Dayton football field gets ‘first-class’ upgrade with new turf

Rick Chamberlin interview: Oct. 13, 2021

Field is named after one of the program’s biggest fans

Jerry Von Mohr was the No. 1 fan of the Dayton Flyers for more than 50 years. From 1949 to 2001, he attended all but two UD football games, watching them all from a wheelchair, often from the end of the bench.

Von Mohr, a 1943 Stivers High School graduate, had both of his legs amputated after an Army jeep he was riding in ran over explosives in the Philippines, according to his obituary, written by Bucky Albers, of the Dayton Daily News, in 2002. Von Mohr returned to Dayton and graduated from UD in 1953. Football coach Harry Baujan gave Von Mohr a varsity letter — he was the first non-athlete to receive one — at a pep rally in 1952.

Almost 70 years later, Baujan and Von Mohr have more than UD football in common. Both have fields named after them. Baujan Field, located on campus, is the home of the Dayton soccer teams. Von Mohr Field, located just west of UD Arena, is where the Dayton football team practices.

That practice field looks brand new this week because for the first time it has turf. From 2004, when it opened, through this summer, Von Mohr Field had always been a grass field — until Tuesday when the Dayton football team practiced on the new turf for the first time as it prepared for a noon home game against Marist on Saturday.

“It’s huge,” said Dayton running back Jake Chisholm on Wednesday as he stood on the turf before practice. “We’ve been traveling around Dayton and practicing all over, waiting for this field to be finished, and it’s finally here. It’s everything we were hoping for. It’s really soft. The new turf feels great. So I’m excited to practice on it.”

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Dayton practiced at local high schools as it waited to return to its practice field: West Carrollton; Miamisburg; Bellbrook; and Carroll. The Flyers also practiced on the turf field, which pays tribute to the Dayton Triangles and was funded by the NFL, on Keowee Street. They did get into their gameday home, Welcome Stadium, which is owned by Dayton Public Schools, a few times as well.

Chamberlin credited Athletic Director Neil Sullivan and Scott DeBolt, who runs UD Arena and other university athletic facilities, for finding them practice homes. Now they have their own home again, and Chamberlin said it’s first class.

“It’s as good as any place around here,” he said. “It just gives you a little more pep in your step.”

Chamberlin has been a part of Dayton’s program since he was a player in the 1970s and remembers Von Mohr well.

“When I was a student here and then became a coach, Jerry was at every game,” Chamberlin said. “You could look for him. Of course, he was in the wheelchair, and he would be sitting right at the railing there, right about the 50 yard line, just cheering the Flyers on. He was a big Flyers Club guy. He was always at the tailgate. He was a Dayton Flyer.”

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Von Mohr died in 2002 at 77. Then coach Mike Kelly called Von Mohr the most loyal Flyer fan and said there was a movement to name the practice field after him. That happened when it opened in 2004.

Von Mohr’s name adorns a plaque alongside the field. He explained how his love of the Flyers began in a 2001 Dayton Daily News story by Tom Archdeacon.

“Back then there were no elevators on campus and there was no wheel-chair accessibility,” he said. “I was a small kid and the way it turned out, when I had to get upstairs for a class, somebody picked me up and somebody else grabbed my wheelchair. Mostly it was the football players, and we became friends. They never treated me as a mascot; I was always one of the guys. It was never like, ‘Oh, we got to take Jerry ‘cause he’s in a wheelchair.’ We had common interests.”