second title game victory in Miami, Fla. Heiser’s squad captured the 2009 North American Football League National Championship, defeating the favored Nashville Bulldogs.
In 2010, the Pioneers moved to the Northern Elite Football League. Yet Heiser and the Pioneers, with rosters that changed substantially every year, kept winning championships. Along the way, St. Paul took two more national titles, winning bowl games in Daytona, Fla., after the 2012 and 2014 seasons. The 2012 squad did not lose a game all year.
Through it all, Heiser was a high school head football coach – first at St. Paul Academy, then at Minneapolis Patrick Henry. He and his wife Cori are parents to three young sons.
Damien Rochon Washington, an all-star wide receiver for many of those championship teams, is now the Pioneers head coach. But Heiser continues his work with the rest of the team’s board to keep Minnesota’s longest-running and most successful amateur football team among the nation’s elite.
For all of that, the St. Paul Pioneers are proud to welcome Mark Heiser to the team’s Hall of Fame.