URBANA — New Urbana football coach Edmund Jones has worked on multiple college sidelines.
Those of Central State University in Ohio, Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, San Jose State and Indiana State, to be exact. That’s nothing to scoff at. But Jones knows his latest assistant coach hire boasts past jobs that jump off the page even more.
Former Illini Mike Bellamy will be Jones’ offensive coordinator at Urbana, pending board of education approval. Bellamy most recently served as Illinois football’s running backs coach during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns before being relieved of his duties following the hire of new Illinois coach Bret Bielema.
“I don’t ever remember a situation like this. This is a huge deal,” Jones told The News-Gazette on Saturday. “This is not your average high school football coach.”
The 55-year-old Bellamy last worked in the high school ranks between 2008 and 2010, taking on numerous roles for the Sprayberry (Ga.) High School football team.
Bellamy’s resume also includes a one-year stint at Clark Atlanta University, an initial four-year tenure with the Illini in which he spent three seasons from 2013-15 as their receivers coach, one season as an analyst at Mississippi State in 2016 and two years as Toledo’s receivers coach in 2017 and 2018.
Bellamy also was an NFL receiver with five different teams between 1990 and 1996 after playing for Illinois in 1988 and 1989.
Jones, whose hire at Urbana was announced on July 20 and also is pending school board approval, met Bellamy less than two weeks ago and never has coached alongside him before.
Bellamy was recommended to Jones by Julyon Brown, a former Illini linebacker who was Bellamy’s college teammate in 1989. Jones and Brown both are East St. Louis products.
“Julyon Brown called me and told me (Bellamy) was still in town,” Jones said. “Because of his family, his kids, he wasn’t ready to leave yet.”
Jones said Bellamy initially was hesitant about taking a high school assistant gig, but “after two days of questioning, he called and said he was all in.”
“I feel like I’ve known him 25 years,” Jones said. “It’s incredible how well we get along. We almost feed off one another. He’s a wide receivers guy (and) I’m a defensive backs guy, so we really like talking it up about certain things.”
When asked what he feels Bellamy brings to the Tigers, Jones’ first response was “tremendous credibility.”
“You’re talking about a guy that’s played at the highest level. You’re talking about a guy that’s coached at the highest amateur level,” Jones said. “The more of those types of experiences you have, the more knowledge you work with. People tease me all the time about the many different places I’ve been in my career, but I know what I know because of the many different places I’ve been.”
Urbana didn’t participate in the shortened 2021 spring season — the last of former coach Ordell Walker’s four seasons at the helm — because of a combination of COVID-19 issues and low athlete turnout.
Could Bellamy’s inclusion on the new Tigers staff spur a boost in player interest for a program that has gone 7-56 since reaching the second round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2012?
“The biggest interest, I think ... is (from) parents,” Jones said. “As a parent, you should say, ‘Hey, I want my kid trained by that guy right there.’ “
Jones said he is in the process of filling one last opening on his staff, hinting that he’s trying to persuade a former San Jose State connection to take that position.
Also on Jones’ first staff are holdovers Shawn Green, Emery Williams and Jaylen Wilson. Jones additionally has added Forrest Farokhi — Urbana’s cross-country and boys’ track and field coach — and former St. Thomas More assistant Joe Santillo to his roster of assistants.