Caitlin Brunell got her first taste of the national spotlight — although unseen — during the 2010 airing of "Hard Knocks," the award-winning HBO documentary that chronicled the hour-to-hour, day-to-day travails of the enigmatic New York Jets during training camp.
At the time, her father — longtime NFL quarterback Mark Brunell — was a Jets backup to second-year starter Mark Sanchez, who was only 23 at the time … and mildly interested in meeting the then-teenage daugther of his teammate and passing mentor.
Mark Brunell immediately put the kibosh on any encounters between Caitlin and Sanchez; but the secondary implication was there for everyone to witness on TV: The dad would eventually have to accept his daughter’s ascension into the public spotlight.
On Saturday night, Caitlin Brunell, now 22, brought home the title of Miss Alabama, outscoring 46 other in-state contestants for the coveted crown. It was her third attempt at winning the high-profile competition.
"This is something I have worked so very hard for," the brunette Brunell told The Anniston (Ala.) Star. "I am so honored and so blessed."
As a long-term prize, Caitlin Brunell will collect $11,000 in scholarship money (adding to her reported career tally of $86,000). As a short-term reward, she has earned a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. to compete in the Miss America Pageant (September airing).
The Miss Alabama crown dates back to 1935 when Adelynn Owen of Birmingham became the state’s first competition champion. At the time, she was also the seventh Alabama woman to officially represent her state in the Miss America Pageant.
In case you were wondering, Katherine Webb — the fiancee to former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and social-media/reality-TV star — won the "Miss Alabama USA" crown in 2012, a different competition from the one affiliated with the Miss America Pageant.
Webb became an overnight sensation at the 2013 BCS National Championship game — pitting Alabama and Notre Dame — when Brent Musburger roundly and unabashedly praised Webb for her beauty … while the camera was panned to her the whole time.