Canadian Football League

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Former Canadian Football League player named Head Coach of Daytona Beach

Former New York Giant, Tampa Bay Buc and Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Leon Bright has been named the Head Coach/Director of Football Operations for the Daytona Beach Thunder.
Owners Kevin McDonald, Zack McDonald and Antone Smothers introduced Bright at a media event on Wednesday, July 19 at the DBCC Public Broadcasting 15 Studios' set for "Thirty Minutes of Thunder and Lightning," the team's television show airing on the local PBS affiliate.
"Forgive the pun, but today is a very Bright day," Zack McDonald said. "In Leon, we have a distinguished individual with an impressive background and impressive connections. Our football operations have improved drastically simply by having Leon on board."
"This is a great opportunity, said Bright, 51. "The Thunder is an outstanding organization dedicated to the community. The ownership is strong, the support is strong and the opportunity for success is unlimited. It's time to bring a championship to Daytona Beach and Volusia County."
The franchise received 39 applicants for the position from every professional indoor league, including the Arena Football League and from as far away as Australia and Ireland.
However, as the process continued, Thunder owners realized that the new coach needed to have strong local connections to be successful both on and off the field.
"We're continuing to build a championship team and a championship franchise," McDonald said. "Sponsorships and community ties are as important as victories at this point.
Bright is a resident of DeLand and is currently the director for the Chisholm Community Center. He's been active in the West Volusia community for numerous years.
"One of our team's goals is to break down the `wall' between West Volusia and East Volusia," McDonald said. "Leon will help us do that."
Other candidates from the area included local high school football coaching Rocky Yocam and Chad Rhodes, a Thunder assistant and head coach at Lighthouse Christian Academy. Yocam served as a color commentary for Thunder broadcasts in 2006.
"To have well-respected coaches such as Rocky Yocam apply for our job gave us a sense of pride in the fact that name coaches want to be a part of our organization," McDonald said. "Chad has done a great job for us and deserved consideration."
The Thunder also considered three assistants from the AFL and interested parties from every other team (excluding Rome) in the American Indoor Football League's Southern Conference as well as former Evansville Bluecats (UIF) defensive coordinator Russ Shearer.
"The overall quality of applicant was impressive," McDonald said. "But we know Leon can get the job done."
A native of Merritt Island, Bright was a two-year letterman at Florida State University and still holds the record for longest kickoff return.
In 1977, he opted to venture north to the Canadian Football League, where he was named Rookie of The Year and an All-Pro receiver for the British Columbia Lions. He spent four seasons with the Lions as a part of a corps of players that returned the franchise to success. Fans voted him to CFL Hall of Fame as a member of their "Dream Team:
Bright joined the New York Giants in 1981 and spent three seasons there under the tutelage of then assistants Bill Parcells, Bill Bellichik and Romeo Crennel, who are now the head coaches of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns. His playing days concluded with two seasons with the Bucs.
"Leon's maintained those connections with the NFL and CFL, and also has connections with the AFL," McDonald. "That will help us help our players make it to the next level."
After his playing days, Bright settled in DeLand and has served as an assistant coach at DeLand High School, Atlantic High School and Lighthouse Christian Academy. He was briefly involved in women's football, serving as head coach for the Orlando Fire of the Women's American Football League in 2001 that finished 7-3 and won a division title.
In the community, Bright has been active with the Stewart-Marchman Center, which helps individuals overcome substance abuse.
Bright is married to the former Tammy McGee. He has five children - Tracy, Darron, Phillip, Leon and Ashley.


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