New Murphy head football coach Justin Hannah was a star defensive back in high school and college. (Photo submitted)
By ARTHUR L. MACK
The Mobile County School Board on Monday approved Justin Hannah as Murphy’s new head football coach, filling a vacancy which had lasted several months.
The Murphy position is the first head coach’s job for Hannah, 35, who spent the 2022 season as defensive coordinator at Jackson-Olin. He has also served as an assistant at Shades Valley and his alma mater, Tuskegee University.
Hannah succeeds John McKenzie, who resigned after one season to take over as head coach at Paul Bryant High in Tuscaloosa.
“It’s a blessing being able to give back to Mobile, the county and the student body,” Hannah said. “It’s going to be great giving back to the youth. We’re taking it one day at a time but we have to hit the ground running.”
The Panthers went 2-7 last year under McKenzie and last made the playoffs in 2019, the last time they had a winning season. Murphy’s last region championship was in 2008.
The Panthers play in 6A Region 1, which includes reigning state champion Saraland, reigning region champ Theodore, former state champions Blount, McGill-Toolen, St. Paul’s and Spanish Fort, and Baldwin County and Robertsdale.
Hannah said his first interactions with his new players were positive.
“The kids are really receptive of what we’re expecting of them,” he said. “It’s a new day. I’m excited and the kids are excited. Everybody’s buying into the program and the kids want to play and be involved.”
Hannah said when he heard about the opening at Murphy, he was ready to show he was capable of being a head coach.
“I prayed God would give me the opportunity to show my talents. (Principal) Mr. (Ed) Sanderson and I are both excited and he has done a great job implementing good ideas. The staff meetings have been lights out.”
Hannah played football and basketball and ran track at West End High in Birmingham. He was all-state in football in 2006.
Hannah, an HBCU All-American, intercepted 18 passes during his Tuskegee career and returned three for touchdowns. After leaving Tuskegee, Hannah pursued a pro career with the Cleveland Browns and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League and eventually played in the Arena Football League for six seasons before going into coaching.