Petey Guerriero has been defying the odds, exceeding expectations dating back to when he joined the Lyndhurst High School football team.
As one of the newest members of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, the storybook tale of Guerriero’s football career adds another chapter.
The Generals signed Guerriero April 26. Since then, he has appeared in two games for them, both wins. In his debut against Philadelphia May 1, Guerriero made a tackle on special teams.
“It’s a huge opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it. He wants to show in every which way what he can do (on the field),” Lyndhurst coach Rich Tuero said. “He has one goal, his work ethic is unbelievable. It’s second to none. He’s not going to stop.”
“It’s just another opportunity for me,” Guerriero told The Observer’s Jim Hauge this January before February’s USFL Draft. “I had some doubts that I’d get another chance, but if this is my opportunity (to get back to the NFL), then I’m taking it. I’m grateful to have another chance.”
Until a few weeks ago, it appeared Guerriero wasn’t going to get that chance. Despite having brief tenures in the training camps of the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and most recently, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Guerriero went unselected in the USFL Draft.
“Petey’s been going through the highs and lows,” Tuero said. “We could make a lot of excuses as to why it’s happening, but he doesn’t do that. The kid has thick skin, he doesn’t let this stuff bother him. It’s so admirable, it’s unbelievable.
“He’s had so many opportunities to put his head down and say I’m done, I’ll just get another job and be done with this dream. But he refuses to do that.”
Guerriero’s football career seemed over nearly seven years ago. As a senior quarterback at Lyndhurst he ran 2,161 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season, but at the time, his best sport was considered track and he earned a scholarship to run at Monmouth.
His first year at Monmouth saw him win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in both the 100 and 200-meter dash, but the desire to play football remained.
After that freshman year, Guerriero was given a spot on the football team where he was initially the No. 4 halfback on the depth chart. It was a spot he wouldn’t be in for long, eventually seizing the starting role and rushing for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns on just 178 carries.
Guerriero followed it up with a strong 2018 season, running for 918 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games, but it was in 2019 when he emerged as a star and legitimate pro prospect. That year he led all Division FCS backs in rushing with an eye-popping 1,995 yards and 18 touchdowns on 298 carries. For good measure, he added 32 receptions for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his career at Monmouth second on the school’s career rushing leaderboard with 3,974 yards.
Guerriero went unselected in the NFL Draft, but soon after signed with the Jets. After a strong training camp, he appeared poised to make the team’s 53-man roster, but was released just days before the team’s season opener in 2020.
Late last season, Guerriero had a tryout with the Chicago Bears, but they elected not to sign him after starting back David Montgomery returned to health after suffering an injury earlier in the season.
Since then he had been working out at FASST in Lyndhurst as well as with the Lyndhurst football team in preparation for the next opportunity to present itself.
“I know what he can do and when he gets that opportunity, that actual opportunity to show it, everyone’s going to see it,” Tuero said. ”Once he gets carries, the sky’s the limit for him. He’s going to go off. Everyone’s going to see how much work he’s done. He has a goal and that is to be an NFL running back and it’s going to happen. It’s right there.”
“I want to leave no doubt that I can play pro football,” Guerriero told The Observer in January. “If I’m getting another opportunity then I’m going to run with it.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)