Miami Jackson High made history Monday by announcing Lakatriona Brunson as the first female high school football head coach in Florida.
But hiring Brunson, who moonlights as a reality TV character, wasn’t the only celebrity addition. The Generals also named former rapper Luther Campbell as the team’s defensive coordinator.
“Today is historic for not only Florida, but Miami Jackson,” Brunson said. “When [former coach Earl Little] stepped down, I took a look at [the job] like, ‘Why can’t I do it?’ ”
Brunson, also known as Bernice, has gained attention in recent years for her role on the truTV series South Beach Tow, which began airing in July 2011. Brunson is a driver and assistant manager for Tremont Towing, the company portrayed in the show.
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Campbell, who became famous in the 1980s as the popular, and at times controversial, head man of the rap group 2 Live Crew, has served as a defensive coordinator in recent years at Miami Central, Miami Northwestern and most recently at Miami Norland, and directed some of Miami-Dade County’s best defensive units.
Jackson, which has not won a state football championship since 1952 (before the playoff era) and has had to contend over the years with some of South Florida’s best teams, such as Central, Booker T. Washington, Northwestern, Plantation American Heritage and Hallandale, is hoping Brunson and Campbell will help turn the tide in its favor on the football field.
“We’re just here to change the atmosphere at Miami Jackson and get some W’s on the board,” said Brunson, 38, who will also coach Jackson’s girls’ flag football team this spring and has coached as an assistant on the Generals’ girls’ basketball team. “I know I can do it. ... Watch what we’re going to do. It’s some big things coming up.
“We’re not here to talk about music or reality TV. We’re here to talk about football only.”
Campbell, 55, was rumored to be in contention for the head-coaching position himself in recent weeks. But because he is not a certified teacher in Miami-Dade County public schools, he was not eligible for the position as required under the county’s guidelines for athletics and extracurricular activities.
In stepped Brunson, who was already a physical education teacher at Miami Jackson.
Brunson, who played football for the Miami Fury during the mid-2000s in the Independent Women’s Football League, is a graduate of Miami Northwestern in 1995 and a former track and field and basketball standout for the Bulls.
At Northwestern, Brunson threw the discus and shot put competing for legendary track coach Carmen Jackson, who has guided that program to a Florida-record 12 state championships, including an active seven-year title streak that ranks second all-time in state history.
“I know she was a great student-athlete and she showed a lot of leadership,” Jackson said. “She was a very good people person and was well-liked by all the students. She was committed and an easy person to coach.
“She had all the attributes of being a great leader. I never envisioned her becoming a football coach, but I always knew she was a born leader and she was going to go on and do big things in the community.”
Brunson was joined at the press conference by Jackson principal Carlos Rios Jr., offensive lineman Donte Morris and senior defensive tackle Javon Hunt, who signed with FAMU.
Both Hunt and Morris said they had faith in Brunson’s coaching abilities.
“[Brunson] shows tough love, wants you to work hard, not doubt yourself, give 100 percent effort,” Hunt said.
Morris added: “In the weight room, she makes sure you go hard, not lying around. She’ll be a nice addition at Miami Jackson.”
After high school, Brunson played basketball at Tennessee State, where she earned a degree in Health and Physical Education/Fitness.
“It’s a lot of people that probably applied for this position and look who is here,” Brunson said. “I’m ready for whatever comes my way. I’m ready to fight, ready to get these guys prepared and ready to win.”
Campbell, who was defensive coordinator at Norland, said Jackson school officials reached out to him in the last month about joining the staff, but he wanted the school to do something special. Hiring Brunson, he said, fit the bill.
“At first I thought ‘this [expletive] might be crazy because I take football real serious,” Campbell said. “But after a conversation with her, I said, ‘Naw, she knows her football. She’s on point.’ I don’t take this as a joke. I didn’t want to be a part of no circus.”
Campbell’s defenses have been ranked among the best in the county at every school he has coached. During the past two seasons, Norland has not made the playoffs largely because it plays in one of the state’s toughest districts that also includes Central, Northwestern and Miami Carol City.
But the Vikings have finished ranked among the county’s top five in total defense.
This past season, two Norland players — linebackers Emmett Rice (FSU) and Vosean Joseph (Florida) — signed with major FBS programs.
Jackson, which has advanced to the state semifinals in 1998, 2000 and 2012, began a coaching search in January after Little, a former University of Miami and NFL player, resigned after two seasons.
The Generals went 3-6 during the 2015 season, but Little guided them to a 6-5 playoff season in 2014, when they beat Northwestern in the Soul Bowl for the first time since 2002 and reached the Class 5A regional quarterfinals.