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How Jemal Singleton’s military background developed his coaching abilities

Photo Credit: Steve Dykes / Allsport

Photo Credit: Steve Dykes / Allsport

Being a military brat has its benefits. Kentucky’s new running backs and special teams coach was raised differently, providing unique perspective when he is on the field with aspiring young football players. After bouncing around all over the world, he’s happy to settle down in the Bluegrass.

“What brought me to Kentucky was the opportunity here,” Singleton told local media members Thursday afternoon not long after his hiring was made official. “My family has fallen in love with Kentucky. You’ve gotta understand that I’ve lived everywhere in the world. I was born in Turkey. My mother was British. I lived in England for about ten years. I lived in Germany, spent some time in Italy, lived in Texas. I’ve bounced around a bunch of places and Kentucky hit us.”

While coaching running backs for the Cincinnati Bengals over the previous two seasons, Singleton and his family lived in Northern Kentucky. His wife, Jennifer, and his two daughters, Morgan and Mallory, are drawn to the state’s thoroughbred culture.

“Just the state of Kentucky in itself was amazing,” he said. “When this opportunity presented itself, I thought hey, maybe this is the time to get back into college ball and do something that deep down you truly love.”

Singleton spent the last five years in the NFL, coaching the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. He enjoyed his professional experience, something he viewed as a way to improve his ability to coach at the collegiate level.

“If I’m being honest, I’m a college coach at heart. There’s a part of coaching college football that really calls to me: the recruiting process, helping a young man develop not only as a football player but as a person, getting to know families and those type of things. Deep down that’s always been something I love and I enjoy.”

Developing connections with others in a short amount of time is a requirement on the recruiting trail and something Singleton learned at a young age. The son of an African-American Air Force Sergeant from Louisiana and what he describes as a “posh” British woman, he spent his adolescence in different countries and states all over the world. He had to learn how to make new friends and adapt at a young age while moving from place to place every three years.

“I think that’s kind of helped me because there’s players from a lot of different walks of life. I’ve experienced a lot of different things and I think it just allows me to connect to each player individually on a different level, no matter what their background, no matter their upbringing. I just feel it has given me the opportunity to communicate with those guys and build those relationships,” Singleton said. “That environment that I was able to grow up in lent itself for me to be an effective football coach.”

Singleton in college (24) Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Even after he “grew up,” he remained in the military life, attending the Air Force Academy to play football from 1996-98 and helping the Falcons to consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. After completing his military service, he returned to the Academy to begin his coaching career. His ability to adapt served him well as a recruiter.

“You have to recruit the entire nation in order to get the viable candidates that you need to get into school academically, let alone to play Division I football. I like the process. I think at the end of the day, I don’t care where you recruit, I don’t care how you recruit, it will always be about the relationships you’ve made from the family, from the young man, from the high school, from the counselor, from anybody that touches that young man’s life, it’s part of it. Throw me in South Dakota, I’m going to recruit South Dakota. Throw me in California, I can recruit California. At the end of the day it’s about building relationships.”

Even though he’s been out of the recruiting game for a few years now, his NFL experience adds a new weapon to his arsenal.

“I’m a better recruiter by trade now. The fact of the matter is a lot of these young men, that’s what they aspire to do. They aspire to go to the NFL. Now I have that understanding and that knowledge of the entire process. I’ve sat in the draft room. I’ve sat in the interview room with guys. I’ve sat at the training station and talked to them. I’ve been on the field and worked the drills at the combine multiple times. I know all of those steps in this process.”

Singleton’s resume makes him qualified to take over Kentucky’s talented running backs room and supervise the special teams. How he was raised and what he’s learned throughout his travels all over the world makes him unlike a typical SEC assistant football coach.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

2 Comments for How Jemal Singleton’s military background developed his coaching abilities

  1. Not Dan Issel
    7:32 pm January 7, 2021 Permalink

    A man of good character who wants to be here. Sounds like Coach Stoops made a good hire. Welcome to Kentucky and much success in the years ahead.

  2. JoeBee
    7:58 pm January 7, 2021 Permalink

    Sounds like a great hire.