The only goal Lou Grasso Jr. has for the Union High School football team is to help lead the Farmers to their next state championship.
New Union head football coach Lou Grasso Jr. welcomes challenges that lie ahead
Former Union assistant and Roselle head coach met with returning UHS players, 'I let them know that I'm here and that we're ready to go'
It won’t come easy, but Grasso is ready for the enormous task at hand.
The former Roselle head football coach was approved as Union’s new head football coach at last week’s board of education meeting.
Grasso, 38, was an assistant coach at Union in 2008 and 2009 under head coach Brian Sheridan and served as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“This is a big challenge and there’s a lot of work to do,” Grasso said. “The section we’re in (North 2, Group 5) is brutal, with a lot of tough teams that are really well-coached.”
A 1993 Colonia graduate who played collegiately at Rutgers, Grasso’s first head coaching stint was at Roselle the past three seasons. He was also an assistant coach at Roselle when his father Lou Sr. was the head coach.
Lou Sr. guided the Rams to their only playoff championship, which was the 1989 North 2, Group 2 crown.
Grasso’s first two Roselle teams – the 2010 and 2011 squads – qualified for the state playoffs.
His three-year record at Roselle was 15-15 (.500). His 2010 team that went 7-3 lost in the Central Jersey, Group 2 quarterfinals and his 2011 squad that finished 6-4 fell in the North 2, Group 2 quarters.
“I spent a lot of time at Roselle and will miss those kids,” Grasso said. “I know that they have a real good chance to be successful this year.”
Grasso met with the returning Union players for the first time last Thursday.
“It wasn’t a big speech,” Grasso said. “I let them know that I’m here and that we’re ready to go.”
Grasso’s coaching staff will be completed soon. Like at Roselle and at Union when he was the offensive coordinator, he plans on running the multiple and multiple-I offense.
“You make adjustments every year based on the personnel you have,” Grasso said.
Grasso will have one of the best players in the state in his backfield in senior running back Jamauri Bogan, who was the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey.
“I know Jamauri and he’s a great kid that comes from a great family,” Grasso said. “We’re excited to have him.
“We don’t want to center around just one guy, but he’s, obviously, a great talent. Hopefully, we can send him out in the fashion that he deserves.”
There’s always pressure to win at Union, with the pressure increasing since it’s now been 20 years since the Farmers last won a sectional crown. Union won its last of a record 10 sectional titles in North 2, Group 4 back in 1993.
Since then, the Farmers have only reached the N2, G4 final twice, falling in 1996 to Montclair and 2003 to Piscataway – both games played at the old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to be prepared,” Grasso said. “I took this job just as I took the Roselle job three years ago – proud and excited. I will attack it the same way.”
NOTES: Grasso Sr. was the head coach at Roselle from 1979-2003.
“From my father I learned how to run a team and how to get a team to buy into what you’re doing,” Grasso said.
Grasso and Sheridan were roommates at Rutgers, where they both played linebacker.
Sheridan, after serving as the head coach for five seasons from 2007-2011, left the team on what was called “a leave of absence” at the beginning of practice last August. Union school administrators – from the very top – refused to disclose the reason why Sheridan did.
“Brian is such a hard worker,” Grasso said. “I see how the kids respond to him. He has a passion to coach and to build a program with enthusiasm.
“That’s what we’re all in it for.”
Before serving as an assistant coach at Union, Grasso coached quarterbacks, outside linebackers and was a special teams coordinator on John Quinn’s staff at New Brunswick.
“Coach Quinn taught me how to prepare and the day-to-day operations of a program,” Grasso said.
Out of Rutgers, Grasso became an assistant coach on his father’s staff at Roselle in 1997 and spent seven years there, three as offensive coordinator.
In high school at Colonia, Grasso played fullback and linebacker for head coach Pat Barbato.
Grasso will be coaching in the North-South All-Star Game once again this June.