Bond grows stronger on the football field for Perham coach, son

Perham, Minn. - The trip to the Metrodome for the Minnesota Class 3A semifinal versus Blue Earth for the 10-1 Perham football team is special to the nearly 3,000 people in the town of Perham.

The Jordahls
Mike Jordahl and his son Payton when Payton was a senior at Perham High School. David Samson / The Forum

Perham, Minn. - The trip to the Metrodome for the Minnesota Class 3A semifinal versus Blue Earth for the 10-1 Perham football team is special to the nearly 3,000 people in the town of Perham.

It's special to the high school, as the first football state championship is two victories away.

But for coach Mike Jordahl, it doesn't get much more special. He not only gets to watch his son Payton play on the dome turf for the first time, but, just as he has through life, he gets to coach him there as well.

"He's such a good kid," Mike Jordahl said, unable to hold back a smile. "He volunteers to teach Sunday school, he's a good student and he's just a leader. It's something special to look out on the field and say, 'That's my son making that play. That's my blood that's running the ball or making the block or picking the ball off on the football field.' It's a very fortunate situation for us."

Any move a coach makes is dissected and overanalyzed, but no call in high school sports is more scrutinized than playing a relative, especially a son or daughter.


"I don't have to worry about that because he's a good player," Mike said. "He's a special athlete, and it isn't just God-given talent. He puts a lot of work on himself. I don't have to motivate him. He plays hard and has a number for himself."

Payton lets the numbers do the talking. As a fullback, he's rushed for 549 yards and four touchdowns, two of which came in Perham's 42-8 state quarterfinal win over Esko on Saturday.

And he leads the Yellowjackets defense with 91 tackles to go along with one sack and two interceptions as a linebacker.

"The only way to overcome the scrutiny is showing it on the field," Payton said. "You have to get out there and have your own motives. A lot of kids worry about getting scrutiny from the community, but my dad coaching me makes me a tougher football player. It pushes me harder than ever. Every kid wants to make his coach proud, but it's a whole new factor when you want to make your dad and coach proud, and they are the same person. It's something special."

The team certainly isn't complaining about Payton getting playing time.

"I know I wouldn't want my dad coaching," Perham quarterback Jordan Hein said. "Payton is a heck of a player, and they do a great job separating player and son and coach and dad. It's a real nice thing we have going on."

So often, there's a certain person overlooked in the father-son, coach-player dynamic. There's the matter of that person who gave birth to one watching the other call plays that are going to hurt. What about mom?

"I feel very sorry for my mom and my sister during the football season," Payton said. "They go through a lot of stress."


Mom may be the one shielding her eyes in the stands, but there isn't a bigger fan.

"His mom and his sister are always there screaming and yelling," Mike said. "I'm sure they hide their heads behind their arms a lot, but they know it's a contact sport. It's football. It's the greatest sport on earth and sometimes people get hurt because of it."

The Jordahls have made a few trips to Minneapolis for Minnesota Vikings games, Minnesota Gophers games and to watch Prep Bowls, but Saturday's trip could be the most memorable. Payton is already planning a couple more family vacations next year for his senior season.

"This trip will be great, but hopefully we make another trip next week and a couple more next year," Payton said.

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