Don’t be misled by the fact that a principal was named head football coach at Merritt Island Christian.
Jamie Bopp,36, didn’t come to Brevard County to be a principal. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., and a 2003 graduate of Wabash College in his home state, he was named to the honorable mention list of the Hewlett Packard All-America team in 2001 as an offensive lineman.
A connection between his college coach and former MIC athletic director and football coach John Jensen brought him to Brevard. Now 12 years at MIC, Bopp has been a history and P.E. teacher as well as a coach, serving as boys basketball coach and, for 10 years, an assistant with the football team.
When he was named principal, he took two years away from helping with football while he “learned the ropes” running the school. He returned this year as head coach in his dual role.
“The world says you can’t be a principal and a head football coach at the same time, but there’s a need there,” he said.
Bopp talked about his new job and his background on the first official day of practice.
Q: Do you have a philosophy about coaching and leading people?
Bopp: As a leader, there’s a quote I love: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I want the people that I lead to know that I care about them as people first and foremost. I love these kids that we coach as people, first and foremost. I love these kids, love coaching them. Love these coaches, love what they’re about. They just have a heart for the Lord, a heart for this ministry, a heart for these kids and a passion for the game.
On our coaching staff we have a principal, a P.E. teacher, a plumber, a pastor, a policeman and a pilot. A pretty interesting squad, so you have all these men coming from different walks of life that are bonded by their relationship with God, their passion for the game and their passion for this ministry here. What an awesome group that I get to help be a part of. It’s a fun time just working with them. I tell our players this all the time: God used football in my life to build relationships, life-changing relationships and to teach me life lessons. You learn so many life lessons that I apply to my life as a husband, as a father, as a principal, obviously as a coach and any role that I’m asked to play, about being part of something that’s bigger than yourself, and you have a role and responsibility to others by you doing your job and us doing our job collectively.
Q: How did you get from Indiana to Florida?
Bopp: I wouldn’t be at Merritt Island Christian School if it wasn’t for football. When I was in college, I was working to become certified to become a teacher. I had realized God was calling me into teaching and coaching. My college coach, Chris Creighton (current head coach at Eastern Michigan) knew John Jensen. John made that call up to Crawfordsville, Ind., and said, “Hey, we need a guy,” and coach Creighton said, “Hey, we got a guy.” I flew down and interviewed and was offered a teaching and coaching position. I probably would have never considered it had it not been an opportunity to coach football.
I never thought I’d be a principal. When I grew up, I didn’t hang (posters of) high school principals on my wall. I was hanging athletes and stuff like that. Playing football introduced me to coaching, which introduced me to teaching, which got me here.
Q: What is your football background?
Bopp: I played offensive line. I played with my hand in the dirt all 15 years. I was blessed and fortunate to be named all-state two years in a row. My junior year, we fell short in the state semifinal. We would have played against Rex Grossman in the state final, which would have been fun.
I went to Wabash College, and I tore up my knee before my senior season started. I think I was making football a really big priority. I think God was showing me you can still have an impact but as a coach. I went to coach as a grad assistant at Whitter College in L.A. I was coaching some guys that were older than me, which was interesting. I stayed there a year and came back to Indiana.
Q: How do you win at Merritt Island Christian?
Bopp: I try to keep it real simple. I think people can make football more complicated than it needs to be. We’re really emphasizing the fundamentals. We started today, the first day of practice, on the turnover circuit, learning how to recover a fumble, learning how to catch a ball in the air at your high point, learning to be aggressive at getting the ball. The philosophy there is that if we have the ball, that’s a good thing, right? The other team doesn’t have the ball. Offensive, defense, special teams, we want the ball.
That’s one of the philosophies: we want to win the turnover battle. Special teams is another area. It can be a game-changing thing and an area that people sometimes forget. We want to be strong and sound in our special teams.
Defensively, we want to be a team that gets to the ball. We want to emphasize being a swarming defense. Offensively, things that we really talk about are being rock solid protecting the ball and being block-solid.
The stats that I emphasize are: are we getting first downs, are we finishing drives and getting points and are we taking care of the football. Those are the big things that I really emphasize. I won’t get caught up in who’s leading in rushing and passing. You’re talking to an offensive lineman that had none of those stats. It’s all of us collectively doing that, but if we’re taking care of the football, getting those first downs and finishing with points, if we’re getting to the ball on defense, I think we’re putting ourselves in position to be the best we can be.
I’m telling these kids every day, our biggest opponent this season is us. I want us to get out of our own way and have the courage. To me, that’s a life lesson. We can’t really control our opponents, but I don’t want us to play up or down to an opponent. I want us to have the courage to go out there and lay it on the line, give our best and let God take care of the rest.
Q: Do you have a team goal?
Bopp: If we can have a winning record, I think that would be a positive thing for this program. We haven’t had that for a while. I just want to see these guys take steps forward and get better every week. Those fundamental things: the blocking, the tackling; those are things we’re going to emphasize all year. If we do those things well, we’ll be in a position to compete in every game.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.
2016 Cougars Schedule
Aug. 19 MIC at Auburndale Triumph Christian, 7
Aug. 26 MIC at Warner Christian, 7
Sept. 1 Orlando Christian Prep at MIC, 7
Sept. 9 MIC at Santa Fe Catholic, 7
Sept. 16 Int’l Community at MIC, 7
Sept. 30 MIC at Faith Christian, 7
Oct. 7 Ormond Beach Halifax Acad. at MIC, 7
Oct. 14 MIC at Oviedo Master’s, 7
Oct. 21 Jupiter Christian at MIC, 7
Oct. 28 SSAC opponent TBD at MIC, 7
Nov. 4 SSAC opponent & site TBD, 7