Biehl named NSA football coach

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mike Biehl became the new Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football coach on Monday.

Mike Biehl, 31, brings 10 years of coaching experience as an assistant at the high school and college levels to his new position as head coach of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s varsity football program.

Mike Biehl, 31, brings 10 years of coaching experience as an assistant at the high school and college levels to his new position as head coach of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s varsity football program.

It is his first head coaching job after working as an assistant at the college level and, most recently, for years at the high school level in Virginia Beach.

Shortly after he accepted the job, he was presented with the question from faculty at Tallwood High School where he teaches and coached — “How can you leave the beach?”

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Settled comfortably into a Saints polo shirt inside NSA’s athletics office on Wednesday, Biehl said, “I tell you, if they can step on campus, they would understand why I would leave. It’s a special place, it’s a special opportunity.”

NSA director of boys’ athletics T.W. Johnson had the daunting task of hiring the replacement to 757 legend Lew Johnston, who spent five years at Nansemond-Suffolk and closed out his 41-year coaching career by leading the Saints to the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship in 2015.

His search got off to a good start.

“We had a great group of candidates that was impressive, which was a good problem to have, but also challenging because you’ve got to sort through and try to figure out who might be the best fit for Nansemond-Suffolk,” Johnson said.

Biehl noted that Johnson reached out to him initially, introducing him to a world he was relatively unaware of.

“Being a public school guy my whole life, my whole coaching career in high school, I didn’t know a whole lot about Nansemond-Suffolk in terms of what their program was about, what the private schools in general were about,” Biehl said.

But Johnson captured his attention on the phone.

“As soon as I heard him speak about (NSA), the excitement, the enthusiasm, kind of the love he has for this school, I was hooked,” Biehl said. “I was intrigued right off the bat, because you just don’t hear that kind of enthusiasm from (athletic directors) like the kind you hear in his voice when he talks about this.”

Johnson was similarly intrigued about Biehl from that first conversation.

“I got off that first phone call with him, and I’m like, ‘That was an easy phone conversation’ and wanted to learn more,” he said.

Johnson learned and was impressed with the 31-year-old Biehl’s history with the game of football.

“I played football at Iona College,” Biehl said, referring the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision school. “As soon as I was done playing, I was hired as the quarterback coach there.”

He was there for a spring and got hired as a graduate assistant at an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school, Northern Illinois University, where he stayed for a year.

“I got hired at Kent State University as a graduate assistant, worked there for about two and a half years,” he said.

Then Biehl moved back to Virginia Beach and worked at Kellam High School as a quarterback coach for a year. Following that, he got his teaching license while working as a teacher’s assistant at Tallwood High School, and he started coaching there.

In his five years at Tallwood, he coached safeties, was a defensive coordinator for three years and was the offensive coordinator this past year.

Johnson was able to get Biehl to come to Nansemond-Suffolk for a visit to meet him in person and learn more about him, giving Biehl, in turn, that key opportunity to learn more about the school.

“When I got on campus, you just feel the positivity that runs through this place, the real feeling that everyone here wants to see the students just do their best,” Biehl said. “It sounds kind of cliché, but that’s a tangible thing on this campus, and that was something I wanted to be a part of.”

The visit helped bring Johnson’s coaching search to a conclusion.

“In the end, we just felt like Mike’s character would be great for our kids, and his knowledge and having success as a player,” Johnson said. “We really felt like this was the right person to continue to lead our football program in the right direction and stand on the shoulders of Coach J and the other good coaches we’ve had here throughout the years and carry on the tradition that we’re fortunate enough to have here.”