FLORENCE — Brent Dearmon grew up on football fields in South Alabama.
His father, Roger, spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Mary G. Montgomery and Davidson High. When Brent was born, Roger Dearmon was on the staff at Vigor High during a special time for that program. He was young, but Brent Dearmon, now the head football coach at the University of North Alabama, understood he was in the middle of a special time.
"I think the '88 Vigor high school was voted the greatest team in state of Alabama history," Dearmon said. "I got to grow up around that program and Lectron Williams and Willie Anderson coming over to the house and eating all the time. Just being around ball my whole life. It was either ball or church, and sometimes down here in the South, we don't know the difference in the two of them."
Understandably, Brent Dearmon grew up to be a football coach. His coaching journey has taken him through different college football levels. However, his career nearly stopped before it started.
"I didn't think I was going to coach," said Dearmon, a four-year starting quarterback at NAIA Bethel University in Tennessee. "I knew I loved sports, loved the impact that sports made. I was thinking I was going to chase money. When I went to college, I thought I wanted to be a radiologist because it sounds like you're going to make a lot of money. I spent two years chasing after radiology, and I ended up finding out I really didn't like science. That's a big deal for radiologists."
He decided instead to go into the family business. He switched to studying math because "I knew I could get a job anywhere in the country teaching math as a male."
Dearmon spent a year as a student assistant at Bethel before returning to Vigor as the offensive coordinator. In 2011, at the age of 26, he became the head coach at BC Rain High. The school was going through a renovation when he got there. The electricity was shut off in the team locker room, and the lockers were so old that most were jammed shut. Sewage came up through the drains when toilets were flushed. The weight room had to be moved to a hallway because of the renovation, and the sprinklers had been unused for several years.
"It was overwhelming at times," the 38-year-old Dearmon said. "At 26, I thought I could conquer the world, so I took on every job. I never said no. I think I lost 20 pounds, and probably my wife thought about killing me because I did everything. I learned how to delegate and hire good people around me."
He stepped into FBS football for two seasons as an analyst at Auburn, with his first coming in 2013 when the Tigers played in the national championship game. He still considers Gus Malzahn as one of his biggest football mentors. Dearmon followed with three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas Tech and was hired as the head coach at Bethel University in 2018. His team won all 10 regular season games and lost in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. His offense averaged 55.8 points in the regular season with six scores over 50 points, including games of 92, 70 and 60 points. The prior year, Bethel was 3-7.
After the season, he got a call from Chip Lindsey, who had worked as an analyst with Dearmon and Auburn and was then the offensive coordinator under Les Miles at Kansas. The Jayhawks had an on-the-field coaching spot open, coaching tight ends. Dearmon interviewed for the spot, but Miles ultimately chose someone else. A few weeks later, the phone rang again.
Miles wanted Dearmon to be part of the program but didn't have an on-the-field spot. Despite them offering "more money than I'd ever seen in my life, at that moment in time," Dearmon did not want to be an analyst again. He chose to stay at Bethel University. Not long after, Lindsey was hired as the Troy head coach.
You guessed it. The phone rang again. This time, it was about the offensive coordinator job.
"I said, 'Wait, I wasn't good enough to be the tight end coach, but you want to interview for the OC job?'" Dearmon said with a smile.
The answer was yes, and he was off to Memphis to meet with Miles and other Kansas staff members in a hotel conference room.
"I present our offense in about an eight-hour time period," Dearmon said. "I go back to Bethel, and a week goes by. They say we like you, but it's going to be tough to hire an NAIA guy to be a Power Five OC. That hit me hard. Then they present the analyst/consultant job but with even more money. I said I can't turn them down again because, clearly, I can't get to that level from NAIA. That's what I learned from it."
Six weeks into the regular season, an already crazy voyage to Power Five coaching turns crazier.
"We're struggling on offense," Dearmon said. "Coach Miles calls me in on a Sunday morning and said, 'Are you ready to be OC?' I said, 'Coach, I'm not going to tell you no.' We were in a bye week, so I got to implement some things I wanted to do offensively in our scheme during that bye week. The next week, we played Texas at Texas."
Yep, his first chance to be a Power Five offensive coordinator came at Memorial Stadium in Austin. His offense gained 569 yards and scored 48 points, scoring the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion with less than two minutes left, but Texas scored on a final play field goal to win the game. The next week, the Jayhawks had 527 yards in a 37-34 win at Texas Tech.
"It was probably the craziest year of my life," Dearmon said. "The ups and downs, the interviews, don't get it, do this, it was all over the place. But, I wouldn't trade it because, without that, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Dearmon went on for one-year stints as the offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic before he got the opportunity at UNA. He took over a program that needs a spark, coming off a 1-10 season and failing to secure a winning record since 2018, the program's first FCS season.
His first task, Dearmon said, was recruiting his own program, convincing players to stay. At the same time, he was hiring a coaching staff of familiar names. His coordinators are Brock Caraboa on defense and Kevin Wewers on offense. He has former Alabama prep and college standouts like Deshaun Davis, Thomas Johnston and Jake Bentley. Wide receiver coach Samie Parker is the University of Oregon's all-time receiver and an NFL veteran.
"I did not hire a guy that I didn't know," Dearmon said. "Somewhere or another, I'm tied to these guys in certain ways. I knew we were going to get after it, quick and early, building the foundation in this place. I had to trust the people around me."
They hit the ground running in recruiting, picking up 32 signees in the two signing periods. It was a mixture of transfers and high school players.
Competition was the focus during off-season work.
"Workouts are workouts," Dearmon said. "Everybody works out. What we try to do is we try to bring an energy level. We to bring continuous movement. We want to play with tempo, so if you see us on social media, we're moving. We compete every day. It may be a pull-up challenge. It may be a pushup challenge. It may be a tug of war. We want to finish every day competing, and hopefully, those areas will bleed over into when we do start ball."
Spring practice is in its second week. The spring game will be on April 13 on the program's practice field. Once that's done, it's on to building through the summer and into fall camp. Time will tell what his first season at UNA is like. However, Dearmon has a clear vision of where he'd like to be this time next year.
"You'd like to see growth," Dearmon said. "You got ways you can measure growth on the field. You always want your point production to go up. You want your scoring defense to go down. You want third downs to be at a certain level. There are measurables on the field that you want to see growth in. But I want to see growth in our players, on and off the field. I want to see them being good citizens. We had a 2.6 GPA as a team. There's another growth you want to see. Let's get up to a 3.0. I'd like our whole program to have growth. I don't want to say, if we don't reach this, it's a failure."
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