Missouri Tigers Brick Haley Tackles Coaching, Life and Autism Awareness
Brick Haley is starting his 28th season of coaching and his first season as the defensive line coach at University of Missouri. Being an SEC football coach is full of professional challenges. Haley, like many of his coaching counterparts, is also a husband and a father, which adds to the ever-changing daily challenges.
The Tale of Two Cities
Haley is in the midst of spring recruiting as well as buying and organizing a new home in Columbia, Missouri. All the while, his wife Tina is packing up and selling their house in Austin, Texas, in addition to raising their two sons A.J., age 17 and Jeremy, age 13. The challenge of being in two different states is just one of many that the Haley family tackles on a daily basis. Moreover, A.J. was diagnosed with autism when he was seven years old.
Tina tackles the daily routine. Brick described her day, “She is up early, works out and then she is ready for the kids when they get up. She will have breakfast ready for them and gets them out the door to school. Once a week, she will go by the school and have lunch with one or the other. More often than not, it is with A.J..” Haley continued, “In the afternoon, she is there when they get home so that have that comfort zone of seeing her face. She definitely holds down the fort while we live in two different cities.”
Spring recruiting is currently in full effect. Haley will spend four days to a week in each city. The days start as early as the first workout and is ongoing until the last practice. In addition, he faces more work once he gets back to the hotel, with completing notes and evaluations from that day’s players, followed by calls to high school coaches for the next days schedule. Haley visits approximately seven schools in a day to meet with potential players and their coaches, as well as guidances counselors. If he is recruiting specific to a position and has to see certain athletes, he could be in as many as three states in one week.
Being an SEC football coach and being on the road is its own routine. The Haley’s have the distance living down to a science. “I call in the morning before school or in the afternoons depending on where I am on any given day. Most times we try to Facetime so we can see each other. I like to see the expression on A.J.’s face when I ask him about his day. I really like to see his expression when I talk to him about what he did at work.”
A.J. is high-functioning autistic. He is a great student, highly intelligent, and is in mainstream classes. A.J. does all of the things that normal kids do, autism just affects the way he learns. “He takes pride in what he does, which is really, really important to me” said Haley. A.J. currently has a job through school that he is really enjoying. According to Haley, “That really seems to excite him that he is doing work and being productive.” A.J. also enjoys computer time and reading.
Jeremy takes on the challenges of being a little brother with enthusiasm. He steps up to take care of A.J., making sure he has what he needs and looks out for him while Haley is on the road. In fact, Jeremy is also constantly pushing A.J. to do more, as well as trying to groom A.J. socially. The brothers are inseparable. Haley talked about the bond they share, “They work well together. It is really awesome to watch them interact together. Jeremy is the greatest little brother in the world.”
Academics and Athletics
As it happens, athletics are not for everyone, or so Haley found out. He spoke about his kids and sports, “They like that I am a football coach, but it is amazing to me to have two boys and neither one is slightly interested in athletics. That was a little bit of a downer for me.” Haley added, “As long as they excel in the other areas of their life, I am totally and completely fine with that. They make good grades; they are good kids – very respectful – as long as they can grow up and be productive citizens in society, I don’t care if they ever play ball.”
Tina and the boys attend as many away games as possible. Jeremy especially loves to travel. The boys do not care much for the actual football games, but they love visiting the different stadiums. A.J. has adjusted well to the crowds and noise. He travels with a set of noise-blocking headphones for those stadiums that shoot off cannons or when his mood isn’t conducive to the crowds. Their favorite part of the game is being on the field after the game and being able to interact with the players.
As a football coach, Haley has a second set of “kids” when it comes to his players. One of the first things he does once he arrives at a new school is make sure his family meets his players. Once Tina and the boys finally relocate to Missouri in June, there will be many family dinners with the Haley’s and the Tigers defensive line. “My wife will cook. they will hang out at the house, play video games with my boys. My boys look up to them like big brothers. I like my players to see me as more than just a coach.” Haley continued, “I like them to see me as a father and as a husband. My players learn that life is more than just about you, it is about giving back to other people and sharing your life with people that care about you.”
Brick Road To Success
Haley grew up in Gadsden, Alabama, where his family surrounded him with unconditional love and support. This, in turn, helped him survive the 11th street project, which was riddled with poverty and crime. The unconditional love and support helped him excel on and off the football field. It is also the driving force in becoming a football coach, as he felt the call to inspire others.
The foundation Brick Road To Success was also started because of his call to give back. Once A.J. was diagnosed with autism, the foundation became focused on helping to raise money for autism awareness. This summer will be the 5th annual Brick Road to Success Golf Tournament held ob June 23rd, in Gadsden, Alabama. In his spare time, Haley is busy securing autographed donations for the silent auction that is held in conjunction with the tournament. The golf tournament has grown steadily, and Haley is confident this year will be the most successful to date.
“Your life is not defined by what happens to you. It is defined by how you react to what happens to you.”Brick Haley is living that statement to the letter. He has tackled every challenge and succeeded. Coaching is a great job but a brutal career for a family. Yet, Haley has been a successful football coach for 28 seasons, a loving husband for 22 years, and a father for 17 years. He is reacting to life like a defensive lineman: he watches, reacts, tackles, and then finishes the play.