By MIKE HUTCHENS
Special to The Messenger
A former assistant coach who had a role on Union City’s first state championship team is returning to lead the Golden Tornado football program.
Nick Markle, who coached fullbacks and defensive ends during an earlier two-year stint when UC won the first of its four state titles in 2009, has been named as the new head coach of the Purple and Gold.
The 35-year-old Markle has spent the last four years as head coach at Munford, directing the Cougars to the Class 5A playoffs in each of the past three seasons. A graduate of both Fayette Academy and the University of Tennessee at Martin, he worked six seasons in all at Munford — the first two as defensive coordinator.
Markle, who informed MHS administration and his former team of his decision today, replaces Darren Bowling, who recently left Union City after 12 seasons with 116 wins to take the head coaching position at Olive Branch (Miss.) High School.
The new coach was the choice of UC Schools administration to build on the football program’s already-illustrious tradition and was selected from a field of more than 60 applicants. A half-dozen candidates were formally interviewed — four with extensive head coaching experience — along with two in-house applicants.
The 23rd head coach in the history of a program that spans nearly 120 seasons with more than 650 all-time wins, Markle will begin work immediately. After meeting with the team on Wednesday, he insists he’ll be at offseason workouts three days a week before becoming full-time at UCHS within a month.
“When somebody says ‘Union City,’ it just resonates excellence in all things,” Markle said. “I’ve been to a couple of other schools since I was in Union City earlier, and there’s simply no place like it. The desire for excellence in all aspects — from academics to athletics to the arts to community relations — is unmatched.
“I’m so excited and grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach of such a storied program. Jobs like this just don’t come open very often. It’s such a prestigious place. I can’t wait to get settled in, become a part of the community and the school system, and raise my family there.”
Markle and his wife, Ally, have a seven-month-old son, Grady.
In addition to his aforementioned stint at UCHS, Markle served four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, where he played for current Union City Director of Schools Wes Kennedy. He also worked as a paraprofessional coach at FA for four years before coming to Union City the first time in 2008.
His second season in the Tornado program, Markle coached fullbacks and oversaw Josh Nicks set a state championship game record with 47 carries for 200 yards in UC’s thrilling 31-29 upset of South Pittsburg in the BlueCross Bowl. Nicks went on to be named an All-Stater while rushing for nearly 1,700 yards and more than 30 touchdowns in his senior campaign.
Markle’s best team at Munford was his 2017 squad that finished 9-3. His other seasons produced records of 7-4 (2019), 6-5 (2018) and 5-5 (2016).
UCHS Principal Jacob Cross and Athletics Director Shane Sisco conducted the search and interview process and are confident Markle is “the right guy for the job,” according to Cross.
“I am thrilled to have Coach Markle rejoin the UCHS family as our new head football coach,” Cross said. “We had several high-quality candidates apply for this position, but I believe we found the right man for the job. He certainly checked a lot of boxes we were looking for.
“Coach Markle is young and energetic and has a genuine heart for kids. He is just as concerned about producing players of high character as he is about winning football games. Having coached here before, he understands what Union City is all about and the high level of expectations. He also has a proven record of success as a coach. He has done a fantastic job at Munford, having success coaching in a very competitive region.
“We already have the greatest group of assistant coaches anywhere. Now with the key addition of Coach Markle at the helm, I believe the future of Tornado football is very bright.”
Markle said physicality will remain the watchword for the UC program. He also said there would be some tweaks in both the offensive and defensive systems from the past several seasons.
“We’ll be physical in all aspects, offense, defense and special teams. And we’ll compete hard on every play,” he said. “We will still run some options. It’s what I’ve always based out of. But we’ll do so out of the gun. It won’t be the same option as what Union City has run before. We will throw the ball some, too. I’d say we’ll be 70/30 balance between running and throwing, maybe 80/20.
“Defensively, we’ll run a four-man front, probably a 40-scheme. More than anything, we’re going to be competitors. And we’re going to have fun doing it in a lot of different ways.”
Mike Hutchens is communications director for Union City Schools.