Skip to main content

FERNANDINA BEACH, FL – Longtime college football assistant Apollo Wright will get his first shake in high school football following his arrival as the new head coach at Fernandina Beach (FL).

The 46-year-old Wright comes with a lengthy resume in the game, including 22 years of assistant coaching experience at both Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs in college football.

Most recently, Wright spent seven seasons as an assistant at New Mexico, where he coached running backs, quarterbacks, and filled the role of special teams coordinator. Prior to that, Wright coached for six seasons at Florida International University in Miami, FL.

A Pennsylvania native, Wright spent the early part of his career in the Philadelphia area, including a six-year run as running backs coach at Villanova. While there, he coached former NFL standout running back Brian Westbrook.

Wright replaced former Fernandina Beach head coach Jude Swearingen, who had been with the program since 2001 and was head coach since 2018. Under Swearingen, the Pirates picked up their first postseason victory in 2020. But following a disappointing 3-7 2021 season, the school went with Wright.

“They’ve had success,” Wright told the Fernandina Beach News-Leader in April. “Two years ago, they went to the playoffs. I just want to be consistent with that, bring that back.”

Prior to that win in 2020, Fernandina Beach had never won a playoff game, having only made the postseason three times in its 50-plus year history. The Pirates have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 2007 and 2008, under then-head coach Ed Brown.

Despite never coaching at this level in the state, Wright is familiar with Florida high school football, having recruited talented players from the state since 1999. What’s more, his experience coaching at the collegiate level should appeal to those athletes with aspirations of playing in college.

“I think he brings a wealth of knowledge and energy,” said new Fernandina Beach Athletic Director Mike Woodard. “Now, it’s just we all pull together.”

Throughout his 22-year career, Wright’s coached nearly every position on the field, though the majority of that time has been spent coaching running backs. Still, having spent time with so many different position groups can only help him in his transition to head coach.

 Wright cites consistency as an integral part of his approach, as he hopes to build a program athletes will want to be a part of.

“The goal for everyone is to go out and win a championship every single year, but we want to play good football every single year,” Wright said. “We want to be competitive and play good football.”

Fernandina Beach finds itself in a competitive district moving into next season, District 5-2A (Suburban). The Pirates face Nassau County rivals West Nassau (FL) and Yulee (FL), as well as 2021 Class 5A state semifinalist Baker County (FL). They also see Baldwin High (FL) join the group this season.