By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — When Brian St. Pierre was a small child, he relished going to football games at St. John’s Prep with his father, Dr. David St. Pierre, who was the team doctor.
Now he’s looking forward to the day he can take his own young sons with him to a game at St. John’s -- especially now that he’s the team’s head coach.
St. Pierre, the former St. John’s Prep quarterbacking great who went on to stardom at Boston College and a career in the NFL, was officially named the Eagles’ new head coach yesterday in a press conference at the school. He replaces his former coach, Jim O’Leary, who stepped down on Thursday but will remain on as the school’s athletic director.
“He would hand me off to a player on the sideline when he had to tend to somebody who got hurt,” St. Pierre said yesterday, remembering the times he’d attend games with his father. “My dad (a star QB himself) played for Fred Glatz (at the Prep) and used to tell me stories about those days. At the time I only knew two names; Fred and Jim O’Leary.
“This is a tremendous honor; I am very humbled. The memories I had playing for Coach O’Leary stand out, and I agonized over this decision. The time I had as an assistant coach here was one of the best ever, and I wasn’t in any rush to be the head coach. I knew Coach had been thinking about (stepping down) for a long time; I wish he would be coaching forever, but if anybody was going to follow in his footsteps I wanted it to be me. My two boys can be around with me working here.”
After 30 years as head coach, O’Leary turned the program over to his former player. He started as an assistant to Glatz in 1977 and had 207 wins in his illustrious head coaching career.
One of the best teams O’Leary ever had was the undefeated 1997 Prep squad led by St. Pierre, who along with fellow captain Wayne Lucier was drafted by the NFL.
“Playing for coach I remember we were always ready to take on anybody; he had confidence and prepared us,” St. Pierre said of O’Leary. “He’s as good a motivator as anybody. (Former Steelers Super Bowl winning head coach) couldn’t hold a candle to his pre-game speeches.”
A Danvers native now living with his family in Georgetown, St. Pierre was chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 2003 Draft after a record-setting career at Boston College. A three-sport athlete at the Prep, he went on to play in the pros for Baltimore, Arizona and Carolina before retiring in 2011.
O’Leary said coaching is in St. Pierre’s blood, calling called him “highly motivated and a leader.”
“I’m sad for coach,” said St. Pierre. “It is a tremendous honor and privilege to follow in his footsteps, and I intend to lean on him and the assistant coaches (all of whom agreed to join St. Pierre’s staff). I’m fortunate to have great people coaching here; I played for many of them and got to know others when I joined the staff this season.
“I understand the responsibility before me, and am very fortunate to have Coach O’Leary right here on campus. I’ll be in his office a lot more than he probably wants to see me because it’s still a learning curve for me.”
St. Pierre, who took a full-time job as a member of the Prep’s alumni relations staff last fall, said he will also look to assistant AD Ann Edgerton (his aunt) and Jameson Pelkey, the football team’s offensive coordinator who also works in the athletic office, for support.
Principal Keith Crowley said the conference was held yesterday not only to introduce St. Pierre but also celebrate O’Leary’s legacy.
“I interviewed with O’Leary and Principal Crowley for the job, and I know they wanted the (new head) coach to be on campus,” said St. Pierre. “The kids can come see me about college recruiting or anything else; I’ll be here all the time. I understand the college recruiting stuff and (O’Leary) has so many great connections there. I also can help with the pressure of going from high school to college football.
“What I loved about this past season was being out on the field with the kids on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, not just the games on Friday or Saturday,” he added. “I was a sideline reporter for the BC games (after retiring) and I couldn’t get too involved with the players; I hated that. It’s great to come back to St. John’s, being around the kids and going through the ups and downs of the season. I love all the good stuff that goes with it.
“The problem with football is I like it too much. I had a couple of opportunities to coach in the NFL and college, but I saw what that did to families. This is a compromise where I can keep my family (wife Joceyln and two sons) in the area where both my wife’s and my family live. Football is the only thing that makes sense for me; I truly love it and being around the kids.”
The new coach intends to meet with his staff to discuss responsibilities before getting together with the team in the next couple of weeks. He does not plan to make any big changes in the way things are done at St. John’s.
“I want us to be a balanced team, and I believe in being physical,” he said. “We’ll run the ball and pass, too. Playing good defense will be stressed. We’ll get the best players on defense; if you have a good defense you can win games.”