New coach to be named this week
PORT ST. JOE — John Palmer officially ended his second tenure of leading the Port St. Joe football team and athletic department to statewide prominence by resigning Friday as head football coach and athletic director at the school.
Palmer, 52, guided Port St. Joe to Class 1A state championships in football in 2005 and 2014 and to the state championship game in 2015.
He experienced a medical emergency at midseason on Oct. 13 and two weeks later the school announced that it had replaced him on an interim basis for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
“I will stay on in the capacity of athletic director until someone is hired,” Palmer said Friday afternoon. His resignation as football coach is immediate.
Palmer also will remain on staff as “teacher on special assignment” in his role as dean of students.
“I had some difficult times this year, some with my health, that made it more difficult to stay on the field, to have the energy to be able to do the job way it should be done,” Palmer said. “I deliberated for quite a while; my wife did. … I thought it would be best for our team right now. It’s the right time.”
Gulf County Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton acknowledged Palmer’s contribution.
“We’ve been honored to have John and his wife, Amy, at Port St. Joe High School being part of two state championships,” Norton said. “We are glad he will remain as part of the Port St. Joe High School family.”
Norton said that the job “will be posted per the contract” with the employees’ union.
Palmer began his teaching career in Bronson in 1988 and ultimately had two stints as head football coach at Port St. Joe. The first ended after seven seasons when Palmer left in 2008 for a similar position at Hernando High School.
Palmer had amassed a 57-27 record with the Tiger Sharks, but stepped down after two seasons in Hernando to address health concerns.
Palmer did not go into detail about the current status of his health, but said it could be termed an extension of his previous condition.
“I don’t want people to think it was a health issue,” Palmer said. “Some of it is, definitely. I’m under the advice of my doctor I should not coach any longer, but I’ve been under that advice before, since 2011.
“I had some issues now that I did not have previously and it has become more difficult” to conduct specific duties as head coach.”
Palmer said he will begin the DROP retirement program following the conclusion of this school year, his 30th as a teacher, and his desire is to continue to work and reside in Port St. Joe
“It’s just a wonderful place for me to be able to end my career,” Palmer said.
Palmer said that former Port St. Joe head football coach and longtime defensive coordinator Chuck Gannon was instrumental in Palmer coming to Port St. Joe the first time, the two having worked together in Brooksville. Palmer also mentioned former principal Chris Early in his hire prior to the 2001 season. Current principal Josh Dailey played under Palmer and also coached alongside him. Palmer was rehired as head coach and athletic director in 2014.
Palmer estimated that his teams won 140 games during his football coaching career, about 90 of them at Port St. Joe.
“The program was in great shape when I took it over and I think it’s in great shape now moving forward,” Palmer said. “That’s been my goal; to hand off the baton to the next guy as good or better as I got it.
“I don’t have to be on a search committee. I feel appreciated and very fortunate to be here. We have a great school. What is important is we get a coach that is not just good, but who cares about his kids. That’s a goal going forward.”
Palmer said that he realizes that sometimes it is difficult to separate the man from what he does as his profession.
“You go from player to coach and it’s kind of all you’ve ever done,” Palmer said. “I dealt with it before because I was out of coaching for a few years. The thing I’ve tried to do working with the kids is be able to coach them off the field more. To affect all the kids somehow.
“The last time I had to do this the goal was to get healthy to come back to coach. I felt good enough, the doctor just never approved of me doing it. Right now … it’s just time.”