Photo by Raymond Link ’20 | Denzel Burke carrying the ball in a game against the Liberty Lions on Aug. 17, 2018.
By George Anton ’21
Mr. Jason Jewell will be the new head football coach after the departure of Mr. Jon Kitna who left to take over as the quarterback coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Mr. Jewell coached at Glendale Community College for 12 years before accepting his new role at Brophy.
“I am excited to have Jason join our faculty and am confident that he will be effective and successful in leading our football program into the future,” said Principal Mr. Bob Ryan.
Mr. Ryan highlights Mr. Jewell’s ability to develop and sustain relationships, and believes that he will make the players better on and off the field.
“I am blessed that coaching football and mentoring young men is how I get to spend every day. Nothing makes me more excited than to wake up each morning and know that I get the chance to impact lives,” said Mr. Jewell.
However, with Mr. Kitna leaving, key players in the football program have had to make the decision to leave or stay at Brophy.
Under Mr. Kitna, the Brophy varsity team had a 7-3 record in the 2018 regular season.
Mr. Kitna had originally brought new hope to the football program after a disappointing 2017 season where the Broncos went 1-9 under former leadership.
With the announcement of Mr. Kitna leaving, players and assistants now have to memorize and practice the third playbook in three years.
After Mr. Kitna’s announcement, the program searched for a new head coach for several months before it was decided that Mr. Jewell would be the replacement.
“During that time, for any team or organization, you are like a ship without a rudder,” said interim coach Mr. Gary Hernandez. “My job was just to make sure that we were keeping our schedules, keeping the kids in the weight room, and getting out on the football field.”
As the interim coach, Mr. Hernandez had the job of keeping the ship afloat and ready for when the new head coach would be appointed.
His message to the players was to keep working. “Regardless of who the coach is going to be, it’s actually about you,” said Mr. Hernandez. “The football program is not about the head coach. The football program is about the players and how they are together.”
Mr. Hernandez does not discredit head coaches and their value but emphasizes the importance that the players need to keep their heads up and work hard.
At the beginning of the spring semester, Denzel Burke ’21 decided to leave Brophy.
Burke had started in all 21 varsity games in two seasons and has been ranked as the number two recruiting prospect in Arizona for the class of 2021, according to Richard Obert from AZCentral Sports. Burke transferred to Saguaro High School earlier this semester.
Within a week of Burke arriving at Saguaro, the head coach there, Jason Mohns, shared highlights of Burke and Burke received an offer from Auburn.
Other players besides Burke considered leaving Brophy. One of those players was Anthony Gonzales ’21, who is a longtime friend and teammate of Burke.
“It’s hard to get recruited when you do not have a coach because recruiters like to talk to the coaches. It’s hard in that sense and it’s hard because we have to learn a new offense, new defense, new everything,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales and his family strongly considered leaving Brophy to find a more stable football program.
In the end, Gonzales said that his academics and the relationships he has at Brophy weighed more heavily than football in his decision.
“You have the academics here, the brotherhood, and it’s a tight-knit school and I really like that,” said Gonzales.
Mr. Hernandez says that he believes it is a big mistake for any player to leave a school like Brophy just because of football.
“The greatest thing about this school is it is competitive in nature. Not just in athletics and academics, just to get into the school you had to compete,” said Mr. Hernandez.
He says that Brophy students are inherently competitive and that the student-athletes compete at the highest level academically and athletically, enabling them to be the best version of themselves.