Cokinos leads group with 19 years of combined arena football coaching experience

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Washington Valor Head Coach and General Manager Dean Cokinosannounced today the team’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, featuring James Clark (Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach), Benji McDowell (Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach) and Jeremy Grier (Wide Receivers and Special Teams Coach). Combined, the staff has 19 years of arena football coaching experience.

Entering his second season as head coach of the Valor, Cokinos has over 11 years of arena football coaching experience. Prior to joining the Valor, Cokinos served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Storm. Prior to joining the Tampa Bay staff, Cokinos was the head coach of the New Orleans VooDoo in 2014-15 and the head coach and director of football operations for the Alabama Hammers of the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL). His 2013 Alabama team won the league championship and he was honored as the PIFL coach of the year after leading the Hammers to a 9-2 record, a six-win improvement from the previous year. In 2007, Cokinos was named the head coach and director of football operations for the AFL’s Alabama Vipers, which later relocated to Georgia as the Force in 2010. During his five years with the team he led the Vipers to an Arena Cup championship in 2008 as well as back-to-back playoff appearance for the Force, including a trip to the 2011 conference finals. He holds the record for most wins by a head coach in Vipers history with 32.

Clark enters his second season as the Valor’s offensive line coach and his first as assistant head coach. Prior to joining the Valor, Clark spent time with the Georgia Force (AFL) in 2011 and 2012, serving as Offense Line Coach and Assistant Head Coach. Before coaching, Clark played on the offensive line for the Georgia Force in 2007 and 2008. Clark attended University of Chattanooga.

McDowell enters his third season as an AFL coach and his second with the Valor. McDowell spent the 2016 season with the Tampa Bay Storm as the defensive coordinator as well as line coach and special teams coordinator. Tampa bolstered one of the top defenses in the AFL under McDowell. The Forest City, NC native has worked in both the professional and collegiate ranks. McDowell spent the 2015 season with the University of Georgia as a defensive line intern. While at Georgia he helped implement the defensive coaches’ game plans as well as served on the strength and conditioning staff. McDowell was also a member of the Alabama Hammers (Professional Indoor Football League) coaching staff during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, helping lead the team to the 2013 PIFL Championship. McDowell began his professional playing career in 2008 with the Alabama Vipers, playing under Cokinos.

Grier enters his third season as an AFL coach and first with the Valor. Before joining the Valor, Grier spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as wide receivers and special teams coach for the New Orleans Voodoo. His playing career featured stops with the Alabama Vipers, Georgia Force and New Orleans Voodoo, where he amassed nearly 500 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns.

In addition to the coaching staff, John Peavy returns for his second season as Football Operations Coordinator. Casey Carter, whose career includes a five-year stint with the Tennessee Titans, returns for his second season as the Valor’s head athletic trainer.

The 2018 Valor regular season, presented by Capital One Bank, kicks off with the Valor’s matchup with the Baltimore Brigade on Fri., April 13 at 7 p.m. at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Md. The Valor’s home opener is set for Week 2, when Washington welcomes the Albany Empire, playing in their inaugural season, to Capital One Arena on Sat., April 21 at 7 p.m.


The AFL’s Washington Valor are owned and operated by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which is one of the largest integrated sports and entertainment companies in the country with one of the most diverse partnership groups in all of sports. The company also owns and operates the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the NBA G League’s Capital City Go-Go, the AFL’s Baltimore Brigade, NBA 2K League’s Wizards District Gaming, as well as Capital One Arena, the premier sports and entertainment venue in Washington, D.C. Monumental Sports & Entertainment is also co-owner of aXiomatic, which has controlling interest in global esports franchise Team Liquid, and oversees the management of Kettler Capitals Iceplex–the training facility for the Washington Capitals–and the Eagle Bank arena at George Mason University.