Centerville football has been among the area’s most successful big-school programs since the mid-1970s. That’s a 40-year run of multiple high school conference titles and playoff appearances. Its celebrated alumni range from ESPN College GameDay commentator Kirk Herbstreit to former Bengals A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent, all of whom played at Ohio State.
That’s why it’s big news when Centerville hires a football coach. Only three have had that title since Richard Nixon was president: Bob Gregg (1974-99), Ron Ullery (2000-13) and Rodney Roberts (2014-16).
Brent Ullery joined that select club last week. A 2003 Centerville graduate, he was named to succeed Roberts, who cited family reasons and unexpectedly resigned after just three seasons.
Not only is it Ullery’s job to re-inject perennial playoff life into the Elks — they’re a combined 11-9 the last two seasons — but he’s also Ron Ullery’s son. That was a unique blast from the past, especially after Ron was not renewed following an 8-3 season in 2013.
Here’s what Brent Ullery had to say about that and more:
Q: Is it true a 5-5 season doesn’t cut it at Centerville?
A: That’s for sure. That’s why I like it. There’s very high expectations in the city and the community and the school. They want great things and I want to give great things.
Q: You pursued a mechanical engineering degree at OSU. What happened?
A: You discover things in college and that path was not for me. I got into teaching because I knew I wanted to be around young people. Once I got a taste of being in a classroom and on a football field, I never felt more at home in my entire life. I still feel the same way every day at practice and in the classroom every morning in homeroom.
Q: Do you pinch yourself about landing this job?
A: I knew this was my calling to be here and I knew at some point I wanted to be a head coach. I just didn’t know when. To be very honest, I felt it was going to be there at some point but I didn’t know when. It came to fruition pretty early in my career with respect to how long teaching careers are but that’s just due to fortunate circumstances were for me. I’m just lucky.
Q: You coached for your father in 2008. Did you huddle with him about this job?
A: He’s incredibly supportive of my career goals. As you would expect, I’m a spitting image of him at this point. I’m sure he’s a proud father and a proud coach to help develop me. He’s been encouraging and supportive through the whole process and helps me understand the level of work that’s going to go into the job. He hasn’t said this to me, but I know it’s true, that he’s a resource I can call upon at any point and any time. He’s been great.
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Q: Can you envision your father coaching with you at some point?
A: I can’t sit here and say it wouldn’t be great to work with my dad. Everybody would love to work with their dad and I assume every father would love to work with their son. Right now, our staff is pretty darn good. It’s a tribute to him; some of those guys he brought in are still there and they’re still great coaches. I have the utmost support and trust in my current staff that I have right now.
Q: How’s it feel to be part of coaching turnover trend in the last few years?
A: I’m lucky to have the opportunity. But my goal is to do something like Bob Gregg did and be there for a while. If I can have half the success he had I’ll have a pretty good career. I would love to be a 25-, 30-year guy, as long as they’ll have me. I played for (Gregg) his final year in 1999. I was a freshman on the JV team, but I had an opportunity to see him up close and see what made him great. It was awesome.
Q: Did you hear from alumni?
A: Most of my coaching friends are alumni, anyway. It’s always good to get the support of them. They know that I believe in the same things they believe. It’s just great. It’s automatic support because we’ve all been there and we’ve all been through it together.
Q: Was it tough to sleep that first night after you were named head coach?
A: It was tough to get my phone to stop vibrating with the emails and everything coming through. It was certainly exciting. I’ve been working hard the last few days with a minimal amount of sleep just because I’m excited to get work in. I know there’s a lot to do and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned at all. Centerville is a very special place.
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