Brian Kearns Jr. was a standout running back at St. Joseph’s of Montvale during his high school days. When the time came for the North Arlington native to choose a college, he decided to attend Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
“I was talking to a lot of different schools, but I just had a great feeling all along that I was going to go to Stonehill,” Kearns Jr. said. “It was the best opportunity for me, both on and off the field.”
Kearns Jr. had offers to go to Wagner, Assumption, Bentley and Lafayette, all of which are good schools with solid football programs. But Kearns Jr. just fell in love with Stonehill.
Now as a sophomore for the Skyhawks, it’s safe to say that the coaching staff at Stonehill is in love with Kearns Jr. as well.
“From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want to go to a school that was too big,” Kearns Jr. said. “I just liked it so much from the beginning. It was a big decision for me.”
Just like it was a big decision for Kearns Jr. to attend St. Joseph’s of Montvale for high school instead of staying home to attend North Arlington.
“I know a lot of people would have liked me to stay home,” Kearns Jr. said. “But I had a cousin who went there. I went to some of the games and I fell in love with St. Joe’s.”
It looks as if Kearns Jr. is two-for-two with his scholastic decisions, because he’s been phenomenal for the Skyhawks and second-year head coach Eli Gardner.
Gardner, a New Jersey native from Hunterdon County and Delaware Valley High School, was well aware of Kearns Jr.’s abilities from his high school days.
“Brian’s tape just spoke for itself,” Gardner said. “He had great moves and vision. I was impressed with his football IQ. I love the way he approaches every time he touches the ball. The biggest thing he’s shown is his ability to make people miss. He also can run people over and then showed the ability to run away from people. He’s really a complete tailback.”
Kearns Jr. didn’t know how much he would be able to play as a freshman.
“I thought I might have a good shot to play, but I didn’t know how much,” Kearns Jr. said. “I didn’t play a ton at first, but I stayed focused and eventually got much chance.”
Kearns Jr. rushed for 247 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last year.
When the 2017 season started to take form, Kearns Jr. was elevated to the starting role.
Before the beginning of training camp, Kearns Jr. was a regular at FASST (Functional Athletic Strength and Speed Training) in Lyndhurst, the facility that has aided so many local athletes in their preparation for their seasons.
“I was able to lose about 10-to-15 pounds and I still got stronger and faster,” Kearns Jr. said. “I came to camp this year in the best shape of my life. A lot of people were surprised that I was able to lose so much weight during the summer. I thought I had a little bit extra. I definitely had more explosiveness and power. I felt better.”
Kearns Jr. was enjoying a solid season for the Skyhawks through the first six games of the season, including a 135-yard effort in the season opener against Bloomsburg.
But Kearns Jr. was battling a few nicks and bumps prior to facing local rival Bentley two weeks ago.
“I didn’t play that much the week before (a tough 23-22 loss to New Haven),” Kearns Jr. said. “I had a few little injuries, but I felt fresh going into the Bentley game.”
As it turned out, it was the best game of Kearns Jr.’s college career.
Kearns Jr. rushed for 243 yards on 34 carries and scored two touchdowns, leading the Skyhawks to a 41-35 victory over Bentley.
Kearns Jr. received the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers Association. Kearns Jr. received his award at the luncheon held at Harvard University.
Incredibly, Kearns Jr. came within four yards of matching the yardage total he gained for the entire year last year.
Kearns Jr. became only the third Stonehill running back to ever receive the prestigious Gold Helmet honor/
And for his efforts, Kearns Jr. has been selected in rare fashion as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. The weekly feature has focused mainly on the exploits of high school athletes, but there has been the rare occasion that a college athlete has been featured.
The Skyhawks defeated Pace last Saturday, 56-30, to improve their record to 5-4 with one more game remaining in the season.
“I think I’ve proven myself now that I can play at a top college level,” Kearns Jr. said. “From now on, this has to be the game plan for me. I have to push myself to the limit. I’m going to be a problem for the opposition to deal with for the next two years. When you receive an honor like this (the Gold Helmet), it makes everything more enjoyable. I’m really pleased with the way we’re playing. I have good guys up front blocking for me. It’s fun to go out there and play with them. We have a close knit group of guys and we work hard together.”
Kearns Jr. comes from a close family as well. His father, Brian, Sr. is a retired police officer and his uncle Bob is the former head coach at now-defunct Queen of Peace.
Kearns Jr. is a business management major at Stonehill and has been doing well in the classroom as well. It’s safe to say he’s living a dream with a football in his hands. He’s rushed for 684 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
“It’s tremendous to know that every time you give the ball to Brian, he’s going to get six, seven, eight yards,” Gardner said. “It’s always good when you can rely like that on your tailback. It’s huge for our offense, especially close to the goal line. When I think of Brian, he’s a blue collar guy. He works his tail off and has a real steady approach. He has good experience in football and came to us from a good background. So he’s just a blue collar football player. He’s a focused individual who was raised right by his parents. He’s very mature and has a professional approach.”
So the kid from North Arlington made the right decision once again to go to Stonehill. That decision has definitely paid dividends.
“It’s very rewarding,” Kearns Jr. said. “I want to be the one who’s carrying the ball for us.”
Sure looks like he will be carrying the bacon for the next two years as well.
North Arlington native Brian Kearns Jr. has been the stalwart of the Stonehill College football team this season and recently received the prestigious Gold Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers Association for his great game against Bentley College two weeks ago. Photo courtesy of the Stonehill sports information department.