Photo by Omar Vega/Invision/AP (left), AP Photo/Roberto Borea (right)

Mark Brunell Returned to Jacksonville, And Found His Calling as a Coach

Remember Mark Brunell? The quarterback had a 19-year career in the NFL, and is perhaps most remembered for his accomplishments with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Since his retirement, Brunell has remained in football, but at a level much lower than the professional ranks: He has been the head coach of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville since 2013, and he has taken the high school football program to great heights during his tenure.

Mark Brunell's Playing Career

Mark Brunell was born on September 17, 1970, and raised in Los Angeles, California. He attended St. Joseph High School and played for the Knights before playing college football at the University of Washington.

Brunell did not have otherworldly statistics during the regular season, but he turned it on when it mattered most and helped the Huskies get to three consecutive Rose Bowl games, winning MVP of the game in 1991.

Unfortunately for Brunell, a knee injury during spring football in 1991 cast doubt about his future, especially since backup quarterback Billy Joe Hobert performed so admirably in his place. Brunell was able to return during the year and lead several drives per game, but he was not fully recovered enough to take the starting job back.

Nevertheless, the Huskies claimed a national title in that 1991 season.

RELATED: Rex Grossman Played in a Super Bowl, But Where is He Now?

Brunell was not able to take the starting job away from Hobert until the middle of the 1992 season when Hobert became embroiled in a scandal regarding NCAA rules and was suspended.

With Brunell taking over, he was once again able to lead them to a postseason victory. For his Pac-10 performances, he earned a nomination to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

The Green Bay Packers selected Brunell in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. However, he did not get a chance to play until the following season. Hobert would end up being a higher draft pick, but Brunell is the one who had a longer National League Football career.

In 1995, he was involved in the first trade in Jacksonville Jaguars history, and he quickly became the team's starting quarterback. All he needed was an opportunity.

Brunell commandeered the fledgling Jaguars to four consecutive playoff appearances from 1996-99 and was named to three Pro Bowls.

His best chance to earn postseason glory as a starter came in 1999, but he was unable to beat the rival Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game.

Following some disappointing seasons, he was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2004. He took Washington to the playoffs in 2005 but was mostly ineffective in their two postseason games. He remained with the team until 2006.

After a year away from the game, he latched on with the New Orleans Saints. He would end up winning a Super Bowl ring with the team against the Indianapolis Colts. Brunell's last stop was a two-season run on the New York Jets before his retirement at the age of 41.

In his career, he won 78 games and threw for 184 touchdowns.

 Mark Brunell Today

The city of Jacksonville treated Brunell well during his playing career, so it makes sense that he would remain there for his coaching career.

Brunell was an assistant coach for the Providence School, but he only remained in the role for one season before jumping to the Episcopal Eagles.

During his time as head coach, the program has transformed into one that is quite successful and can recruit some of the best young players from the state of Florida. Having a former NFL quarterback certainly helps establish legitimacy at a football program.

In 2019, the Eagles went 10-2 and were given a state ranking for the first time in its history. Though the exit in the second round of the playoffs was premature, there is hope that the momentum will only continue to grow.

At first, Brunell did not believe he would be the school's head football coach for more than a couple of seasons, but he has grown to love what he does, citing his father's influence. Dave Brunell was an athletic director and Mark's coach throughout his childhood, and that willingness to teach these young players and give them a chance to succeed both on and off the field has passed down from one family member to the next.

Being a head coach is not an easy job regardless of the level of football. It requires flexibility, strategy, and perhaps most importantly, leadership.

Mark Brunell has received praise for his ability under center, and spending 19 years in the NFL was no accident. The Episcopal School of Jacksonville has a great leader on their sidelines and plan to be a high school football team to pay attention to each year.

MORE: Remember Mike Alstott? He's Now a High School Coach