Wranglers Name Runnels Head Coach

by UFL Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK-- The Oklahoma City Wranglers are proud to announce the signing of James "J.D." Runnels as the first-ever Head Football Coach of the team. Coach Runnels brings a wealth of football experience to the position as he looks to lead the Wranglers to a United Football League (UFL) championship. 

Coach Runnels was born in Oklahoma City, where he started playing football at 4 for the Eastside T-Birds. He excelled early on with numerous teammates that eventually starred in high school, college, and professionally, most notably D'Juan and Donovan Woods. Runnels found a love for all sports, proving that by eventually becoming all-state twice in football, once in track, and an all-city selection in basketball. He helped lead Carl Albert High School to three consecutive 5A state championships, the school's 5th title in a row, from 1999-2001. After his Senior season, Runnels accepted a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, choosing the Sooners over Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. 

During his college playing career, Runnels played in every game during his four years at Oklahoma without having to redshirt. In 2002, as a true freshman, he was named co-newcomer of the year alongside teammate and friend Kejuan Jones. His sophomore year in 2003 included playing on an offense that set the national scoring record amongst numerous all-Americans and Heisman winner Jason White. J.D.'s junior campaign in 2004 showcased him blocking for a true freshman and Heisman runner-up Adrian Peterson. Finally, in his senior year, in 2005, Runnels was named a Captain of the team and was awarded the Don Key award, chosen by his teammates and coaches. In all, Runnels played in 53 games, three Big 12 championships, two National Championships, and four Bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Holiday). 

After a successful college career, J.D. was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 6th round, pick 195, of the 2006 NFL draft. Runnels made the team and were on the active roster all season, playing in 2 games. During that season, the Bears won the NFC championship and made it to the Super Bowl, eventually losing to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. In 2007, Runnels missed the season due to an off-season knee injury. J.D. spent the following two seasons, in 2008 and 2009, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2010, Runnels played his final football season in the UFL with the Florida Tuskers.

J.D. decided to enter the field of personal training and mentoring football players when his playing days were over. His clientele quickly expanded, allowing him to own and operate his gym near his hometown for five years. Runnels helped a lengthy list of student-athletes of all ages but was most recognized across the region for his ability to assist high school-age football players in obtaining scholarships to numerous prominent universities. In his off time from operating his gym, Runnels spent one season on staff at Choctaw High School as a high school football assistant and four years as a strength and conditioning coach for boys and girls soccer at Harrah High School. The Harrah girls won their first-ever state championship in Runnels's first year in the role. Finally, J.D. donated all his gym equipment to his high school football program and moved into the field of education to spend more time with his family. 

From 2019-2021, Runnels taught 7th-grade math & 8th-grade Pre-Algebra for two years in the Moore school district and was a teacher's assistant for one year. In addition, J.D. coached 7th & 8th-grade football for two years and started a little league team that allowed him to coach his son, James III, for three years. Runnels led the 8th grade to back-to-back winning seasons and helped his little league team to a winning record before shutting down due Covid protocols. 

At the start of 2021, Runnels left the field of education and went into coaching full-time. He was named special teams assistant and Running Backs graduate assistant at the University of Central Oklahoma under Head Coach Nick Bobeck. J.D. spent seven months working with the Bronchos in a variety of roles. 

In July 2021, Runnels was named the Running Backs coach at East Central University. He spent 1 season with the Tigers and helped 3 Running backs reach several 100-yard games and multiple Touchdowns on their way to an 8-4 record. J.D. also coached punt & kick returners at ECU.

Runnels' next stop in March of 2022 was with his former position coach from OU, Kevin Sumlin, in the USFL as the team assistant and Running Backs coach for the Houston Gamblers. J.D.'s position group was a bright spot for the team, including his starting running back, Mark Thompson, who gained 503 all-purpose yards and had 4 Touchdowns. 

In December of 2022, Runnels was named the Head Coach of his hometown OKC Wranglers. J.D. has been coached by Bob Stoops, Kevin Sumlin, Lovie Smith, Jon & Jay Gruden, Marvin Lewis, & Sean McVay.

 Personally, Runnels has two children, James III & Violet Jo, and two siblings, Lenny and Tessa. J.D. is the son of James Sr., a baseball player and criminal justice major from Langston University, and the late Kathie Runnels. He has a bachelors from the University of Oklahoma in multi-disciplinary studies with a minor in African-American studies. 

The Wranglers will kick off the 2023 season, hosting the Houston Bighorns on Saturday, April 1st. Season Tickets are currently on sale, starting at as low as $200. 

For more Wranglers news and updates, continue to visit okcwranglers.com