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High Schools: Brinkley's legacy tangible

September 19, 2011|By Barry Faulkner
  • Jeff Brinkley, in his 26th season as Newport Harbor High football coach, has touched many during his tenure at the helm.
Jeff Brinkley, in his 26th season as Newport Harbor High… (File photo, Daily…)

It can be more difficult to put a legacy of one-quarter century into words than into one room.

This was largely true Saturday night, when Newport Harbor High football coach Jeff Brinkley was celebrated by colleagues, former players, parents and community members for his momentous 25 seasons as the Sailors head coach.

Nearly 250 came to the Balboa Pavilion to share memories and their appreciation for a special coach whose historic impact goes beyond his 208-90-3 record that includes the program's only three CIF Southern Section championships (1994, 1999 and 2005).

Laughter, camaraderie, respect, reflection and music extended well into the evening and a handful of players and coaching colleagues shared their thoughts about Brinkley from the microphone on stage.

Mike White, a former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Cal and Illinois, who was also an assistant for the 1999 Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams, spoke of working with Brinkley as an assistant coach in 1989, when White's son was an all-league receiver for the Tars.

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He praised Brinkley for his commitment to the school, mentioning many opportunities Brinkley had to take other coaching positions at the college level.

White delighted the crowd by recalling his involvement with the program, which has extended over the years with frequent consultations with Brinkley.

"It was the greatest impact on my life," White said. "If all the jobs I've had and the situations I've been in, my relationship with Newport Harbor football means more to me than any other experience, and that includes the Super Bowl win and the Rose Bowls."

Longtime assistant Tony Ciarelli and longtime Sailors freshman coach Joe Urban spoke of their admiration for Brinkley, with whom both are close friends.

Former players Chris Maderino, Tom Eaton, Jeff Williams and Gregg Williams also took the opportunity to extend their gratitude and congratulations to Brinkley.

Eaton delivered an emotional account of a particularly memorable pep talk Brinkley gave during the 1994 team's 14-0 season that culminated in the section Division V crown.

Gregg Williams, the quarterback on the 1992 team that defeated Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay II CIF Division IV semifinal game that led to the program's first appearance in a CIF final in 50 years, spoke of Brinkley's humor as well as his ability to convey life lessons.

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