March 2nd – NORWALK – Keith Mora has built a career in which he takes on challenges head-on.
This will continue with his next coaching hiatus as Mora was announced Thursday at Norwalk High School as the university’s new head football coach – subject to Board of Education approval.
Mora has been the head coach at Danbury High School since 2015 – a Division VII program that has fielded 8-man football teams for the past three seasons. He has also been the school’s sports director since the 2018/19 school year.
Not only has the 2007 Fostoria graduate made a huge step up in school size, but he’s also taking on a Norwalk program that has gone 1-19 in the last two seasons.
“Not one thing I’ve done in my career hasn’t resulted in someone saying, ‘This is going to be a challenge,'” Mora said. “So for me it’s just another of those challenges. I’ve trained with big squads and bigger programs before, and I’ve coached 11-man football more than twice as long as eight-man football.
“So going back to 11-man football and having a big squad versus a small one…these are all things that I think my experience will allow me to step in and hit the ground running.”
Mora noted that as more children go through an exercise or an exercise, the apparent differences will focus on the scheduling and timing of things.
“That’s going to take longer, and those are the things I’ve already worked through between myself and others,” he said.
Josh Schlotterer, the NHS director of student activities, spoke about what brought the school to Mora.
“We had a large pool of candidates to choose from, and when we met and spoke to Keith, we were amazed at his knowledge of the game,” Schlotterer said. “But it was primarily his leadership skills, enthusiasm for the position – and the hunger he had to be a Norwalk trucker that set him apart from the rest.
“He’s been a head coach for eight years and we love that he’s been an administrator and a sporting director and understands that side of things. But his leadership skills were what stood out more than anything.”
After high school, Mora, 34, attended Wright State University where he was involved with the National Club Football Association. Unlike most schools, WSU funded and sponsored the team.
Mora worked in various coaching positions along the defensive line, then as a coordinator, and finally as an assistant and interim head coach of the WSU club team, which hosts some NCAA Div. II-III as well as NAIA schools.
After an internship in strength and conditioning at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2012, Mora finished his schooling at WSU – then went to Pittsburgh to become director of football development for the NCFA to help build more teams across the United States
Mora admitted he hated not having a whistle and coaching and didn’t last long in the role. He returned to UAB as a research assistant in November 2013, but when there was a coaching change the following February, all positions were up in the air.
“It was then that I made the decision to go and come back to Ohio and reorient myself,” Mora said.
It was at this point in 2014 that Mora landed on the staff of Beau Carmon as a linebacker and special team coach at Port Clinton. He was then hired at nearby Danbury ahead of the 2015 season.
Before moving to 8-man football in 2020, Mora had a 15-35 record in five seasons with the Lakers. That included the greatest season in program history when Danbury had a 7-4 record. The Lakers qualified for the Div. VII State Playoffs as the No. 8 and Final Seed, resulting in a loss to longtime state power McComb.
“It’s an emotional thing when you’ve put a lot of time in one place because it’s hard to leave,” Mora said. “It was very difficult, but when I look at Norwalk I see a city that speaks to me as a person. I’m a kid from Fostoria and we played Norwalk (in the Northern Ohio League).
“It’s a city that I’m familiar with and know can have very strong traditions in a sport like football,” he added. “So if I’m wondering where I’d like to be if not Danbury, it has to be somewhere that can encompass athletics, particularly football. The father of modern football (Paul Brown) was born in Norwalk, Ohio. This is a place that attracted me for those reasons.”
In his first message to his new team on Thursday, Mora said he’s kept it simple and focused on the reason every kid plays football.
“I want football to be fun,” he said. “Why are you doing something that takes so much time if you’re not going to have fun? So first and foremost I want them to have fun. Winning is fun.
“We will always be focused on finding ways to win games and all that,” Mora added. “But I think the first thing they’re going to see is that I’m an energetic person. I am someone who is passionate about positivity. You’re going to see someone walk in and talk about having fun and changing the culture of how we do things.”
Mora said the team motto will focus on work, team and will.
“We will be a team of workers,” he said. “The amount of work we have to put in is greater because we are at the bottom of the league at the moment, not at the top. We must be workers who come every day with a growth mentality.
“As a team, we need to be together at work. We all need to be together all the time, working as a family and really building. ‘We will’ means to me that we will persevere. We will work for everything will come out better at the end of the day.”