Andrews named new Kearny football coach

Stephen Andrews remembers being in seventh grade in the Kearny schools system and being heavily influenced by a teacher and coach.

“Coach (Don) McCormick was the head football coach at the time,” Andrews said. “I always loved football and everything about it. I watched all the games with Coach McCormick. There was something about him being the head coach that made me say, ‘Someday I want to be the head coach at Kearny.’ It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Last week, the Kearny Board of Education approved the hiring of the 34-year-old Kearny native and resident to become the new head football coach of the Kardinals, replacing John Kryzanowski, who resigned earlier this year after two years of being the head coach.

Andrews has always been involved in Kearny football, from the time he was a youngster playing in the Kearny Generals program.

He went on to play for the Kards under Matt Occhipinti, graduating in 2001. He was a freshman on the 1998 team that went 7-2 and just missed qualifying for the NJSIAA playoffs. Kearny has never participated in the NJSIAA state football playoffs.

“I know what success is all about in Kearny,” Andrews said. “I know what success looks like. That team (the 1998 team featuring All-State back Pat Crygalis) was a lot of fun to watch.”

Andrews went on to play football at The College of New Jersey and had great success there. In fact, Andrews became an NCAA Division III All-America honoree in two sports _ football and track and field. Andrews was an accomplished sprinter from his days at Kearny High.

Through it all, Andrews had one goal in mind.

“My goal was to play in the NFL,” Andrews said. “After that, I was going to come home to coach Kearny football.”
Andrews came very close to living his dream. He had a free agent tryout with the New York Jets and the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.

In 2009, Andrews had a legitimate shot of getting a look with the Dallas Cowboys as he was a finalist on the reality TV show, “Fourth and Long with Michael Irvin,” featuring the Hall of Fame receiver. The winner, Jesse Holley, also of New Jersey, ended up playing three years with the Cowboys.

After his stint on television, Andrews became a personal trainer, as well as a strength and conditioning coach for Elite Performance in Cedar Grove. He also worked with the athletes at Harrison High School and was an assistant coach for the Harrison soccer program under Mike Rusek.

Andrews watched a lot of the Kearny football games last season as the Kardinals suffered through a 1-9 campaign, winning the first game and losing the last nine. In fact, the Kards endured the same fate under Kryzanowski, winning the first game and losing nine straight in both campaigns.

Last season was particularly painful, as the Kards dropped their last seven games by a combined total of 329-26, including a horrific 64-0 loss at the hands of Union City.

So why would Andrews want to take this job?
“The reason why is because I believe the kids have the desire to have the ability to be successful,” Andrews said. “I’m the one who can do it. I’ve been through a successful program in college and I know what it’s like. I think we’re going to be successful.”

Andrews was thankful that he got the chance to coach the Kards over some impressive other candidates.

“I’m impressed they still thought that highly of me,” Andrews said.

Kearny athletic director Vin Almeida said that Andrews’ hometown flavor was just a cut above the rest.

“I think it was the passion he had for the team and for football,” Almeida said. “I think that had a lot to do with it. You can see the love he has for Kearny football. We’re hoping that energy can filter down to the kids. He had a lot of success both here and at the College of New Jersey. We hope that translates to success here.”

Almeida was asked why Andrews was selected over some other renowned coaches.

“I think in the final interviews, it came down to being more than just coaching,” Almeida said. “The Board just felt that Steve would be the best fit.”

Andrews becomes the ninth head football coach at Kearny since the program was dropped in 2003. None of the previous eight lasted for more than two seasons, so Andrews has his work cut out for him,

“I think the thing to me that was missing is that the kids were not being trained the right way,” Andrews said. “I can do that. I know football and I know how to train the players. I think I can instill a work ethic. If you can build good men first, get them to give you hard work and effort first, then that’s the first step.

Added Andrews, “I think the key is having someone who inspires the kids to want come out and play football. I can train athletes at the highest level, so if I can get the players to come, I can train them to become good football players. I don’t have a magic switch to turn on and make it happen. I think if I can bring everyone together, we have a good chance of succeeding.”

Andrews is scheduling a meeting for the players to give them a schedule for when they will begin physical training for the upcoming season.

Andrews also plans on meeting with the organizers and coaches in the Generals youth football program, where he got his start.

“I think the most important aspect of a good high school program is a good feeder program,” Andrews said. “I have a good relationship with the Generals. That’s where it starts, working together. We need to build that enthusiasm for football throughout the whole town.”

Andrews feels he’s the one who can do that, going to a place where good football people like Rich Howell (twice), Occhipinti, Oscar Guerrero, Pete Llaneza, Nick Edwards and Kryzanowski could not go.

“I’ve always been involved with developing athletes,” Andrews said. “That’s what we have to do here. I have a program derived from one used at USC, developed on agility and speed training. That’s what I bring to the table. I have such an advantage over other coaches. No one will control us.”

Almeida is encouraged.

“We have a lot of kids that care about football,” Almeida said. “We have put together a plan to recruit kids in the school to try to build a foundation for winning football. It’s not going to be easy. We need a concrete plan moving forward, not just wishing it’s going to happen.”

Andrews is more than excited.

“I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am for this,” Andrews said. “This is the thing that I’ve looked forward to the most in my life. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. I want to have a program that the community is proud of. I can’t wait to go to work.”
Andrews said that he already has assistant coaches in mind to come in and help the program. He’s more than pumped. He better be.


Former Kearny High and College of New Jersey football and track standout Stephen Andrews has been named as the new head football coach at his alma mater Kearny. Photo by Jim Hague

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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.”