Former Springfield coach Dunn takes job at Albert Lea
By Jeremy Behnke
Journal Sports Editor
SPRINGFIELD — In a sense, Paul Dunn is going back home.
Dunn, the former Springfield football and softball coach, has been named the new head football coach at Albert Lea High School. Dunn’s grandpa lived near Clarks Grove, which is about 14 miles from Albert Lea. Dunn lived on the farm with his grandparents and his parents also graduated from Albert Lea High School.
Dunn said that he was contacted by Albert Lea two weeks ago about applying for the job. He then was able to get out of his contract at Springfield High School, where he works as a social studies teacher. From there, the applied and then interviewed at Albert Lea. After making the final three, he was offered the job. He took a tour of the facilities on Saturday, was impressed, and made a quick decision and took the job.
It was announced by Albert Lea High School in a press release on Tuesday.
“It’s kind of the right place at the right time for me,” Dunn said. “They have a beautiful brand new facilities, a very beautiful, well-kept high school that’s 19-20 years old. Their football facilities are just gorgeous, nice fieldhouse, great big locker room, it’s really reminiscent of back in my day when I played in Division III, those types of facilities, not quite as much seating but similar type of set up.
“Nice practice facility, the cost of living there is more than Springfield but it’s still reasonable, I have cousins all over Albert Lea, Emmons, Hayward, various other places and my high school classmates are all 30 miles away. It’s just the right place for this point in my career,” Dunn said.
While at Springfield, he was known for running the option and that won’t change much at Albert Lea.
“I’m going to run option football, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be spread and RPO (run-pass option) or the innovative stuff that’s run down the chute,” Dunn said. “I’ve cut my teeth running the option and it will take some form, I can’t really tell until I’ve seen the kids and get a feel for their athleticism and their physical demeanor and their speed and all that. That will dictate more than anything, but I’m going to run option somehow, some way.”
He’s looking forward to coaching at a Class AAAA school. The Tigers compete in the Big Southeast, Blue District. Last year, they went 2-7 and former head coach Corey Black stepped down on April 15. Black had a 6-31 record as the school’s head coach.
“It’s really exciting to have a bigger pool of kids, but kids are kids,” Dunn said. “Whether they’re in Springfield or Albert Lea, they’re dealing with a lot of the same issues. They need to feel important and know that people care about them. They know that serving the community is what I do. All of those things, I’m going to take with me.
“I said that you’re going to see me out in public, you’re going to see me at games, community events, that is real important to me and I think that it’s important that we support the other programs and they see that support,” Dunn said. “Hopefully the community will embrace that and I’m pretty certain they will. That’s where I’m going to start as soon as I can.”
He’ll be in the social studies department at Albert Lea and he said he’ll probably teach economics and some business classes there, too.
At Springfield, Dunn had a career record of 125-72. He coached the Tigers to a state championship in 2005 in football and led them to four state tournament appearances. He was named the Southern Minnesota Conference Coach of The Year three times, the MSHSL Section 3A Coach of the Year four times and was the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Coach of the year in 2005. He also coached the MFCA all-star game and was previously the president of the MFCA.
In 2006, he coached the Springfield softball team to a state championship just a few months after coaching the football team to a state title.
He graduated from St. Ansgar, Iowa High School and he was a part of an undefeated football team his senior year. He played on three national championship teams at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
He’s going to miss Springfield and all the friends, players and co-workers that were an important part of his life since he started teaching there in 1999.
“It’s very hard, the relationships with the kids, the families, the community, they are what I cherish the most,” he said. “Moving away from that is going to be very difficult. But on the other hand, it’s something that I hope can be created somewhere else, it’s very bittersweet, there’s lots of memories here.”