By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
With the summer season coming to end soon, students and teachers prepare for another academic year and athletic coaches are getting ready to lead their teams toward a winning season.
For coach Brandon ‘Bam’ Harrison, it will be a trip down memory lane as he returns to his alma mater to take over the head coaching duties of Kimball High School’s football program.
“This is where I grew up and this is where I developed my character and my integrity,” he said. “To come back here and be able to help and guide young Black men and young Black women in the right direction is important and means so much to me.”
Harrison, a graduate of Kimball’s class of 1990, was recently hired as the school’s athletic coordinator and head football coach. He began his new role June 13 and is prepared to walk in his mentor’s shoes.
“I think of Coach James Jones more than anything because he was a big part of my life during the time that I was here at Kimball,” Harrison said. “He was a role model, father figure for a lot of guys that didn’t have fathers, but he helped everybody to deal with their character and integrity and he preached that on a day-to-day basis. That was something like I said I couldn’t turn it down because he passed away years ago, but now I feel like I am obligated to come back and do and lead off and pick up where he left off.”
Jones, a legendary coach at Kimball and Dallas ISD, was an educator, coach, mentor, community leader and motivational speaker in Dallas and across the nation. He was Harrison’s head football coach when he played football for the school.
Harrison said he would like to inspire his students to do their best in both academics and athletics just as Jones did.
“I just want to change the way the kids think, the mindset of the kids and change that and just let them understand that no matter what you are, you are still valuable to the world and to this community, and just keep working hard and if you work hard, you can do anything,” Harrison said.
As a student, Harrison played football and basketball at the school. He was an all-state, wide receiver on the football team and helped the Knights win its first state championship in basketball.
He earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Illinois, where he played three seasons and then transferred to Howard Payne University his final season.
In 1995, Harrison was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the NFL draft and played for them until 1996, when he went to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. After three seasons in the NFL, he played for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.
While playing in the NFL, he played as a wide receiver, punt returner and kick return specialist.
After his professional football career, he worked for parks and recreation departments for the cities of Richardson, Mesquite, Lancaster and Murrieta, California.
“As far as my playing days in the NFL … I wasn’t the guy that played 10 to 12 years, but I was blessed enough to be there for three years and get the knowledge of the game and just enjoy the time I was there,” Harrison said.
In 2008, he decided to go back and finish his college degree and earned a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Services from Thomas Edison University in New Jersey, sponsored by the NFL Players Association.
“That is something that I wanted to do for myself because my mom was really not a sports person, she was more of an academic person and I promised her that I was going to get it done, and I wanted to be able to use that to catapult me to other things,” he said. “Just like coaching now, if I didn’t go back and the NFLPA didn’t pay for that, I don’t know where I would be right now, I probably would still be working in the Recreation Field, but this is where my heart is, so I am glad I did what I did.”
Harrison then pursued coaching, following the path of his father and uncles.
“My dad was a little league football coach for the Oak Cliff Redskins for 30 plus years and my dad’s brothers were high school coaches, and once I got done playing, I was training certain kids in the area and then a lot of people started asking me to come coach with them and help them and volunteer,” Harrison said. “But I was not certified yet. So, once I got certified, that’s when I decided to jump straight in and go ahead and pursue coaching as a career.”
His first coaching job in San Diego as the offensive coordinator of Linfield Christian Academy where he served three years.
Then, he returned to Texas to be a coordinator at DeSoto East Middle School and later joined the coaching staff at DeSoto High School where he was the assistant head coach and wide receiver’s coach from 2011 to 2019. During his tenure, he was part of the team that won five UIL District titles and reached the state semifinals in 2012 and 2013 and won a state championship in 2016. He also served as interim head coach at DeSoto High School in 2018.
“That was an experience of a lifetime,” Harrison said.
From 2019 through 2021, he served as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at Red Oak High School.
In December 2020, he was criticized after sending a tweet regarding a game his team won against Lubbock ISD’s Coronado High School during the 5a Division I Regional Semifinals in high school football playoffs. The tweet referred to the defeated team.
“That tweet came about because all week the particular coaches and head coaches from that particular team were antagonizing the kids at Red Oak and so when the game was over with and they weren’t being as classy as they were portraying themselves to be, and I tweeted out something that I shouldn’t have tweeted out,” Harrison said. “I didn’t call out any names, but I knew who it was directed to. But at the same time, like I tell the kids, one choice, one bad choice, can make people view you in a way that you may not be viewed as.”
Despite the tweet, Harrison said he has learned from that moment and has moved on.
“I’m a good dude and I love kids. But at that particular moment, I was protecting my kids in my eyes, because if I wasn’t going to protect them, then who was going to protect them?” he said.
In hindsight, he realized there were better ways that he could have handled the situation. He wished that he had, but also realize that it was another teaching moment for his students.
“At that point, social media is a good thing to have, but one click can change a lot of things. But at the same time, you gotta just let a lot of stuff go, let it go and we got the win.”
He was later hired as offensive analyst for Texas Christian University’s football team.
“I enjoyed the college ranks, but I think my heart was more fit for high school,” he said. “I think when I see kids that look like me, that need more role models that look like me, it helps them and encourages them to do better things, especially in the inner city. So that is why I wanted to come back, and it was an opportunity that I wanted and couldn’t turn down because it was at my alma mater. It means a whole lot more to me to come back and serve my community and give back to the school I went to.”
Harrison said returning to Kimball makes him feel happy.
“Honestly, it feels like I never left here because I feel like I have been here forever,” he said. “So now, I was just getting used to being in the top seat. For so many years, I had been the assistant head coach at Red Oak and at DeSoto. But now I am sitting in a different seat, so everything has to be done in detail and everything has to be on point, because my name is on it.”
Harrison said he would like to teach his students and athletes a few things as their head football coach.
“I want to tell them to have an A and B plan,” he said. “Because everybody is not going to be blessed enough to be able to play in the NFL, so they have to realize that and they have to understand that that is a dream, and there is nothing wrong with dreams, but it is only a certain percentage of kids that are only going to be able to participate in college. So, the thing is you try to be as honest and upfront with the kids, especially when they are trying to pursue a career in college. And still have to be upfront and honest with them and let them know what they really are as athletes.”
He would also like to let them know there are so many ways students can succeed off the field as well.
“I just want to show them that there is more than one way to be a millionaire,” Harrison said. “A lot of kids in the inner city feel like the only way out is to run, jump, and catch or sing and dance. So we just try to get them to understand that there is more than one way to be successful. There are a lot of other ways to be successful than being on the court or on the field.”
As athletic coordinator, Harrison plans to guide the entire athletic staff as it is.
“I can’t be biased to football only because every sport has to have and be given the same time and effort as I would in football, especially when it comes to their sport,” he said.
Now that he is taking over the helm, he has set his own goals and wants to send students this message.
“It’s a new day at the K,” Harrison said. “It’s a new day. We are going to come in and we are going to be disciplined and we are going to do the things that we need to do to be productive citizens in the community. A lot of people think that wins and losses will change the programs. It will change the program but at the same time if I am changing the mindset of kids, we are still winning. Winning on the football field is going to be the easy part. I want them to win in the classroom and in the community and once they do that, they change their mindset, they become better people.
“We know that they are already good athletes, but we want them to be well rounded and be able to give back in any situation lifelong. And that is what football teaches.”