Jay Donnelly, the first football coach for Astronaut High School, died Monday at the age of 73.
When he was hired to help the new school start its athletic program in 1972, he had three years of coaching experience. In the years after he retired, the football field was named for him.
“Jay built the football program from scratch,” said retiring head coach Randy Hallock, who played for Donnelly. “We still have a lot of the same traditions that began under him. He had a huge influence on a lot of guys who came through here.”
Donnelly, the namesake for the school’s Jay Donnelly Field at Storey-Taylor Stadium, was hired at the age of 28 and went on to coach the football team for 15 seasons. He compiled a 122-36-2 record and led the team to the playoffs six times. Included were trips to the Class 3A state semifinals in 1976 and ’79.
Danny Quinn joined Donnelly as a coach when the school opened in 1972 and remained on his staff all 15 years.
“He taught young men how to work hard and reach a goal,” Quinn said. “He was very successful with some average teams that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to win eight or nine games, and his influence wasn’t just on the field. He was very encouraging of them in the classroom, too.”
Donnelly, who also served as athletic director and coached baseball, is a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, having been elected to a one-year term as its president in 1992. Additionally, he held a seat on the FHSAA Board of Directors.
Gregg Hostetler, who was hired to coach the boys junior varsity basketball team in 1975 and then became the girls varsity coach in 1978, remembered Donnelly for his principles and the tone he set for sports at the school.
“He was always very supportive of his coaches, as long as you were doing things the right way,” Hostetler said. “When he built that football program, it certainly helped to bring the other programs along and certainly set a precedent for the rest of us to make our programs strong.”
Among Donnelly’s former players are two who appeared in the Super Bowl, Wilber Marshall with the Chicago Bears and current NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Connecticut native was a graduate of the University of Florida.
Edwards named Astronaut baseball coach
J.J. Edwards, a 1998 Astronaut High graduate, has returned to the job of head baseball coach at the school.
Edwards coached the program from 2008 through ’11 and also spent time as an assistant coach. Most recently, he has been a War Eagles assistant football coach, including serving as defensive coordinator.
Edwards graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., where he coached the softball team and assisted with football.