New Nutley grid coach Vick hosts camp for youngsters

He might be on the job as the new head football coach at Nutley High School for only a few weeks, but J.D. Vick is well aware of his commitment to the entire community.

“I want to connect with the kids in the (Nutley) youth football league,” said Vick, the long-time assistant coach at the school who was appointed to replace the retired Steve DiGregorio. “I want them to know that we’re all Raiders and we’re in this game together.”

That meant Vick coordinating a youth football camp for the youngsters of the town.

It was going to be a challenge this year, considering the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic put a cramp in practically everything of a social nature.

“We got a little bit of a late start,” Vick said. “It was delayed a bit getting the word out. It was the first time we were having a camp in several years. Even if we had just a few kids register, we were going to have it.”

So nearly 50 youngsters gathered at the newly refurbished Nutley Oval recently to learn a little bit about the game of football from the soft spoken mentor from the great state of Alabama with connections to the great Crimson Tide.

“It was a great week to learn some skills,” Vick said. “The Oval is such a special place. It’s a great place to watch a game, but it’s great to get these kids on the field.”

Vick said that he especially enjoyed the aspiring seniors who will be key members of the 2021 Nutley football team interacting on a daily basis with the youngsters, players like Anthony Alberti, Frankie Contella, Matthew Harbison, William Mielnicki, Paul Scutti and Vincent Miller, who were out there in the summer swelter working with the campers.

“It was great to see our players interacting with the kids,” Vick said. “Our seniors developed strong relationship with these kids. Football is a great way to teach the kids about life. We need to have a strong relationship with our youth.”

Vick thanked Nutley Recreation coordinator Frank DeMaio for his help in getting the camp off the ground.

“We want to have that relationship continue,” Vick said. “I want everyone to know that we’re all in this thing together.”

Vick said that he was encouraged to witness the interaction between the current Maroon Raiders and the future Raiders.

“It’s fun to see their responses,” Vick said. “There really is enthusiasm for football in Nutley. The participation numbers are up with our team. It’s all part of building a program.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Maroon Raiders enjoyed an undefeated Super Football Conference divisional championship season in 2020, the first undefeated season in Nutley since 1939. That helps to encourage interest.

“I’m really excited about the enthusiasm,” Vick said. “I think these kids have all the tools to succeed.”

Vick’s assistant coaches Brian Kutzleb and Joseph Alberti helped running and instructing in the camp.

“We’re happy with the turnout,” Vick said. “We were a little late getting the word out. You have to start somewhere.”

There was certainly enough talent to go around the Oval.

Jalyn Caraballo is a budding 14-year-old football standout who will enter eighth grade at Walker Middle School in a few weeks. He plays fullback on offense and linebacker and defensive end on defense. He’s also a Denver Broncos fan.

Caraballo said that he learned a lot during the week of camp.

“I learned a lot about the proper footwork,” Caraballo said. “I learned about working on my agility and speed. I liked this camp and gives me an idea of what to expect when I get to high school. It really makes me want to play football more.”

Caraballo was impressive to watch. He has good size and speed. He’s a player to watch.

So is classmate Santino Cundiff, who is 13 and in eighth grade at Walker. Cundiff is a running back/linebacker. He’s a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and his favorite player of all-time is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith.

Cundiff said that he was upset a year ago, when he had to remain at home due to the pandemic.
“I was pretty disappointed,” Cundiff said. “I didn’t like staying at home. I did work out a lot at home. I was glad to be here and it encourages me to play more.”

Cundiff was impressed that he was clocked at 5.0 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

“That makes me love football more,” Cundiff said.

Ryan Puleo is an 11-year-old sixth grader at Lincoln School. He’s a fan of the Giants and his main man is Saquon Barkley, who is recovering from ACL knee surgery.

“I’m hoping he comes back,” said Puleo, who is a quarterback and cornerback for Nutley Recreation.

Puleo said that he learned how to properly operate the three-step drop that quarterbacks use in order to pass the ball before the rush arrives.

“This definitely helped me become a better football player,” Puleo said. “I learned a lot. I can’t wait to get the pads back on.”

Puleo is also a baseball player. When asked if he could choose one sport over the other, Puleo said, “I like both.”

Dominick Ritacco is an 8-year-old who will be in the fourth grade at Lincoln School in a few weeks. He also likes the Giants, but couldn’t pick a favorite player.

“They’re all good,” Ritacco said.

Ritacco is excited to be playing tackle football this season.

“I’ve had so much fun,” Ritacco said. “I like having my friends with me.”

Billy Callahan is a nice sized future lineman for the Maroon Raiders. For now, the 13-year-old Callahan will enter eighth grade. He’s an Arizona Cardinals fan who loves Larry Fitzgerald and hopes that the future Hall of Fame receiver makes a comeback this season.

And what did Callahan get out of the camp?

“I learned how to be a long snapper,” Callahan said. “I’m still not sure what I want to do as a player. I’d love to be a punter.”

But when Callahan was reminded of his size and his future as a lineman, he replied, “Yeah, I know.”

“This has been a lot of fun,” Callahan said. “It’s definitely good to be out here playing. It was tough to stay at home last year.”

Joaquin Tenorio is a 9-year-old fourth grader at Yanitcaw School. He also likes the Giants, but doesn’t have a favorite player.

“I like that my friends are here and I made some new friends,” Tenorio said.

And Tenorio learned a lot as well.

“I didn’t even know there was a position called linebacker,” Tenorio said. “My Dad wanted me to come here to learn the basics of football. I now know all the positions. I also know how to hit people and how not to hit people. I learned the swim move to get away from a blocker. I’m definitely excited to be playing. I feel lucky to be here.”

Needless to say, it was a great week, a groundbreaking week for the new coach.

“We have a lot to sell here,” Vick said. “Once you’re a Raider, you’re a Raider for life. This was such a great week. It was a good step forward. Hopefully we make things bigger and better next year. It makes you look at kids differently. I hope I get the chance to coach some of these kids someday.”




The Nutley Football Camp was a success at the Nutley Oval recently. Photo courtesy of J.D. Vick.


New Nutley football coach J.D. Vick gives instructions to a handful of youngsters at the Nutley Football Camp. 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.”