Borden takes over as UNA defensive coordinator

By Bart Moss for the FCT

Phil Campbell alum and former standout athlete Brett Borden has accepted the defensive coordinator position at the University of North Alabama under new head coach Chris Willis.

Borden is a former UNA linebacker and assistant coach and is returning to to his alma mater after a brief stint out of coaching in private medical sales.

“I’m a coach,” said Borden. “Not a salesman.”

Despite his brief absence from coaching, Willis didn’t hesitate when it came to hiring his new coordinator.

“Brett is a great fit for our staff,” said Willis in a statement released by UNA. “He has a tremendous knowledge of the game, is an extremely hard worker and he is someone I know I can trust to do everything he can to help us be successful. He hasn’t been here since 2013, but it was like he never left when he walked back in the door. I feel in a lot of areas he has more knowledge of the game than I do, so it’s like replacing myself as defensive coordinator and gaining something there. That will allow me to concentrate more on being a head coach and not having to concentrate as much on the defense. He always stays a step ahead and anticipates the next move.”

Borden, who played linebacker for the Lions in 2004 and 2005, served as UNA’s defensive line coach in 2012 and 2013 but has spent the last three seasons in private business. He began his coaching career at UNA in 2006 as a student assistant coach with the Lions and has also had coaching stints at Independence Community College in Kansas, Milsaps College, Troy University and Spain Park High School.

“I had a great opportunity in sales, but coaching is in my blood, and I’m thankful Coach Willis gave me this opportunity,” said Borden. “I have always wanted to coach. It is a passion of mine.  UNA is transitioning to Division I, and that brings a lot of opportunities and challenges.”

Borden hasn’t slowed down since taking the job about two weeks ago.

“I have barely been on campus,” noted Borden. “We have been on the road recruiting the whole time.”

UNA will play a Division II schedule in 2017 and fully transition to Division I in 2018.

That will bring a new set of opportunities. At the Division II level UNA was able to take more chances with academic transfers, a process that will more difficult at the Division I level where schools have to comply with the mandated annual Academic Progress Rate, or APR. The Lions will also go from having 36 scholarships available to 57 scholarships.

In the end, though, football is still football, and it comes down to the players a team puts on the field.Borden recognizes what UNA needs to be successful, and his skills learned as a salesman will help in recruiting.

“Football is an offensive game today with hurry-up-no-huddle offenses,” said Borden. “We have to recruit guys who can adapt on defense to that speed of the game. We need guys with a lot of skill sets who can be flexible. We want players who are physical and play in space.”

Borden led the Phil Campbell Bobcats to a 29-8 record and three straight playoff appearances as a quarterback from 1999 to 2001. He was a two-time all-state quarterback and finalist for 3A Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001.

“Brett was one of the best athletes to ever come through Phil Campbell,” said Borden’s high school coach Kelly Kiser. “He was a leader on and off the field. I knew he would be a great coach because he was the coach on the field. I could tell him something one time and he never forgot it. He can still tell you a play that happened during any game, and that is what is so impressive about him. He can process so much and still wants to learn more. I think UNA made a great choice. I can’t wait to see them play.”

After playing linebacker for the Lions from 2004-05 and helping the Lions to an 11-3 record in 2005 that included a Gulf South Conference Championship and a spot in the semifinals of the Division II Playoffs, Borden began his coaching career at UNA under Mark Hudspeth. Borden worked with the linebackers and the strength and conditioning program as UNA won the 2006 Gulf South Conference championship. The 2006 Lions went 11-1 and UNA followed with a 10-2 mark in 2007, reaching the playoffs both seasons.

Borden served as linebacker coach at Independence Community College in Kansas in 2008 and spent the 2009 season as linebacker coach at Millsaps College, where he helped lead the team to the 2009 SCAC championship and coached the conference defensive player of the year.

In 2010 season, Borden was at Troy University as a defensive graduate assistant, coaching the defensive backs. While there he was part of the 2010 Sun Belt Conference and R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl championships.

Prior to coming back to UNA in 2012, Borden spent the 2011 season at Spain Park High School as the linebacker and strength and conditioning coach.

At UNA in 2013 he helped lead the Lions to a 10-3 record that included a share of a Gulf South Conference championship, and the Lions advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Borden was an all-state quarterback at Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2002. He went on to play in the Mississippi Junior College All-Star Game in 2003. He earned a B.S. degree in Physical Education from UNA in 2007.

UNA will begin spring practice March 15, and their spring game is scheduled for April 22. Borden can’t wait.

“Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football,” said Borden. “But I can’t wait to get on the field, between the white lines, coach and evaluate our guys. That is what I love to do.”

Borden’s parents, Donald and Jean Borden, live in Spruce Pine.

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