By Mike Beas
In the days leading up to his eighth birthday, Jayme Comer expressed to his parents the desire to have his birthday party at a location with unlimited space.
Where better, he reasoned, than the playing surface of the Brownsburg High School football stadium.
This is the way it went for much of the late-1990s. Comer and eight to 10 of his closest friends would congregate on or near the date of his birthday (Oct. 9) to bask in the sheer carefreeness of being young. Presents were opened, cake was consumed, plays were diagrammed and footballs were passed on the then-grass field.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago.
It’s Comer, 31, a mask covering a portion of his bearded face, standing on the visitors sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium as Danville’s head coach in the Class 3A state championship game against Indianapolis Chatard. An even more spacious environment this time, but, too, cause for celebration as Warriors coaches and players receive medals and a trophy for being runner-up to the Trojans.
The more things change …
Comer, a 2008 Brownsburg graduate who was a standout middle linebacker for the Bulldogs, has coached in three consecutive state championship games, a feat most coaches in Indiana, even the grizzled types more than twice his age, never come close to accomplishing.
Prior to taking the Danville job, Comer was offensive coordinator at Western Boone during the Stars’ Class 2A titles in 2018 and 2019. It’s already been quite a ride for Comer, who despite the rings and medals accumulated over the past few years, remains in the infancy of what could amount to a long and successful coaching career.
His father Brett Comer served 12 seasons as a Brownsburg assistant football coach and was the head coach from 2006-2015 (hence the accessibility to the stadium playing surface for those birthday parties forever etched into the family’s memory).
The first word Jayme spoke as an infant was “ball,” according to his father. Hardly a surprise considering Jayme’s mom, Angee, is, like her husband, a 1987 Brownsburg graduate who excelled athletically. Brett played football and baseball for the Dogs. Angee, then known as Angee Brauman, was an all-state softball pitcher who went on to play at Butler University.
“I grew up within the Brownsburg football program,” said Jayme Comer. “I was a ball boy. I was on the sideline charting defense for (his dad) and had the opportunity to play for him.”
After graduating high school, Comer played two seasons at Illinois State University before transferring to the University of Indianapolis where his passion for the gridiron was rekindled by the mentoring of recently retired Greyhounds head coach Bob Bartolomeo.
In 2013, Comer became part of new coach Justin Pelley’s staff at Western Boone, a program that, like Danville, had experienced success. Up to that point, seven Stars squads had captured a sectional championship, four won regionals and two more made it to the title contest with the 1988 ballclub winning it all.
Impressive as it already was, WeBo’s tradition has skyrocketed to new heights under Pelley with three consecutive 2A state crowns. Comer was there seven years, the Stars putting together a 67-20 record during that time.
In April, Comer was named the 16th head football coach in program history.
“As a new head coach, the biggest thing for me was to trying to teach our kids to continue to be unselfish, to play for each other, to understand that team football is winning football,” said Comer. “If a teammate makes a play, we should be just as excited as if he makes a play.
“The second thing is the physical nature. We want to be the most physical team on the field every week that we play, and I think that’s something we’ve tried to instill in our kids from the moment we got there. This is something that I feel I’ve been preparing for my whole life.”
Brett Comer, the director of guidance at Brownsburg High School, can’t help but be impressed with his son’s rapid career ascent.
“Growing up, Jayme was always with me,” he said. “The day he came home from the hospital, I was coaching Brownsburg’s seventh grade team. There’s a picture of me holding him and I’m wearing my coach’s shirt.
“To watch his evolution is what coach Pelley allowed him to do his last two years at Western Boone. Jayme, who had always been a defensive guy, was the offensive coordinator, which has really helped him as a play caller. Jayme’s knowledge of the game for a 31-year-old is pretty far advanced. He is much more cerebral on the sideline than when I was a first-year coach.”
Laughing, the elder Comer added, “But I was 3-7 my first year, so there was a little more yelling involved.”
There was an air of the surreal the Monday before last month’s state finals. The 12 qualifying coaches were at Lucas Oil Stadium for a meeting, interviews and any other business needing to be addressed.
In the rear of one of the rooms was the Western Boone table with Pelley available to answer any questions regarding the Stars and their season. No more than an onside kick away was the Danville table with Comer present.
When asked if he was surprised Comer was there in his first season, Pelley’s response was succinct.
“I’m not. He’s a great coach. We had a great run. Seven years together. Jayme was the strength coach over at Western Boone, and he really helped implement some things for our program,” Pelley said. “To see him succeed in his first year coaching makes me very proud.
“Jayme is efficient and he’s organized. He just took on more responsibility each year. He coaches for kids, and I took a lot of things from him on how he took to being an offensive coordinator. He got mad at me there for a while because I made him do the practice plans, but I think he might see the benefit now.”
Getting to know Coach Comer
Coaching oftentimes is about influences. Who are the coaching mentors you’ve had to this point that motivated you to pursue this as a career? My father (Brett Comer), having the opportunity to grow up on the sidelines of the Brownsburg football program was a unique and educational experience all around. I was able to see what it takes to run a successful program, the small details that most people may not notice and finally the commitment to developing the whole player that it takes to be successful.
In college I had the opportunity to play for Chris Keevers and Bob Bartolomeo, both of those men taught me how to run a first-class college program that placed a high priority on academics and finally going above and beyond to be prepared. No team ever outworked our coaches at UIndy.
Coach Justin Pelley from Western Boone gave me my first opportunity to be a high school coach. Coach Pelley entrusted me with a large portion of his program, he allowed me to learn and to grow as a young coach, something that I will forever be grateful for. He finally gave me full reins of his favorite part of football (call the offense) and I can point to that as a major reason for the ability I have had to lead the Danville program.
Tell us a little about your family: I have been married to my wonderful wife Kristina (Kerrigan) Comer for the past four years, and we are blessed to have a 1-year old son, K.J. Kristina and I met while we were both student-athletes at the University of Indianapolis, Kristina played volleyball, while I played football.
What do you teach at Danville High School and why are you passionate about it? Advanced physical education grades nine through 12. I have always had outstanding strength coaches throughout my playing career. I knew that I was passionate about athletic development and helping our student-athletes reach their full potential. This position allows me to work with a wide variety of athletes and help them to reach their goals.
You’ve been to three consecutive state finals, two as an assistant and once as a head coach. How do you explain such immediate success for someone who is only 31? I have been very fortunate to be around great players and great coaches that allow us to have these opportunities. There is a ton of time and hard work that goes into the success we achieve on the field, those are the things most people don’t see. Having the experiences that I have had over the past few years just makes me appreciate the players and the time that I have been able to spend with them. The memories that we have been able to make are priceless.
What do you like most about being able to teach and coach at Danville? Having the opportunity to come to a tradition-rich school and program like Danville is a dream, and then in our first year to make history going to the state finals is truly amazing. Danville is a town that loves its football, and I hope the season we had continues to motivate our players, and future players that Warrior football should be at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. We have knocked on the door, now we have to continue to improve to kick the door down.