Former Portage Collegiate Trojans head coach Donald Burrell is beginning his next chapter. The PCI football team and Burrell have parted ways after having him be the main voice on the sidelines since 2017.
Burrell had a long journey before coming to Portage including playing Division 1 NCAA football, being a member of the Atlanta Falcons, playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and coaching Team Manitoba's U18 squad. He describes what led him to PCI.
"I came to Portage because the previous head coach was moving on and there was an opportunity to coach, at that time, a pretty good team," Burrell explains. "They were coming off of a championship appearance and I was leaving my head coaching position with the Manitoba provincial team. It was one of those things I'm very happy I did because of my growth as a head coach."
Burrell says he is so proud of the season they had in 2019, despite falling short in the championship game. He notes many coaches around the league didn't think very highly of rural football clubs and Burrell believes the 2019 Trojans changed that.
"We showed in 2019 that prairie football players can compete at a very high level. They competed extremely well in 2019, having an undefeated regular season and averaging 50 points a ball game. They did it with class and they did it with humility. Coming to Portage and having the opportunity to be very instrumental in changing the perception about prairie football players is something I'll always remember. Those kids proved they could play, compete, and obviously, lay a beat down on some of those schools in Winnipeg. So, I was proud of that, very proud of that."
During his time at Portage Collegiate, Burrell was influenced by his players to go back and finish his university degree. He felt he was being hypocritical when telling his players to go to class and preaching the importance of education, so he went back and now has his degree in physical education. Burrell says it wasn't just to prove a point though.
"I am going to do my best to put that degree to work," Burrell explains. "Whether I remain in coaching, which I truly would love to do, or teaching or just giving back to the community in some form. I was told when I was playing at the University of Mississippi State that it was our duty as football players to give back to the community and that's what I want to do going forward."
Burrell thanks the teachers and staff at PCI for being supportive of the program, noting a lot of the staff became more involved and have developed a better outlook on the sport and program since he took over four years ago. He wishes the Trojans all the best and thinks Jill Fast will be a great head coach for the future of the team.
Burrell is unsure of what his next move will be but notes he is beyond grateful for the time he spent at Portage Collegiate.