Real Success

Jessica Sawyer Experience, Winter 2018

For Chris Brazell, Cottage Hill Christian Academy head football coach, success isn’t measured by wins, though his track record certainly shows them. With a playoff spot secured early in the 2018 season, regular rankings in the Top 10 and weekly awards for players, this 2002 University of Mobile graduate and former UM baseball player has helped the school start a new tradition of winning. 

Brazell wears multiple hats at Cottage Hill – athletic director, 14-year baseball coach and, this year, head football coach – but much like the examples set forth to him during his time at UM, success on the field isn’t Brazell’s ultimate goal as a coach.

“I care so much about the grown man, the future husband, the future father more so than I do the student-athlete that I’m coaching now,” he said. “Wins and losses are great, but we gauge our success at CHCA on how many young men come back to be a part of our school. When kids stop coming back to be around our program, then we have failed. We want them to know we love them, that we’re invested in them, and that we care about them in the future rather than winning a ballgame on Friday night or a doubleheader on Saturday.”

So much of his coaching and personal philosophies were molded during his time at UM and through the relationships formed there. A junior-year transfer to the baseball team from Enterprise State Community College, he had spent his life in public school.

University of Mobile “was the first time that I had been involved in Christian education,” Brazell said. “Each and every day when I stepped foot on the campus of UM, you could actually feel the spirit and the presence of the Lord. As you were walking from class to class, everybody was so kind and friendly and they displayed the fruits of the spirit. That meant a lot to me at a time when I was growing as a young man and growing spiritually.”

As he became more involved in campus life, Brazell began and deepened lifelong friendships with people he met along the way. 

“Everybody talks about a family atmosphere,” he said. “UM was truly a family atmosphere that has definitely lasted way longer than I could ever imagine. I didn’t have any idea the impact that it was going to make on my life.”

One of those enduring friendships is with Head Baseball Coach Mike Jacobs, who coached the team to the World Series in 2001, Brazell’s senior year.

“I think the school kind of grew on him in his two years,” Jacobs said. “Just being in the program helped mold his spiritual life and reinforced some of his thoughts and beliefs, I think, even from when he was younger. I think he became more aware of what God had in store for him and the position that He wanted him in and put him in once he left here.”

Another strong influence in Brazell’s life, Jimmy Messer ’91 & ’98,is currently CHCA’s Head of School and served as an assistant basketball coach and director of student development at UM during Brazell’s time as a student. He views Brazell’s “all-in” mentality as an incredible asset for students.

“Chris always wants to make sure that he’s pouring into those guys and he’s helping them not only become better people – he’s very interested in spiritually and their walk with Christ and that they are exposed to Jesus or have an opportunity to grow as Christians under his coaching,” Messer said.

The bonds between Messer, Jacobs and Brazell are indicative of the continued support provided by the UM experience. For the university’s Project Serve in October, Jacobs took his players to CHCA to help set up for the school’s homecoming football game, a mission that’s part and parcel with each man’s desire to further the connection between UM graduates and students while also serving the community. 

It’s a nature of investment that Jacobs sees Brazell emulate in his life as a coach.

“Any time you can see someone that’s put in your program become successful, it is a sense of accomplishment for me,” Jacobs said. “I’m enjoying watching Chris be an example for his kids and for what they go through each and every day. That lets me know that what we’re doing here at UM is still vital and still important. When we see people like Chris being successful, then we feel like we’re doing what we should be doing.”

Brazell, a proud husband to Charlie Brooke and father to 2-year-old Chrislie-Anne, believes that when you’re content in the Lord, it makes every day a joy to wake up.

“I know I’m doing what He’s called me to do,” Brazell said. “A lot of times we can’t imagine what God has in store for us – but He has so much in store for us, and the heart of the Lord makes the impossible possible.”

To be able to do all of that with the people who made a difference at his time at UM is just an added bonus.

“It’s awesome to be a Ram,” he said, “and it’s awesome to extend my time at UM and be able to lock arms with fellow Rams and continue to serve the Lord.”

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Jessica Sawyer