It’s a dream of many high school football players to someday come back to their alma mater as a coach.
For Desmond DeFreitas, that dream is a reality.
After 10 seasons serving as an assistant coach at Nazareth H.S., East Flatbush, DeFreitas began this fall as the head varsity football coach of the Kingsmen.
From 1987 to 1991, the East New York native starred as a running back for Nazareth. His teams won CHSFL championships during his freshman and sophomore years. Prior to high school, he attended St. Jude’s Elementary School, Canarsie.
After a brief stint playing arena football in Las Vegas, DeFreitas joined the FDNY in January 2002 as part of the first class after Sept. 11, 2001. He is currently a member of Special Units Squad 28 in Queens.
Almost instantly after becoming a firefighter, he signed up to play for the FDNY football team, coached by Tim Smith, now the head varsity football coach at Holy Cross H.S., Flushing.
DeFreitas said Smith was a mentor to him and helped break him into the coaching ranks. Smith was the head coach at Nazareth when DeFreitas became the defensive backs coach and later the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator.
“Coach Tim always said you can have total knowledge of the game, but if you can’t get that information to the next person and make it easier for them to learn it, then you can’t be a coach,” said DeFreitas, 43.
For the FDNY team over the years, he played running back, center, wide receiver, kick returner, special teams, nose tackle and defensive end. His teams won four national championships, including this past season – DeFreitas’ final year on the squad.
So far, this season has been a learning process for both DeFreitas and his players, many of whom have never played football before. He has relied on the support of his two assistant coaches: Lionel Roseman, a fellow firefighter who coaches defensive backs, and Jared Sockwell, the offensive line coach who played for Smith at Nazareth.
The team has a good rapport, DeFreitas said, and the school’s administration – especially Principal Providencia Quiles – is 100 percent behind them as they continue to grow the program.
“We’re building,” he said. “This is definitely a building year. I’d be remiss to say that we’re gonna win out, go to the playoffs and have a happy ending like in the movies. Right now we’re in a building stage.”
The team’s defense has looked good on the gridiron early on this year, and DeFreitas’ goal is to get his offense on point.
“I think we have one of the best defenses in the league,” he said. “I can hang my hat on that. Anybody that plays us knows our defense is legit.”
Right now, the offense is primarily built on team speed, which is one of the Kingsmen’s strengths. Many of the players run track in the offseason under the tutelage of head coach Gary Gooden, a former Nazareth football player and a 1989 ninth-round NFL draft pick of the Los Angeles Raiders.
If the defense can come up with stops, DeFreitas is confident his offense will get on track to score points. Defense wins championships, so Nazareth feels comfortable in that key area.
DeFreitas said it’s been a bit nerve-wracking taking over the program, since he is committed to doing the best job possible. He still has the mindset of a football player, and that competitive spirit is driving his every move.
Nonetheless, he is extremely excited for the opportunity to serve as head coach at his high school alma mater.
To use a fire department term, DeFreitas hopes to soon have his team climbing up the CHSFL ladder.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.