Above photo of David Branscom from the UMHB Athletics Department
ALLEN, Texas- One of the centerpieces in the early days of the UMHB football program was David Branscom, a tight end who witnessed the program progress from being a little-known Div. III program to a nationally-ranked powerhouse. Following a playing career that saw him earn two ASC All-Conference honors, Branscom got his feet wet in the coaching ranks as UMHB’s first graduate assistant. He continued to build his football IQ from the sidelines, holding various assistant coaching positions with the Cru before making the leap to high school. He served as the defensive coordinator and later head coach at San Antonio Brandeis, a 6A school known for competitive playoff runs. His success there gave way to an offseason job change for Branscom, who had coached at Brandeis for six years. With preseason practice underway across the state, Branscom is now the defensive coordinator at Allen High School, a program that was ranked last year by Maxpreps as Texas’ best.
We caught up with Branscom to discuss his recent coaching move, his memories of UMHB’s early success and much more in this Alumni Q&A.
You recently took over as Allen’s Defensive Coordinator. What has that transition been like?
DB: “It’s been awesome. Regardless of what level, you want to be somewhere that puts kids first and what you’re doing and what you’re passionate about is important to them. It’s been a crazy couple months but it’s also been exciting. I love the area, the community and the people. I’m excited for my kids, my wife is a teacher as well, and change is hard, but at the same time, I think everybody is in a good place, which allows me to do my job well.
“I think where we come from, what you find with a guy like Pete Fredenburg, we didn’t feel like we just had better players, but the work ethic we instilled in those kids kind of built that program. So you go to high school, and besides your faith and your family, if winning is important to you, structurally, there’s a few places in the state based on the level that they’re at [where you can really compete for state championships every year].”
You played under Coach Fredenburg for three years at UMHB, and then was a member of the coaching staff in various roles for 14 more years. What kind of impact did he have on you and your development as a coach?
DB: “It’s hard to describe but it’s all encompassing. You learn everything from him. He made me who I am as a coach. I’m not saying I’m a great coach, but I saw what it looked like and what it is. I learned from somebody with great knowledge of the demanding nature and what it takes to see it through. Early in my coaching career especially, as I took over for a guy who was a
legend in my mind in Corky Nelson. It was learning by fire, but once you learn to embrace it, you really know it’s just finding a way to win. Once you got out of your own way and understood the value of what he was trying to impress in you, that’s when you really started growing. I wouldn’t be where I am without him, and what I’ve learned schematically is what he taught me.”
What was it like to be a member of that inaugural team in 1998?
DB: “You got to see it from its inception. I went to a junior college before coming to UMHB, actually followed a girl to Belton before they even started the program. I remember Coach Fredenburg being in a portable next to the science building and going in there and letting him know how good a football player I was. The most interesting thing I can remember was that the inaugural class had about 240 people out there in ’98. Guys in their 30s coming back and giving it another crack. The team picture is usually done the last few days of fall camp so you’re talking about two weeks having gone by, and in that picture is about 125 guys. Then you look at the ones who were at that ‘great’ level, which was only seven seniors in the Class of 2001. It puts things in perspective. When Coach Fred is talking about winning championships and you’re going 3-7, sometimes it’s hard to see that vision. But you learn so much about a man’s character when he can see that, even if you can’t.”
I understand you also hold a piece of UMHB football history as the program’s first graduate assistant.
DB: “My only claim to fame is probably that I was the first graduate assistant in UMHB history. I didn’t even know what a GA was, and thankfully Coach Fred worked it out with our AD about halfway through fall camp that year to make it a stipend paid position. But it’s hard when your head coach as a player then tells you to do something, you do it. I was planning on going to high school, and here’s this opportunity. I can’t say enough about how valuable that time was for me and my growth.”
Having been a member of that inaugural team, how cool was it for you when Crusader Stadium opened in 2013 and you were able to look back on how far the program had come?
DB: “No doubt. That’s the thing, many people don’t even know that the practice fields used to go east and west where the baseball and softball fields now are. To see it grow from there, and then Cummins Fieldhouse in 2011. The university’s commitment to it, coupled with the growing success of the program [has made the program what it is today]. Being a non-scholarship school, you have to have a culmination from the finance department, to the admissions staff to the president to the head coach. That’s what Mary Hardin-Baylor has made a commitment to do.”
Is there a moment from your time at UMHB that still sticks out to you as a turning point in the program’s history?
DB: “As a player, I know what it was, and it was Pete forecasting at the time. It was at McMurry, who was a good team at that time, and for us in our infancy to go 9-1 in 2000, to take a step, we had to beat a good team. Then, obviously the first win at Trinity was a pretty special feeling. The [playoff] run in 2004 was special in the sense that we played Trinity in the regular season [in 1998], our first game ever, and we didn’t get a first down until the fourth quarter. We went in ’01 there and lost, and in ’02 as well. We’d never won a playoff game before and to get an at-large bid, have the ‘road dog’ mentality and beat Hardin-Simmons in the second round after we had one of the worst losses we ever had at home [during the regular season]. You grow a lot closer as a team when you experience something like that.”
After 14 years at UMHB, you took the job at Brandeis. What was the transition to the high school level like?
DB: “In large scope, it’s all relative. It’s relative to life. It’s not settling for something that can be done better, it doesn’t really matter what level of football it is. There are differences [from the high school to the college ranks], though. The time you have with kids, the talent factor. [At UMHB], I never felt like we faced an opponent where one guy would be the deciding factor. In high school, I’ve had that happen, regardless of the team chemistry. I rely on a lot of self-reflection too. I used to say, the number one key to being successful is being prepared. The number one key is being able to see your own flaws and having the strength to fix it. That was one thing Coach Fredenburg did such a great job of. When things break down, you don’t attack the kids, it’s our job to coach and put our kids in the best situations.”