It will be a special night at Osceola High hosts Dr. Phillips on Friday night, Oct. 15. Not only will it be a matchup of two of the very best teams in the region, but the Kowboys will use that game to formally name its facility “Markus Paul Stadium,” after the former Osceola High, Syracuse and NFL star that passed away at age 54 this past November.
“It something that has been in the works for a while,” Osceola High School Athletic Director Jim Bird said. “Not only was Markus an incredible athlete, he was an incredible man of great character, humility, and service. He meant so much to our school and our community, it is only fitting that Kowboys Stadium will become Markus Paul Stadium.”
As part of the ceremony, Paul’s family will be presented with Paul’s Osceola High number “10” jerseys and new stadium signage and banners will be unveiled. Many of his former teammates and coaches are expected to attend. “Markus never forgot his roots. Even after he became an NFL player and later a coach, he always wanted to be kept up with what was going on with Osceola football,” Bird said. “It’s going to be a fantastic night as we honor one of our all-time greats.”
A 1984 Osceola graduate, Paul was the starting quarterback for the Kowboys from 1982-83. As a junior, he led Osceola to the state championship game, where they lost to Titusville in the title game. He was also a starter on Ed Kershner’s Osceola basketball team that went undefeated with a perfect 37-0 record and won the state championship during the 1982-83 campaign.
Paul would then sign a letter of intent to play football at Syracuse, as it was the only Division-1 team that would promise him a chance to play quarterback. After a redshirt year with the Orange where he competed at quarterback, Syracuse moved Paul to defensive back. He became an All-American at Syracuse in 1988 and was named to the school’s All-Century team in November 1999. He still holds the Syracuse record with 19 career interceptions and that total still ranks 17th on the all-time NCAA list. Paul was later selected to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
A fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears, Paul would go on to play 70 games for the Bears with 15 starts over four seasons before playing his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993. Paul had seven career interceptions and is perhaps best remembered for picking off Wade Wilson twice in a 10-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to open the 1991 season at Soldier Field.
Upon his retirement as a player, he would become an NFL coach. Paul became an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the New Orleans Saints in 1998 and later served similar roles with the New England Patriots, New York Jets and New York Giants. In 2018 he was appointed head strength and conditioning coach at the Dallas Cowboys, where he worked until his passing.
In all, Paul worked 21 seasons in the NFL as a coach, earning a total of five Super Bowl rings – getting three with the New England Patriots and two with the New York Giants. Regardless of which team he was with, Paul was widely respected and liked by all of the coaches and players he worked with.
He last worked for the Dallas Cowboys. “He earned the players’ respect and attention because he cared so much and was a naturally gifted communicator — both on the personal and professional levels,” Dallas Cowboy Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “He handled every situation, sometimes with a smile and a pat on the back, and sometimes with tough love. He had innate toughness in a job that requires that quality, and he was admired throughout the NFL by his peers and the players he coached. It was a privilege to work with him as a coach and laugh with him as a friend.”
“It’s going to be a really emotional night for me and those who were around when Markus played for Osceola,” former Kowboys head coach Ken Baker said. “But it’s also going to be a night of pure joy as we remember and honor a player who meant so much to this school and this community.”
Doug Nichols, who stepped down as Osceola Head Coach last spring, remembers Paul’s impact on the program decades after he played his last high school game. “He was before my time so I never had the privilege of seeing him play,” Nichols said. “But he still had a tremendous impact on Kowboys football. He generously continued to donate to the team, both financially and with his time throughout the years. We have a saying here….’Once a Kowboy, Always A Kowboy’ and that certainly applies to Markus.”
Paul’s impact on the community is still felt. The Markus Paul Foundation has been established and is already making an immediate impact on both Osceola High School and the Kissimmee Community.
“We are humbled to announce that we will be providing a $10,000 scholarship to an Osceola High School student/athlete, a $10,000 scholarship to a walk-on football player at Syracuse University, and we will be donating $10,000 to the Boys & Girls Club in Kissimmee,” Foundation organizer Jeff Mangram said.”Simply put, Markus was beautiful, and thanks to the support of donators to the foundation, we will continue to be able to do beautiful things in honor of Markus.”
For more information on the Markus Paul Foundation, visit www.markuspaulfoundation.”