Fleury’s Journey: From Seneca Valley to the Super Bowl

On Sunday at 6:30 pm, Brian Fleury will be sitting in his customary spot in the coach’s box, talking in the ear of San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. But this time, the stakes will be higher than ever.

Fleury is in his first year with the 49ers as their defensive quality control coach. Hired by head coach Kyle Shanahan, Fleury helped lead the Niners from a 4-12 record in 2018 to this year’s unexpected 12-4 season and the NFC championship. On Sunday, San Francisco will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in Super Bowl LIV.

23 years ago, Fleury, a wiry 6’4” quarterback, led Seneca Valley to an undefeated record and a state championship. After playing at Towson University, he wanted to stay in the game. Fleury embarked on a typical nomadic coaching existence which led to jobs at Maryland and Towson then with the Bills, Browns and Dolphins in the NFL. “When you’re coaching football, your career is like a game of Chutes and Ladders,” Fleury told MyMCMedia.

Many people have offered advice along the way especially the last two weeks including his former Seneca Valley coach Terry Changuris who counseled Fleury to “stay focused on your job but take time to smell the roses.”

Changuris is much more than just a coach to Fleury. He’s also Fleury’s stepfather. “I met him when he was in the 6th grade. He grew up a coach’s son,” Changuris said.

He may be a bit biased but Changuris called Fleury, “the smartest person I know.”

Changuris (and Fleury’s mom) will not be in attendance for the game, “I diid not want to be in the way.”

As a kid, Fleury watched all the Super Bowls, “I vividly remember the Redskins being down 10-0 (to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII) in the first quarter. My mom made me go to bed. I sat at the top of the steps and listened to 35 points being scored and then I actually went to bed. I remember all those Super Bowls. Now to be a participant in one is pretty awesome.’

The 49ers have had a dream season so far under Shanahan, in his 3rd year as head coach. Fleury described the athletic arrogance his team has experienced this year, “when you’re really good, the character of the team is really strong you just know that you’re going to go out there and win. You just do.”

The feeling Fleury has about this year’s 49ers team is not new to him, “it feels the same way at every level. The feelings that I’ve had about this team all year long are directly parallel with everything I felt about the guys I was playing with (at Seneca Valley) in 1997. Exactly the same. And even the team I coached at Towson in 2011 that won the conference championship and went to the playoffs. They all three felt exactly the same.”

Some athletes and coaches are very superstitious when it comes to talking prematurely about the potential of winning a championship but not Fleury “you become part of a brotherhood. You get to walk around and wear your Super Bowl ring whenever that is appropriate. It’s an accomplishment that no one can ever take away from you. It’s something to be cherished.”

Asked to compare the feeling of quarterbacking Seneca Valley in the state championship game to what it will feel like coaching in the Super Bowl, Fleury said, “I was way less nervous when I had the ball in my hand and felt like I could drastically impact the outcome of the game.”

 

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Joe Yasharoff

About Joe Yasharoff

Joe Yasharoff is MCM's Director of Content and Operations. He is also an adjunct journalism professor at the University of Maryland. Previously, Joe was the Managing Editor at NBC Sports Washington and Executive Sports Producer at FOX5 (WTTG-TV). He hosts the MoCo's Most Famous podcast for MCM.

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