After 19 years in the NFL at the quarterback position, it would have been easy for Mark Brunell to just walk away from the game of football and enjoy retirement. That is not Brunell’s style.
Brunell is giving back to the game that gave so much to him and he is doing so right here in Jacksonville.
In 2018, Brunell will be entering his sixth season on the high school sidelines as head coach of the Episcopal Eagles. Brunell sat down with 1010XL recently to talk about his life as a high school coach.
“We have worked very hard and we have had a very good summer,” Brunell told 1010XL. “I’m really proud of my senior class and all the guys have committed to the off-season to get stronger and faster. We have a tough schedule coming up, but I think the boys are ready to go.”
When it comes to being a high school head coach, how is he different now than he was six years ago when he took the Episcopal job?
“I enjoy it more than I ever have,” Brunell said. “Honestly, when I took the job, I thought I may do it for two, or three years and now I’m going into year six and I have no plans of leaving anytime soon.
“I enjoy being around the young men and really for us we are trying to build a program so that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all about wins and losses. We want to get these guys ready for the next phase of their life and teach them life lessons through the game of football that will last them forever.
“We have a really good group of young men, that work hard and I’m proud of them. It’s a great job, I love being part of the school and I love being a part of these young men’s lives.
“I pinch myself because it’s like a dream job and I’m really enjoying it.”
A guy who quarterbacked in the NFL for 19 seasons knows a thing or two about playing that position, so the question is: how hard is Brunell on his quarterbacks at Episcopal?
“Too hard, they would tell you too hard,” Brunell said. “But, that’s what I responded to really well when a coach was firm on me and got after me. Now there needs to be some balance there because if you’re going to break down a kid, you need to also build him up.
“He has to know that he is an important part of your team, the most important part of your team as far as the football side of it. I’m a little firm on them, but they seem to respond very well.”
Brunell has been thankful for this opportunity to coach young men in the Jacksonville area and hopes he has made a difference for them as they move forward.
“It’s very rewarding and I look back on my football career, especially the early years, and some of the best influences in my life were my high school coaches,” Brunell said. “They were guys that I looked up to, mentored me and taught me a lot of things.
“My dad was one of my coaches, he was the athletic director and a teacher on campus. So, having him around and having guys like my coaches around, it was a huge influence on me.
“I hope to be that for my guys and hopefully they can look back down the road and say I’m glad I had the opportunity to play football for Coach Brunell. Ultimately that’s what it is all about.”
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreenGN)