Old friend’s outstanding career continues

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I saw the other day where an old friend, former Bainbridge High School Bearcats assistant football coach John Palermo, has been hired as defensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

John, a native of Newburgh, N.Y., was an assistant coach under late Bearcats head coach Prescott Forsyth in the 1970s, and he has had an outstanding college coaching career,

One of John’s fellow assistant coaches on coach Forsyth’s Bearcats staff was retiring Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones, who led the 1982 Bearcats and 1990 Cairo High School Syrupmakers to state Class AAA football championships.

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A two-year letterman for the Florida State University Seminoles in 1973 and 1974, John will be joining another former Seminole in Murfreesboro. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders head coach is former Seminoles quarterback Rick Stockstill.

The career highlight for John, who left here to start his college coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at North Carolina State University, came in 1988 when he was on the staff of coach Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s national championship team.

The last time I saw John was during the late 1970s when he was an assistant coach with the Memphis State University Tigers. The Tigers were playing the Seminoles in Tallahassee, and I went down and did an interview with him before the game.

He said that he had fond memories of Bainbridge where he began his coaching career. The last time I talked to him was in 1990 when I phoned to congratulate him on being named head football coach at Austin Peay University.

John, who has had tremendous success at various stops throughout his college coaching career, spent the last two seasons as defensive line coach with the National Football League’s Washington Redskins,

From 1991 to 2005, John was an assistant head coach under Barry Alvarez with the University of Wisconsin Badgers.

While at Wisconsin, where he coached outside linebackers from 1991 to 1995 and the defensive line from 1996 to 2005. John coached four first-team All Americans and had two players chosen Big Ten Conference defensive lineman of the year four times.

Two of his players were selected Big Ten Conference defensive players of the year. Eight of John’s Badgers defensive linemen have been selected in the first six rounds of the National Football League draft.

During his time in Bainbridge, John, in addition to his football coaching duties, was assistant basketball coach on some outstanding Bearcats basketball teams coached by the late head coach Charles Bess.

He also was a solid assistant Bearcats baseball coach under his good friend and former Bearcats offensive coordinator Rick Anderson.

One of the most enjoyable parts of being sports editor of this fine newspaper for 40 years is developing friendships with coaches like John and following the many successes in their careers.

It’s been a great ride for John, and I congratulate him on his many outstanding coaching achievements and his latest coaching position at Middle Tennessee State.