- Eufaula City Schools
2023 5A Coach of the Year
A 2007 Eufaula High School graduate, Jerrel Jernigan became Eufaula High School’s head coach in 2022. Though he hasn’t been a head coach long, he has demonstrated a hard work ethic, which led to his nomination as the 2023 5A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Football Coaches Association (ALFCA). Winners are nominated by a member of the ALFCA, recommended by a committee, and selected by a vote of the ALFCA board of directors.
Jernigan’s coaching philosophy is simple: have a relationship with his students and coaching staff, make discipline the number one priority, and never give up. Jernigan isn’t just present on the field with his players; he is present off the field. He makes sure he is seen in the hallways of Eufaula High School. “When students are held accountable in the hallways, they bring that to the field,” Jernigan said.
When it comes to the relationships with his coaching staff, Jernigan said, “Relationships with my coaching staff are just as important as the relationships with the students.” He said he enjoys getting his coaching staff together on the weekends and said, “It brings unity.” Jernigan trusts their decisions on the field and said the football team couldn’t have made it as far as they did this year without the coaches’ teamwork.
Eufaula High had a remarkable, but not perfect, season this year, and motivating players after a loss was necessary. Jernigan told students, “Keep grinding and never give up,” and they did! The Eufaula High School Tigers ended the season as the 5A Region 2 Champs. He credits this to the players and coaches showing up daily and doing the work. “There were ups and downs,” said Jernigan, “but I knew we were going to be good!” After games, Jernigan would have the players watch clips from the games to show them what they did well and what they could improve. Jernigan also showed players highlights of games of other football teams and told his students, “If they can do this, we can do this even better.” This year, guest speakers were brought in to motivate students, too, including army rangers to help with workouts. “Sometimes players get tired of hearing me talk, and it helps to hear from someone different,” Jernigan said.
Fostering a positive team culture, promoting good sportsmanship, and, most importantly, putting discipline first is what Jernigan brings as a coach. “I’m from here, played here, so I know what this program was built on. I want our players to know how to win with class,” Jernigan said. Jernigan, who played college football and in the NFL for the New York Giants, says he learned how to run a team from some of the best, including Coach Tom Coughlin, former New York Giants head coach. “He was a discipline first guy,” said Jernigan, “and I carried that over to this team.”
Being a former college and NFL football player and Super Bowl champion, Jernigan has the knowledge and experience to help his players follow similar paths but remains humble. Jernigan stated he couldn’t be the coach he is today without first having played under the guidance of his former coaches and having the support from his Eufaula High coaching staff. “I am still learning every day,” said Jernigan.
Jernigan wants his players to have this same mindset and emphasizes the importance of learning and getting an education. He encourages his players to put education first and says, “Athletics will only take you so far. You need to have something to fall back on. Football is a gift God gave me, and I tell our kids, you can have that gift, but you also need an education.”
After he found out about receiving 5A Coach of the Year, Jernigan says he received a lot of praise and said, “It felt really good, but my coaching staff worked hard behind the scenes with me every day. I can’t say enough good things about them.” Jernigan also wanted to thank Superintendent Joey Brannan, Assistant Superintendent Deltonya Warren, and the Eufaula City Board of Education for giving him the opportunity to coach. He also thanked the community for believing in the team and backing them up this year. “Every time we have the community behind us, the program elevates,” said Jernigan.
Jernigan, along with the other Coach of the Year recipients, will be honored at the ALFCA Coach of the Year Luncheon on Saturday, January 27, 2024, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Montgomery. He will also receive a Coach of the Year plaque and a Coach of the Year ring provided by Balfour. Eufaula City Schools is proud of you, Coach Jernigan!