It's one thing to be a legend in one town or even one state. But Earl Bramlett, a former head coach of the Crystal River football program, holds that distinction in several towns and two states after a career that spanned 30 years.
Bramlett began his career in his native north Georgia and served two stints at Crystal River. His last stint, which ended with Bramlett's retirement in June, clearly was his best.
Under Bramlett, the Pirates won four consecutive district titles and advanced to the second round of the playoffs twice.
Bramlett recently kicked back with staff writer Carey Freeman, discussing football, his retirement and the Pirates.
CF: Steve Spurrier always is fond of saying "Never say never' when it comes to the NFL, and you made a similar statement when you retired. Would you be interested in coaching again somewhere?
EB: No, not right now. I'm just not ready to right now.
CF: Are you enjoying retirement?
EB: I missed a lot, and there is a lot I didn't miss. I miss the planning. It's a lot of fun breaking down film and planning, then taking it to practice and seeing it come to life in the games. I miss those things and the close relationships with the kids and the coaching staff.
CF: What don't you miss?
EB: I don't miss going into the dressing room before practice and seeing a kid's uniform in the locker and wondering where they are and whether they quit or not. I don't miss that part.
CF: What do you remember the most _ the successes or failures?
EB: You remember a little of both. It's hard to say you remember one thing over the others. Every time you fail, you try to look back and see why and how not to repeat the mistakes. When you have success, you have to attribute that to kids that can play and a good coaching staff.
CF: What is the biggest difference between high school football here and in Georgia?
EB: I'd say it's probably a little more physical in Georgia. Florida is a little more finesse overall.
CF: What about fan support?
EB: Right now, if you are in a small town in Georgia, that's the thing on Fridays and everyone goes to the game. Down here, a lot of people have other interests and there are a lot of people with no ties to the school. In Georgia, you have towns and schools where generations and generations and generations have gone to and are loyal to the same high school, and they've been going to games for years and years.
CF: What's your take on Nate Madison?
EB: I think he's got all the talent in the world, but he's got his priorities in the wrong order.
CF: Are you more angry, disappointed or worried about his future?
EB: I worry about Nate. I see so much good in him and I want to say, "Hey, you've got a future.' Then you see the things he does and you wonder why. I'm sure he has his reasons, and I don't know or claim to know why. Maybe if he would tell us those things, we could help him. I saw him at church on Christmas eve, and he looked good. I hope he comes back to school. We could still get him somewhere, but he has to graduate. We can't do anything if doesn't get his diploma.
CF: What is it like to watch one of your former players (Ricky Posselt) win a national title (NCAA Div. II at Delta State)?
EB: It's just great. I'm really happy for him. Nobody deserves it more, and nobody has worked harder than he has. He's commited to school, he's a good student, a good athlete and someone who works hard. Those kinds of things happen to those kids. We've always tried to preach that you get out what you put in, and he really put a lot in. I'm really thrilled for him.
CF: Did you see the game?
EB: Every play. Thought it was a great game. It surprised me how well (Delta State) moved the ball. Thought the other team would be better defensively, but the quarterback at Delta did a great job. Plus, they were well prepared and gave a great team effort. I went up and saw one other game this year. They looked like a good team, but you never know how far a team can go. They went all way, which is great.
CF: The Wing-T offense. Would Crystal River have been as successful the last five years without it?
EB: No. Because of what it offered our kids. You've got to know what you're capable of doing and the Wing-T gave us the ability to keep our offense simple, take advantage of the people we had and keep the best kids we had on the field all the time. By limiting the number of things we did, it allowed a kid to be a back up at two positions. For instance, if you've got a fullback and a tailback and you lose a fullback, you don't have to go to the fourth man on the depth chart. The third man can be a tailback or a fullback. Plus, it also helped us, through repetition, to not make many mistakes or bad plays.
CF: How would you rate the job Jere DeFoor did this year?
EB: He did an excellent job.
CF: You coached Mike Hampton in high school. Is Clayton Trenary the next great athlete to come from CR?
EB: Clayton can do a lot things. He's a super athlete and a great baseball player also. He started for us by the end of his freshman year, so he's got experience, which is hard to beat, especially if you are an athlete too. He's also very durable, and he can play with pain.
CF: Do you think he can play at a big-time D-I school? If so, what position?
EB: Well, time will tell. He'll get a better read on that if he goes to camp this summer and is able to compare himself with some of the other players. Everything depends on what you do your senior year. I'd start him at QB, but you could also move him to wide receiver or defensive back. I think he's versatile enough that he can play more than one position, and that will be a plus for him.
CF: What is the biggest difference between a real D-I prospect and the wannabes?
EB: Well, the real D-I prospect, if he's a back, must have the speed and size to play. Defensive backs have got to have speed. Linemen and linebackers have got to dominate. You can tell, with the real Division I athletes, when they walk on the field, they're going to dominate the game _ not just the individual in front of them. It's like the (Ryan) Pickett kid from Zephyrhills (who beat Crystal River in the first round of the 1998 playoffs). He dominated the line of scrimmage all night, and sure enough, he went to Ohio State.
CF: What is the most important commodity to have to play in Division I?
EB: The biggest thing is the speed. Got to be able to run to be a great player. You can be a great hitter, but if you can't get there to make the hit, you can't make the play. They are getting faster every year and stronger too. Also, you need to be qualified academically. If you are borderline _ and not a super prospect _ they'll pass you right by. Being qualified opens a lot of doors. Not being qualified shuts a lot of doors.