‘He left an impact:’ Former Hilliard football coach Paul Whittenburg remembered as strong leader

He won 200 games coaching the Red Flashes in a career that spanned decades

Former Hilliard Middle-Senior High coach and teacher Paul Whittenburg died on Thursday night. He was 72. (Photo courtesy Whittenburg family) (Whittenburg family)

Paul Whittenburg, who spent parts across five decades coaching and teaching at Hilliard Middle-Senior High School, died on Thursday after battling health problems. Whittenburg was 72.

Whittenburg won 200 games at Hilliard in a career that began in 1975 and didn’t end until 2012. Whittenburg beat Eagle’s View 21-12 on Nov. 8, 2012, putting a bow on a stellar coaching career.

From a high school football coaching perspective, certain names are synonymous with counties in the area.

Whittenburg is the name in Nassau County.

He took the Red Flashes to the state playoffs five times during his coaching career. Even when the Red Flashes weren’t in the postseason, they were always a tough, well-prepared program that was rooted in their head coach’s work ethic. Numerous former players of Whittenburg went on to coach in their own right. One of Whittenburg’s most notable players, running back Daniel Thomas, went on to become a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins. He was named Hilliard’s head coach last month.

Whittenburg was a throwback coach and ran his program that way. The Red Flashes, one of the smallest schools in the coverage area, didn’t have the luxuries of having major recruits like Thomas, and later, linebacker Marcus Allen, come through the program annually. But a hallmark of Whittenburg-coached teams was playing tough, hard-nosed football, with players often lining up on both sides of the ball.

In a post on Facebook, the Pride of Hilliard Football Club said that Whittenburg’s contributions to the community were immeasurable.

“Please join us in prayer for family and friends of Legendary Hilliard Coach, Paul Whittenburg, who passed away last night. Coach Whittenburg dedicated many years and countless hours to Hilliard Football,” it said.

“Serving many years as head coach, he turned many Hilliard athletes into men on the field. A respected football coach and great math teacher, he left an impact on countless Hilliard alumni. His presence in the community, whether in sports, in local restaurants or in his church, will be greatly missed.”

In his post-Hilliard teaching and coaching days, Whittenburg helped out with the Charlton County football team.

Whittenburg coached both of his sons, Gabe and Zack, at Hilliard. He is survived by his two sons, his daughter, Jamie, and nine grandchildren.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.