BILLINGS — When he retired after the 2019 NFL season, Mike Person said he didn’t know if he’d ever truly get over Super Bowl LIV, the game in which he and the 49ers had glory snatched from them during a fourth-quarter rally by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Now that he’s on the outside looking in, last fall was decidedly different for Person, a Glendive native and former standout offensive lineman at Montana State. For the first time in years, his life wasn’t consumed by football preparation.
And though time can heal certain wounds, an athlete’s competitive desire never truly subsides.
“You wake up on Sundays and still kind of have that itch like you normally would, a little nervous energy,” Person said during a phone conversation with The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com. “The thought crosses your mind: ‘Oh, man, you could still be doing this.’
“And then the games would start and you realize how nice it is to be able to just watch at home and be with your family. We’re pretty happy with the decision.”
Still, Person needs to fill his time with something football-related. Thus, he created the 5 Dot Offensive Line Academy, a new and intensive camp for young players learning how to mix it up in the trenches.
The academy is located in suburban Columbus, Ohio, not far from where Person makes his home with his wife Kelly and their three children.
The name “5 Dot” is derived from Person’s vast experience, and is representative of the first thing coaches draw on a whiteboard when scribbling formations — the five dots of the offensive line.
At Montana State, Person was a stalwart at both tackle positions, earning All-America status on the left side, and then went on to play at all five of those dots in nine NFL seasons with the Seahawks, Chiefs, Rams, Falcons, Colts and 49ers.
And he did his job well. In 3,275 regular-season snaps, Person incurred just eight combined holding and false-start penalties, according to the website pro-football-reference.com. He was the starting right guard in 14 games for the 49ers in 2019 and was a mainstay during their playoff run that year.
Person hopes to impart his wisdom to junior-high and high-school aged linemen looking to develop their talent. In an era of high-tempo offense and skill-player specialization, it’s a fairly untapped market.
“Offensive line is a position that is pretty underdeveloped” at the high school level, Person said. “A lot of guys are pretty raw.
“There’s not a lot of people that aren’t coaching full time that understand the intricacies of playing offensive line. And that’s what I want to be. I want to be a resource for these kids to help them develop and have the best experience they can playing football and share what I know with them.”
The academy, which opened its doors the first part of March, has mostly been frequented by high school players in the greater Columbus, Ohio, area, but any and all are welcome. Drills are conducted in four-week blocks during the offseason.
The program, replete with training equipment, is focused on both run and pass blocking, and emphasizes footwork, hand placement, hip movement, weight distribution and other details, nuances and techniques. Players can elect to participate in both on-field and classroom sessions.
Person stresses pliability, durability and versatility to be able to perform at different line positions. After all, that’s a big reason why he was able to carve out a near decade-long NFL career.
“It’s had a great reception so far,” Person said of the academy. “Hopefully we can keep bringing in more kids each month and go from here.”
“It’s pretty technical,” he added. “Our basic structure is you can have the option of one or two on-field sessions a week and a third-session of classroom stuff. And I think that’s important to teach kids — how to watch film of not only their opponents but how to watch film critically of themselves.”
The academy is still in its early stages, but Person’s goal for this venture is to have it run three sessions per night six days a week to help develop as many young offensive line prospects as he can.
Person had several coaches push him forward in his football journey: Jason McEndoo at Montana State, Andy Heck in Kansas City, Tom Cable in Seattle, and John Benton and Mike Solari in San Francisco, the latter of which Person said taught him how to be a professional.
The 5 Dot Offensive Line Academy is Person’s way of paying it forward.
“We want to develop you into more than just a dot on a sheet of paper,” he said. “We want to make you into a football player.”
For information, visit www.5dotacademy.com.