This Is Rutherford
This is Coach Andrew Howell
By Jennifer Ersalesi
On September 7th, the Rutherford High School Varsity Football team will play its first game of the 2019-2020 season. Coach Andrew Howell, RHS Football Coach has lead his team to two sectional championships over the last two years. Principal of Rutherford High School, Frank Morano, told TIR, “It has been exciting to watch Coach Howell grow as a top football coach in Bergen county. He is a hard working individual who is able to motivate young adults. The run that the RHS football team has been on is truly amazing. Back to back state championships is something most schools can only dream about and with Coach Howell's leadership we were able to make that dream a reality.”
Coach Howell had the opportunity to speak at the Coaches Symposium, sponsored by the Bergen County Coaches Association, in the Spring. During his speech he was able to share his experience, knowledge and advice. TIR interviewed Coach Howell, RHS Football Coach since 2006, about the Symposium, his run as the RHS Football Coach so far, and his thoughts about this upcoming season.
TIR: In 2015, Bergen County named you “Coach of the Year” and the NY Giants selected you as the “The Lou Rettino H.S. Football Coach of the Week”. As a successful coach, you also were asked to speak at the Coaches Symposium in Wyckoff in the Spring. At the event held in Wyckoff you spoke about, “how to build a championship program”. What were some of the key pieces of advice that you offered?
Andrew Howell: My main message was to never compromise your principles to try to win games. I discussed the three core principles of our football program: mental toughness, accountability, and family. We try to teach toughness and demand as well as relentless effort through intense training. We also focus on the importance of family and how we must all rely on one another for success and always hold everyone in the program accountable. Through successful times and growing pains, these three principles have always served as the foundation of our program.
TIR: The RHS Football team has been extremely successful the past few years, winning two sectional championships. Why do you think your team has been so successful?
AH: Our success has stemmed from a number of factors. First of all, we have been fortunate to have extremely good football players over the last few years. The last 4 graduating classes consisted of quality and quantity, which is a rare commodity in a small group 2 high school. Most of these kids have been playing football together their entire lives through junior football. There is a brotherhood between our players where they will sacrifice for one another and refuse to let each other down. Also, it definitely helped that we were able to keep most of our players home over the last few years rather than going to parochial schools, including three players who transferred back to RHS over the last 2 seasons. Finally, these kids have completely bought into our philosophy.
TIR: This year you have lost some players and you will have more sophomores on the Varsity team. What challenges does this pose for you and the team?
AH: We are actually only returning 5 starters from last year's team, one of them being lost for the season because of injury. Many sophomores will be thrown into the fire this year. Sophomore season should be a developmental year for most. Over our past 4 year run, we've only had to rely on three sophomores to start for us. However, this year we will be relying on possibly 5 at the skill positions. The positives are that they will be able to work behind a relatively strong, veteran offensive line. Hopefully these young, inexperienced players can adapt to the speed of varsity football quickly.
TIR: When did the team start practicing?
AH: Our team started practicing June 8th. They've been lifting and speed training since the first week of January. Football is an 11 month a year commitment. It is a vicious cycle.
TIR: Tell us more about the first game of the season.
AH: The first game of the season is at Manchester Regional HS on Sat. Sept. 7th at 1 pm.
TIR: Athletic Director, David Frazier, explained, “Coach Howell has demonstrated integrity, caring, compassion and dedication to the student athletes of our high school program. He has continued to set a high standard and expects that our kids reach their potential. Team success has been a byproduct of his commitment to his program.”
You have said, “Building a culture is a little more valuable than talent”. As the coach, how you do you build a culture that is positive and inspirational?
AH: We have always tried to focus on team culture and the character of our players much more than talent and schemes. We emphasize doing the right thing on and off the football field. When you do the right things in life, you're obviously going to do the right things on the field. Like I previously stated, mental toughness is one of the core principles of our program. To us, toughness means making the right decisions at all times. When you do all of the little things right, winning will take care of itself. Building a successful team culture takes a village, from the entire coaching staff to every single one of our players. Obviously the coaches have extremely high expectations for our players and demand relentless effort in everything they do. We bring extreme passion and energy every day whether it be practice, meetings, lifting, games, or film sessions. Our coaches care for our players and treat them like family. They may rip them up and down the field when mistakes are made, however, they would take the shirt off their back for them in times of need. Our players love one another like family. Most importantly, they know playing for Rutherford football is much greater than just a four year experience, but it is a family for life.