So it was particularly meaningful for Jensen on Tuesday when he was named the new head coach at Archbishop Murphy High School, the program later begun by Ennis and one he quickly raised to prominence.
"I'm honored to be able to coach at the same place where (Ennis) started," said Jensen, a 1993 Cascade graduate who later played at the University of Washington and for two seasons in the NFL. "I witnessed the very first practice he had there, and I remember thinking, 'What in the heck is Coach Ennis doing?'
"But it was absolutely amazing what he created here, and to be a part of that is an honor," he said.
In 2004, Jensen became an Archbishop Murphy assistant coach with Ennis, who died in 2007. After leaving Archbishop Murphy in 2009, Jensen was out of football until this past season, when he was a volunteer assistant coach at Mount Vernon High School.
This will be his first head coaching position, and he expects to draw on many of the lessons, philosophies and strategies that he learned from Ennis.
"Coach Ennis always got the most out of his players, whether it was in the weight room or on the field," Jensen said. "He expected more out of you than you ever knew you had.
"When I first met Coach Ennis as a freshman, he wasn't putting up with the stuff that I was used to being able to get away with, so we didn't really hit it off right away. But I learned to respect the man for the character and the values he had. And ultimately he raised everybody up around him."
Under Ennis, Archbishop Murphy became a state power, not "because we had all these great athletes," Jensen said. "It was because of the Everyday Joes who'd learned to do things the right way."
Jensen inherits a program that has experienced considerable turmoil in the last year. Dave Ward, who led the Wildcats to the 2010 and 2011 state championship games, was put on administrative leave before being forced out in early February. His replacement, Bill Marsh, resigned four games into the 2012 season. Interim head coach Michael Allison was put on paid administrative leave the day after his promotion when it was learned he had an improper relationship with a former student while coaching previously in Oregon.
Archbishop Murphy athletic director Jerry Zander said Jensen's absence of head coaching experience "doesn't worry me. It wasn't an issue for us. You can't get any head coaching experience without a chance. Jerry's a high character guy and we've seen him coach. We have no reservations of making him a head coach.
"First and foremost," Zander added, "the committee felt that Jerry was the best coach throughout the interview process. The fact he's a known quantity (in Snohomish County) was a bonus."
Jensen has already announced several members of his coaching staff, and many having Snohomish County ties. They include former Cascade teammates Roger Brodniak and Terry Hollimon, former Mariner High School and UW player Shane Fortney, former UW player David Richie, and Joe Ennis, son of Terry Ennis.
Jensen, who will also have a part-time role in the school's athletic department, expects to add 4-5 more coaches to his staff "with some really good people that I'm talking to now."
On Tuesday, Jensen met with his players at the school and he is already making preparations for a winter conditioning program.
"I expect to have fun," he said. "And the only way I know to have fun is to win football games. … I expect a lot of myself and I'll expect a lot of the kids in turn. There's an atmosphere around (the school) that breeds excellence, and that's just what's expected here."
Like the Ennis-coached teams he remembers, "we're going to stress fundamentals and get back to fundamentally sound football," Jensen said. "But the bigger picture of what we're trying to do is to take a kid and turn him into a young man who is going to be a productive member of society."
At a school that pushes students to excel, both in academics and in extracurricular areas, "athletics are just another opportunity to teach those kids how to be successful in life," he said.
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