For Jim Patrick, football has always been a way of life. Patrick, the second year McLean High football coach, spent part of his childhood watching his father’s great Mount Vernon High football teams.
Bruce Patrick, one of the Northern Region’s greatest coaches, led Mount Vernon to vast success during the late 1970’s and throughout the ‘80’s. The 1983 Majors captured the state AAA title. Players on the Bruce Patrick-era Majors included safety Billy Davis (Clemson University), running back Derek Steele (James Madison University), receiver Eric Brent (JMU), kicker Mark Harmon (Stanford), defensive tackle Jim Scott (Clemson), linebacker John Rymiszewski (Duke University) offensive lineman Ed Cunningham (University of Washington) and quarterback Frankie Smith (Old Dominion).
“I grew up around football and going to practices with my dad,” said Jim Patrick. “[Mount Vernon football] was huge. I was a little kid and just had a blast. I always thought it was weird that everybody knew who my dad was.”
It’s kind of fitting that Bruce Patrick currently serves as an assistant coach on son Jim’s McLean team. Both have been part of a Highlanders’ program that has made a dramatic turnaround this season. McLean, in Jim’s first season at the helm in 2008, went winless at 0-10. But midway through the current ’09 fall campaign, the Highlanders are 3-2. They lost a tough 28-21 game against Liberty District opponent South Lakes (4-1) last week. McLean will be looking to get back into the win column when it plays at district opponent Jefferson this Friday night.
Jim Patrick grew up in Springfield and attended Hayfield High School, where he graduated from in 2000. There, he played four years of varsity football for the Hawks. His coach for his first three years was Dudley Johnson. During his senior year, Hayfield was coached by Billy Pugh, who is still in charge of the program. Patrick played center position on offense and a tackle position on defense.
Hayfield went 4-6 during Patrick’s junior season. But one of the Hawks’ wins that season came over a Robinson team that had won the state AAA title the year before. In another game that season, Hayfield lost by just a touchdown to non-region foe C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge), which would go on to garner a state crown that year.
Hayfield was not a winning team that fall, but it played all out and made life miserable on opponents.
“I thought we were a real scrappy bunch,” said Patrick, of that year’s Hayfield team under Johnson. “We played everyone close.”
The following year saw Hayfield go 6-4, the program’s first winning season in seven years. In their final game that season, the Hawks defeated an outstanding Annandale team with a late-game touchdown to secure its sixth win and assure themselves of a mark over .500.
Patrick, following high school, went on to football collegiately at Rhode Island University, an NCAA Div. 1AA program. There, he played offensive tackle.
“I learned a lot playing on the offensive line in college,” he said. “You had to know all the positions and what everyone did on offense.”
Patrick said playing line in college helped prepare him for his coaching future.
<b>PATRICK’S FIRST COACHING</b> experience came at C.D. Hylton High, a member of the Northwest Region, in 2004. Patrick was offensive line coach for a Bulldogs’ team that captured the region crown with an overtime win over Stonewall Jackson. Hylton’s season ended at the state playoffs with a semifinals loss against Robinson in a contest that was played on the Rams’ home turf in Fairfax.
The following year (2005) saw Hylton go a perfect 10-0 in the regular season. The Bulldogs went on to win the region again but fell to Landstown High (Virginia Beach) at the state semifinals. Hylton was driving the football late in that game with a chance to go ahead before Landstown’s Percy Harvin, currently a member of the Minnesota Vikings, returned an interception 100 yards to seal the win for his team.
“That 2005 team was a blast to be around,” said Patrick, of the Bulldogs. “They were super competitive and real goal oriented. They sold out totally.”
Patrick spent two more seasons (four in all) at Hylton and became offensive coordinator, while still maintaining his line coaching duties, in 2007.
“We had a lot of really good kids there,” said Patrick, of his time at Hylton. “It was tough leaving there because I really liked the kids a lot.”
But, on the other hand, Patrick was excited to leave Hylton because he had gotten the head coaching job at McLean. While his first year with the Highlanders in 2008 was particularly trying for coaches, players and fans alike because of the team’s winless record, Patrick said his overall experience at the school has been great.
“It’s been a blast,” said Patrick, speaking specifically of the current season. “This is probably the most gratifying team I’ve ever been around. This group has really dedicated themselves.”
Patrick, who grew up as a huge University of Nebraska football fan, said he still holds a connection to his father’s old Mount Vernon teams. One of his favorite Majors’ players from his childhood was Cunningham, the offensive lineman who went on to have a successful NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals. Cunningham, since retiring as a player, has been a TV college football commentator. Patrick said Cunningham always took an active interest in his life, encouraging him as a young youth football player and staying in touch over the years.
“He called me and gave me words of wisdom before I went to college,” said Patrick. “There were a lot of [former] Mount Vernon players who stayed in touch with my dad.”
Jim currently resides in Dumfries with his wife, Susie, and their two children – son Jakob (3) and daughter Lily (1).