Utah Athletics Mourns the Passing of John Pease
SALT LAKE CITY – Former Utah football player and coach John Pease, who also spent two decades as an assistant coach in the NFL, passed away this morning at the age of 77.
Pease, who made his home in Salt Lake City in recent years, last coached in 2015, when he served as Utah's defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for one season after Kyle Whittingham brought him out of retirement. Whittingham had previously brought Pease back into coaching, out of retirement, to serve as assistant head coach and worked with the Utes' defensive line from 2009-10.
"John Pease was one of my favorite people, ever," Whittingham said. "He was my friend. It was an honor working with him, learning from him and knowing him. He impacted the lives of countless people and will be missed by all. The Utah Football family lost a great one and we send all our love and condolences to his wife, Chris, and his loved ones."
Pease initially stepped away from coaching in 2005 after two decades as an NFL assistant (1986-2005), preceded by 15 years as a college assistant (1968-82). Primarily a defensive line coach, Pease was the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2001-02. He spent his final two seasons in the professional ranks coaching the defensive line with the New Orleans Saints in 2004-05. Pease coached in the NFL playoffs eight times, including the 1996 and 1999 AFC Championship games with the Jaguars.
"John Pease was such a treasured member of our Utah Athletics family, who continued to have a special presence around our football program after his retirement," said Mark Harlan, Director of Athletics. "We extend our deepest sympathies to Coach Pease's family and friends during this very difficult time."
The Pittsburgh native played for Utah from 1963-64 and was the team's Most Inspirational Player his final year when Utah went 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl. The 1964 team's win total under head coach Ray Nagel stood as the school record until 2003. Pease also played two years at Fullerton Community College, where he was a junior college All-America halfback in 1961 and linebacker in 1962. He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from the U in 1964.
Pease began his long and successful coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah from 1968-69 and coached the Utes' linebackers in 1977. Between his first two tenures at Utah, Pease coached at Fullerton Community College (1970-74, defensive coordinator and linebackers) and Long Beach State (1974-76, linebackers). He was the defensive line coach at Washington from 1978-82, during which time the Huskies went 46-13 and played in four bowl games. Washington played in back-to-back Rose Bowls, winning the 1982 game (1981 season). He transitioned to professional football with the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars from 1983-85.
John and his wife Chris, who is also a Utah alum, had two daughters and four grandsons.