When Nick Edwards abruptly resigned as head football coach at Kearny High School recently, the school’s administration didn’t have to search far and wide for a suitable replacement.
John Kryzanowski, who has been a teacher in the district for 12 years and an assistant football coach under four different head coaches for the last 11 years, has been named the new head football coach of the Kardinals.
Kryzanowski was officially hired as head coach after last Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
But in the eyes of Kearny athletic director John Millar, the choice to make Kryzanowski the head coach happened almost after Edwards decided to leave.
“We wanted to keep some sort of continuity,” Millar said. “We wanted to have someone in place as quickly as possible, someone who would know the kids and the kids would have no problem with. John’s been here through some good times and the bad, but he’s been here. His loyalty to this program is huge. He’s always been good with the players. It was great to have him on the staff. I think this is a great fit.”
Millar likes some of Kryzanowski’s familiar traits.
“His honesty is tremendous,” Millar said. “He also has great work ethic. He’s an overachiever.”
The 38-year-old Kryzanowski, a resident of Kearny, has probably earned the distinction of being a classic overachiever since he was a youngster. Not blessed with the biggest size in the world, Kryzanowski made himself into a center. He started at center for legendary coach Mike Sheridan as a 5-foot-6, 165 pound player at St. Mary’s of Rutherford.
“Here’s a guy who was lacking in size and weight and through working in their weight room and pure determination, he became a three-year varsity player,” Millar said. “Football took him to the next level.”
After leaving St. Mary’s, he headed to Defiance College in central Ohio, where he played for two years before suffering an injury that ended his career.
But it didn’t deter Krzynowski’s spirits to want to be involved in collegiate football.
Now, almost two decades of dedication and waiting, Kryzanowski is getting his first crack at being a head coach. He was the offensive and defensive line coordinator for Edwards last year.
“I talked it over with my family and I felt it was a good opportunity to take a chance. I’ve been here for 11 years and I don’t have any intention of leaving. I’ve fought through 11 seasons and seen the ups and downs. This is an exciting opportunity for me.”
Last season was more of a positive for the Kardinals, who were in state playoff contention for most of the season, only to fall short of the elusive goal in the end. The Kardinals finished 4-6 last season, maintaining the drought of being one of only seven schools in the state to never have played in a state playoff football game.
“I think that the program is headed in the right direction,” said the 38-year-old Kryzanowski. “The kids are working hard and will continue to work hard.”
Kryzanowski said that there will be some changes in terms of a coaching staff, in terms of an offensive philosophy. Kryzanowski plans to go back to the triple option offense that was run by former head coach Pete Llaneza utilized a little more than two years ago.
“We had some success with it in the past,” Kryzanowski said. “We’re going to make some other changes as well. I don’t want to change everything, but I think the triple option is the best for us. I do feel that we already have the athletes who can run it successfully. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I feel these kids can handle the challenge.”
Kryzanowski loses eight kids to graduation this fall.
“We have a pretty good group of kids that are returning starters,” Kryzanowski said. “We also have a good and solid sophomore class. A lot of the kids were supportive of me. They were excited that I got the job. They immediately called me to offer congratulations, so they’re excited as well.”
Kryzanowski said that he learned a lot working under former coaches Rich Howell, Oscar Guerrero and Edwards.
“I took a little bit of things each year,” Kryzanowski sald. “I learned a lot.”
Kryzanowski said that he plans on continuing a solid working relationship with the Kearny Recreation Generals, the team that is the only feeder program for the Kards.
“We’re going to work to get more kids participating in football,” Kryzanowski said. “I think everyone’s goal is to have a successful program. We want to be able to get our kids into college and getting career minded goals. Academics will be a key for their future as well, to put kids in the right direction for the rest of their lives.”
Kryzanowski was asked if he always saw himself as a coach when he was a player.
“Coaching is something I always wanted to do,” Kryzanowski said. “I always wanted to be a positive influence in a kid’s life. I know that hard work pays off. I think I’m ready for this. I put my time in. I’ve learned a lot over the years.”
Millar hopes that the revolving door with head football coaches stops spinning now.
“We certainly hope John wants to stay, because you can’t play well if you change coaches so often,” Millar said. “You need some level of consistency and continuity. Hopefully, with some stability and the development of players, we can get to the state playoffs. Why not? We expect to win.”
Kryzanowski is excited to get things going.
“We’re going to try to put everything into place,” said Kryzanowski, who will make his coaching debut Sept. 4 against Newark East Side in Newark. “With the kids committing themselves to working hard, we have a chance to do some good things. You have to work hard to be put in position to be successful.”
Of course, Duke University, the national basketball champions, have their own Coach K.
Why can’t the Kearny football team have one as well? This Coach K needs all the luck and the support in the world.
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”