This Is Rutherford
This is Steve Dunn
By Jennifer Ersalesi
As a coach and teacher, Steve Dunn has truly inspired and influenced his students, colleagues, and other coaches. As a Rutherford High School alum and former RHS athlete, Steve has proven time and again that coming back "home" has provided him with the opportunities to give back to Rutherford high school and the school district. This is Rutherford spoke with Steve about his recent award, his love of coaching and teaching, and attending Rutherford High School.
"Coach Steve Dunn has always epitomized diligence, dedication, and sportsmanship as a student-athlete here in Rutherford and now as a successful head coach of two sports. His football teams mirror his character. Win or lose they always represent the High School and the entire community with class," explained Jack Hurley.
TIR: Congratulations on earning Coach of the Week. You have received this award for your commitment to promoting youth football, developing motivated student-athletes, and contributing overall to their community. What do you enjoy most about coaching RHS football?
Steve Dunn: The most enjoyable part of my job is the kids on the team I work with on a daily basis. Our players are tough, coachable and also give their best effort in everything they do. They truly make my job as a coach easy. The great kids we have in our football program do not happen by accident. It all starts at home and we have amazing, supportive parents as well.
"There is no one more deserving of this award than Steve. The level of dedication he has to his role as Head Coach cannot be recognized simply by an award. The time, effort, and passion he puts into everything he does for the program and for the athletes are immeasurable. He does his best every second of every day to not only prepare the team for battle on Friday nights but to prepare them for the battle of everyday life once football is over. I am truly honored to be able to be a part of his coaching staff," explained Assistant Football Coach and Union Middle School PE teacher, Rob Councilor.
TIR: How long have been coaching football at RHS? Do you coach any other sports?
SD: I began my coaching career at Rutherford in 2007 as an Assistant Varsity Football Coach from 2007-2018. After a one-year stint as the Ridgefield Park head coach in 2019, I came back to my alma mater as the head coach in 2020 and this is currently my 3rd year in that position. I also became the Head Boys and Girls swim coach in 2013 and will be going on my 10th year in that position.
"Coach Dunn has taught me how to do everything you can for the team. He is a great coach because he cares about his players and the lessons you learn not only apply to football, but also to life in general. He works very hard to prepare us mentally and physically for each game," explained Zach Herninko, Senior RHS Varsity Football player.
TIR: In addition to coaching, you also teach math at RHS. What do you enjoy about being a teacher in the district?
SD: This is my 16th year as a Math teacher at Rutherford High School and I could not ask for a better place to be. We receive a tremendous amount of support from our administration and have an amazing faculty/staff. Everyone in this building has the common goal of improving the students at Rutherford, in a caring and supportive way. Every day is a good day at RHS and it makes me proud to be a Bulldog.
TIR: To what else do you attribute your football team’s success so far?
SD: Any football team is only as good as its Assistant Coaches. I believe that our football staff is as good, if not better than any other public staff in the state. They are knowledgeable about the game and our boys know the coaches care for them personally.
Assistant Football Coach and Fifth-grade teacher, Shaun Bach, told TIR, "Steve is a selfless individual who puts his players and staff ahead of himself. He constantly puts in the time and effort to get the most out of his players and puts them in the best possible position to succeed not only on the football field but in life as well. It is a pleasure to be able to work with someone like him."
TIR: What do you hope your football players take away from playing RHS football under your coaching/ leadership?
SD: More than the wins and losses we are attempting to grow these players into men. Men who are accountable for their actions, work well with others, and know the value of never giving up when trying to obtain their dreams. Football teaches you a lot of valuable lessons that they will hopefully carry with them for the rest of their lives. We ask a lot of our boys and hold them to a high standard, the hope is that they are better people after the experience.
RHS Senior and Varsity Football player, Van Weber, told TIR, "Coach Dunn is a passionate and impactful coach whose love for football is contagious among the team. One thing that I appreciate about him most is his ability to instill real-life lessons into football."
TIR: This past weekend was Homecoming weekend. Who did the RHS football team play? How did your team prepare?
SD: We played North Arlington this homecoming weekend on Saturday 10/8. Homecoming weekend is a fun weekend as our student body, "the dawg pound", always shows up after marching to the game from the high school. We are excited for the entire second half of the season. The RHS Football team won the game, 42-13.
Anthony Bonagura, RHS Senior and Varsity Football Player told TIR, "I think that Coach Dunn earned coach of the week because he demonstrates what it means to be a great leader. He doesn't only prepare us for the game in front of us but he prepares us to be men. He teaches us life lessons that we can use on and off the field. That is why I think coach won the award."
TIR: You are an RHS ’03 graduate and now you are back teaching and coaching at RHS. How does it feel to be back?
SD: For me, being in Rutherford is being home. It is a wonderful community that I live, work and raise my children in. This award is really a celebration of the people around me and this incredible borough as a whole.
TIR: When you were in high school which sports did you play?
SD: In high school, I played football, swimming, and baseball. I am a proud recipient of the 2003 Fecanin award given every year.
"Coach Dunn has done a remarkable job since the day he began coaching here. It makes me very proud to see his accomplishments having had the privilege to coach Steve myself. In addition to playing for me, he also served on my staff as the offensive line coach and there was no one better. Steve has built a program at RHS; not just a good team every few years. Consistency is hard to accomplish at a small school, especially in football and Coach Dunn has found a recipe that has accomplished this goal. It is truly an honor to watch Coach Dunn grow into an amazing role model to our student-athletes!" explained RHS Principal Frank Morano.
TIR: Did you have any coaches in high school that have influenced your coaching style?
SD: I think anyone who gets into coaching was positively influenced by the ones they had growing up. I am no exception. My high school football coaches, including now Principal Frank Morano, were big influences on me and made me want to give back to the community the way they did. There were many others, too many to name, but they are the reason why I decided to coach at all.
"Coach Dunn is the type of coach that expects his players to give their all. He is a coach that teaches his players how to be men. He treats everyone as his own and prepares his players for life. That is why Coach Dunn is a great leader and why he won Coach of the Week," explained Ernie Bonagura, RHS Senior and Varsity Football Player.
TIR: Did you have any teachers at RHS that have influenced your teaching style?
SD: Many of the teachers I had in high school are still here, which shows what a special place RHS truly is. Some of the teachers who influenced me were current Vice-Principal Nick DeBari, Margaret Nastasi, Gloria Sampedro, Mike Cassidy, and now Superintendent Jack Hurley. I have always believed that teaching and coaching are one in the same. You try to take as many good qualities as you have learned from others and blend it to fit your own personality. As long as the kids know you care for them they will listen and give you their best effort in whatever you are asking of them.
Vice-Principal Nick DeBari told TIR, "I love watching how Steve Dunn coached teams get better from week to week. Steve does a great job of identifying weaknesses within his team and then working on those at practice."