“It’s been a 24-year vision of mine to put myself in the position one day to come back to Brownwood and stand where I’m at.”
Those were just a few of the words shared by Sammy Burnett, who has returned to the town in which he grew up to take over the high school football program for which he played.
On Thursday afternoon, Burnett was introduced during a press conference as the new head football coach and athletic director for Brownwood High School, from which he graduated 30 years ago. Burnett is the Lions’ third head football coach in four seasons, but first Brownwood graduate to lead the program.
“It’s a true honor and I’m so humbled,” Burnett said. “If you know anything about Brownwood in my profession you know it’s a big deal. I take this very serious and I’m ready to go to work. I’m excited to meet the kids and ready to bridge that gap between Gordon Wood and Sammy Burnett and get those kids to understand who he was, what he was about, and share with them that they’re going to get to go through the same thing that I got to go through.”
Brownwood ISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Young said, “We are extremely excited for Coach Burnett to be our next athletic director and head football coach. His success as an athletic director and coach stands alone, but when combined with his background as a Brownwood Lion, it is a unique opportunity for greatness. Coach Burnett’s experience and high levels of excellence in multiple sports will help all our Lions and Lady Lions programs excel.”
Burnett was selected from a field of more than 70 candidates, according to Brownwood Board of Trustees President Michael Cloy.
“It was kind of whirlwind and we were hoping to move pretty quickly,” Cloy said. “Right now kids are in the middle of offseason and they need direction and so does our whole athletic program. We basically posted the position online as we’re required to do by law and we received approximately 75 applications. Once the applications were looked at, some were interviewed individually by Dr. Young as well as Dr. Martinez. Then they came up with a list of candidates for interview, and they were interviewed at a secret location by the committee, which included members of administration as well as members of the board. Once the committee heard all the candidates to be interviewed, we all met together and decided as a collective group on Coach Burnett. Then it was up to Dr. Young to recommend that to the board, which is where we are today.
“I asked multiple coaches, not just Coach Burnett but other coaches that were interviewed, if they felt our process was efficient and also maintained their confidentiality, which is really important, and all agreed that they felt we had a really good interview process.”
Burnett graduated from Brownwood High School in 1988, where he was the first recipient of the Kyle Crews Memorial Scholarship, and later Howard Payne University with a Bachelor of Science degree.
At Brownwood, Burnett played under both Gordon Wood and Randy Allen where he
was an all-district and honorable mention all-state defensive back, and was also all-district and all-state in baseball while lettering for three years.
“I played two years for Coach Wood and then Coach Allen,” Burnett said. “For us as kids, we didn’t want to see Coach Wood leave. To get a new coach to come in, I didn’t have that perspective as a young man but now as I’ve been through it as a coach and replaced other coaches, I couldn’t imagine the big shoes Coach Allen had to fill when Coach Wood left. But he did a great job of building us up with things like our FCA group to make us feel important, and he stayed with the tradition Brownwood had. I’m going to make sure that’s here and that’s in place, because that’s extremely important. The things Coach Wood did in his career, the things Coach Allen has done in his career are absolutely amazing. I’m blessed because I will tell people I see all the time that was my coach in high school.”
Speaking more about being the first Brownwood graduate to serve as head football coach and athletic director, Burnett said, “Brownwood is still one of the most prestigious jobs in my community as a coach and people don’t understand that. People ask why is Brownwood still prestigious? It’s the community, the involvement, the importance of athletics is this community is like no other. Athletics is a tool that we use in my profession to mold young people so that they can be productive members of society. It’s a collective group of people from the administration to the support of the board to the faculty, to the students and the relationship we have with the community, and I can say we because I was a part of it and I’m so excited to be there.
“People say Brownwood is tradition. Tradition is a simple lifestyle that was formed for me as a young man at Brownwood High School. I needed direction, I needed someone I could buy into. It’s the way you live your life daily, it’s your dedication, your responsibility, your loyalty, your commitment to serve others.
“I’m excited to be part of such a fine district. I thank Dr. Young again for giving me the opportunity and I look forward to getting with the kids immediately so I can start instilling the beliefs that I was taught into them, give them consistency, give them quality leadership, give them direction and hopefully everyday they’ll see me in the act of excellence.”
Burnett comes home to Brownwood from Class 3A Division II Farmersville, where he led the Farmers to a 42-26 record over six seasons, beginning in 2012. The Farmers’ best year under Burnett came in 2016, an 11-2 run to the third round of the playoffs in which he was named Dave Campbell’s Texas Football 3A Coach of the Year. In his other five seasons at Farmersville, the Farmers posted records of 7-4, 4-6, 7-4, 7-5 and 6-5 — reaching the playoffs in four of those seasons.
In the current school year, Farmersville is ranked seventh in the state for the 2018 UIL Lone Star Cup, which is awarded annually to the best overall athletic and academic program in each of the six UIL classifications, based on their boys and girls team performances in district and state championships.
Prior to his arrival at Farmersville, Burnett served as head coach for two seasons at Class 2A Division I Honey Grove, posting a 16-6 record following campaigns of 9-2 and 7-4.
Overall in eight seasons as a head coach, Burnett owns a 58-32 record with seven postseason trips, twice advancing past the first round.
In addition to football, Burnett has experience as a head track coach and head baseball coach. His head baseball experience includes a state championship and TAPPS Coach of the Year at Shiner St. Paul High School.
Prior to becoming a head football coach, Burnett spent seasons in Kemp and Brenham as an assistant under another Brownwood graduate — Glen West. Kenneth West, Glen’s father and a longtime assistant under Coach Wood, was on hand at Thursday’s press conference as well.
“They couldn’t have done a better job of finding somebody that would come in and work,” Kenneth West said. “He’s got to have to some time, but he will get it done. It takes more than two years to get there.”
“Glen West probably has the most influence on me being here today of anybody,” Burnett said. “He took the knowledge and foundation I had at Brownwood and he turned me into a coach that could use those tools to shape young men like I was shaped when I was here. I got to speak with him a little on the phone this morning and told him thank you for the opportunity he’s given me to stand here today.”
Burnett also thanked Sam Harrell, another ex-Lion player and coach.
“Sam Harrell has been a mentor for me every step that I’ve taken in my career and my advancements,” Burnett said. “I’ve called him and asked him to share his knowledge with me so that I may be able to excel and accept opportunities I’ve been given.”
Burnett stated his most important coach in life, however, was his mother Linda, who passed away in 2016.
“She was an educator at Brownwood High School and Brownwood Junior High for over 33 years,” he said. “I got to watch her serve people and treat everybody the same and always up lift people so that they felt like they had worth and could accomplish anything they wanted. She made no excuses for me, my brothers and my sisters and she taught us that you get out of life what you put into it, and I’ve always rested on that and tried to use the morals and values she shared with me.”
Burnett replaces Kyle Maxfield, who resigned Feb. 5 to take the same position in Bangs after posting a 12-9 record in two seasons at Brownwood with a pair of postseason berths and one bi-district championship.
“I’d like to the thank the coaches that have been here in the past, Coach Freeman, Coach Shipley, Coach Howard and Coach Maxfield for coming in here and doing everything they could do to try and build on the excellence Brownwood already has,” Burnett said. “But for myself personally, Gordon Wood, Morris Southall, Kenneth West, Bob Agnew, Wayne Radke, Rick Wilson, Kevin Gabaree, Mark Bachtel, Mark Cox, Mark Howey, Mark Howard, Steve Keenum, Randy Allen, John Harrison. I thank you gentlemen and I appreciate you caring for a young man at a time in his life where he needed direction, leadership and relationships. I’m standing here today because of quality men like that. It is my desire to make sure every kid that goes through Brownwood ISD that participates in athletics, or does not, has an opportunity to experience the relationships that I had with the quality Christian men that were put into my life. I can’t thank you enough and don’t have to words to thank you.
“I promise you that we will not let kids go out into this world without the tools they need to be productive members of our society because they are our future. When I talk to young coaches as clinics we host and we go to, I ask them, ‘Who’s going to coach my kid?’ Are they going to have the values and the morals that are needed to be consistent, to love them, to discipline them and to teach them to understand there’s one way to do things, and that’s the right way. There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing, there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Make sure you put your faith in God and that you never waver from that. God bless those Brownwood Lions.”
The Lions are coming off a 6-5 football campaign and fell to Wichita Falls in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Looking ahead to the 2018 season, Brownwood will be in the new District 5-A Division I with Stephenville, Gatesville, China Spring and Waco La Vega.
“It’s picked to be the toughest district in Class 4A, but if you’re going to be the best you have to play the best,” Burnett said. “We’re not going to go into the playoffs with a false sense of security, we’re going to go in knowing we played the best and we belong. That’s our mentality, we’re going to come after you.
“We’re going to be coached better than anybody else, we’re going to play harder than anybody else and we’re going to do it in a way that up lifts our family, ourselves and our community. That’s a fact.”