‘Coaching’s not a hobby for me. It’s more of a lifestyle.’

Mims enters the MIHS athletics fold as new head football coach.

DJ Mims calls himself a “grinder,” someone who unleashes the maximum effort when tackling his job as a head football coach.

He’ll bring heaps of energy and excitement to the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) football program as the Islanders’ new coach, said Mims, a Tacoma resident who was hired in late March to replace five-year coach Ed Slezinger. The former Islander coach stepped down from his post in February to take some time off and focus on family.

“Coaching’s not a hobby for me. It’s more of a lifestyle. I do it 365 days a year,” said Mims, 29, who also coaches club football and has coached in national games. “I’m just somebody that’s going to be the first person in at 6 a.m. and I’m going to be the last person to leave at 8-9 o’clock at night. That’s just kind of how I’m built. I’m super competitive — I don’t like losing.”

Mims said people on the interview panel, including players, were thrilled with the insight he offered during their meetings. The new Islander leader on the gridiron said that along with being dedicated to his job, he gives back to the communities where he coaches and is focused on developing kids through football.

His coaching philosophy zeroes in on helping players thrive now and prepare themselves for the real world after graduation.

“We’re teaching life things along with football, but it starts with development,” said Mims, adding that his coaching staff will teach players the full scope of what should be achieved at each position.

Two months after his hiring, Mims kicked off the school’s first spring football season in more than 10 years. Players turned out in droves — 88 total, including 35 incoming freshmen — to get on board with the new coach. By the MIHS football program board’s calculations, that’s a 20% jump in the number of players who suited up last season.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to kind of bring that excitement back,” Mims said of the program that sported a 4-5 record last season. Mims said that he can provide consistency and stability to make that happen at Islander stadium and other fields where the team treads.

Mims said they had a productive spring season as the coaches briefly installed their offensive and defensive systems, and the Islanders will return from summer break for weightlifting and conditioning on July 18.

Mims’ brother Davante Peterson also joins the program as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and will help implement a spread offense featuring 60% passes and 40% runs. Some key players that Mims is looking forward to watching under the stadium lights in the fall are junior quarterback Spencer Kornblum (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), senior running back Vince Catano (5-11, 160) and junior lineman Griffin King (6-2, 280).

A pair of highlights of Mims’ 10-year coaching career are leading Life Christian Academy in Tacoma to its first league championship in 2021 and garnering coach of the year honors during that same 1A Nisqually League season.

During his playing days, Mims lined up at safety and wide receiver for three years of varsity football for Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma and played wide receiver in the college ranks on scholarship for Malone University in Canton, Ohio.

The Reporter asked Mims a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life:

If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?

Nick Saban.

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

Childhood movie, I’ve got to say “The Lion King.”

How do you spend your spare time away from football?

If I were to say anything other than football, I’d just be hoopin’ it up at a park on a nice sunny day.

What superpower would you like to have?


What’s your biggest pet peeve?


What’s your most binge-worthy TV series?

I’ve been watching “Cobra Kai,” man, it’s a throwback from “Karate Kid.” You can’t go wrong with that right now.

What’s your dream vacation spot?

Probably Paris or something.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to rap. I like old-school music, I like artists from like the ’90s era, so I would say like Dr. Dre and stuff like that.

Feeding off that, you said you’re gonna be playing some music at practice. What will you guys be blasting?

I kind of let the kids play what that they want to play. I make them put a clean version on. Sometimes you might hear rap, sometimes you might hear rock and roll, sometimes you might hear some Justin Bieber, and you know, who knows? It fluctuates. They just make their own playlist and it shuffles.