Rutgers Coach’s Roots Trace to St. Francis

It’s an unfortunate fact that most people never get their dream job. For those that do, they certainly consider themselves lucky.

However, Rutgers University, Piscataway, N.J., head football coach Kyle Flood has been fortunate enough to be hired to his dream job twice.

Long before taking the helm of the Scarlet Knights, Flood taught mathematics and coached football at his high school alma mater, St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows. At the time, he considered that his dream job, but his success as a teacher and coach allowed him to rise through the ranks to his current dream job at Rutgers.

Flood, 42, grew up attending St. Robert Bellarmine School and parish, Bayside. He always had a love of sports and played CYO basketball and baseball for St. Kevin’s parish, Flushing.

Rutgers’ head football coach Kyle Flood (Photo © Rutgers University/Tom Ciszek)
Rutgers’ head football coach Kyle Flood (Photo © Rutgers University/Tom Ciszek)

From there, it was on to St. Francis Prep, where his older brother Jerry was a junior. No one in Flood’s family had ever played football, but he was determined go out for the team and played under legendary Prep head coach Vince O’Connor.

Flood was an offensive lineman on the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams during his four years at St. Francis. One of his fondest memories was winning the CHSFL championship as a senior in 1988, in which the L’il Terriers earned a 10-7 double overtime victory over Msgr. Farrell H.S., Staten Island.

Flood also played basketball as a sophomore on the Prep’s junior varsity team. Though he didn’t see the court all that often, he said the lessons he learned from his coach, Pat McLaughlin, have stuck with him to this day.

“A lot of what my demeanor is on the field now and with the players comes from Pat McLaughlin,” Flood said. “I always looked up to him. [Playing on the JV basketball team] was something that changed my life and really cemented the feeling that this is what I want to do for a living. I want to teach for a living.”

Flood then majored in mathematics at Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y., where he also played four years of football – serving as team captain his senior year. Upon graduation, he had a teaching job lined up at Herbert H. Lehman H.S., the Bronx, but a unique series of events landed the 22-year-old at the Prep.

Flood was hired as an assistant football coach on O’Connor’s staff, but a few weeks before school started, Flood’s father, Jerry Sr., happened to meet then-St. Francis Prep athletic director, Brother Robert Kent, O.S.F., in the bank. Brother Robert said that Prep’s math department had an opening and that Kyle should apply.

Sure enough, Flood got the job at St. Francis just 10 days before school started. He taught two algebra and three trigonometry classes.

“The thing that got me through was that all of my math teachers from high school were still in the math department,” he said.

Flood recalls the positive influence that his math teachers – Lorraine Smith, Mike Donovan and Sister Margaret Donnelly, R.S.M. – had on his life. He was also grateful to Sister Mary Ann Napier, C.S.J., who was the math department chair during his four years as a teacher there.

“Now that I’m in a position of management, I remember the way she (Sister Mary Ann) treated me and held me to a very high standard,” Flood said. “I think the combination of those two things made me a better teacher.”

Flood believes his time as a teacher prepared him well to become a football coach. As a math teacher in particular, he became adept in problem-solving techniques, and he also learned proper methods of organization and presenting material descriptively yet concisely.

“That part has been very much a help to me in translating from being a high school teacher to a football coach,” Flood said. “We spend almost as much time in those meeting rooms as we do out on the field actually doing the physical part of practice.”

After coaching at St. Francis, Flood was the offensive line coach at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, Brookville, L.I.; Hofstra University, Hempstead, L.I.; and the University of Delaware, Newark, Del. He then spent seven years at Rutgers before being named the 29th head coach in program history in March, 2012 after his predecessor, Greg Schiano, was hired as the head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I never thought I’d be coaching college football,” Flood said. “I thought I’d be at St. Francis Prep still, to be honest.”

Flood had never been a head coach at any of his previous stops, but he felt like he was ready to take the next step in his career, especially with the mentors he’s had along the way.

“Being a head coach is a little like being a parent,” he said. “You can get as prepared as you want, but until you do it, you don’t really understand what it means and how to do it. This first year has been a great learning experience for me.”

Kyle Flood with his players (Photo © Rutgers University/Tom Ciszek)
Kyle Flood with his players (Photo © Rutgers University/Tom Ciszek)

The Scarlet Knights finished 9-4 in Flood’s first season, with a 5-2 record in Big East Conference play. Rutgers will be joining an even more competitive football conference, the Big-10, for the start of the 2014 season.

As soon as he got the job at Rutgers, Flood remembered how Coach O’Connor took a genuine interest in every player on his team, no matter that player’s role. He now incorporates that methodology into his own coaching philosophy.

“When he (O’Connor) was talking to you, you were the most important person in his world,” Flood said.

In addition to learning under O’Connor, Flood developed a strong foundation in faith at St Francis. He said that he has taken pride in the fact that he went to the Prep and that many of the people that helped him along the way have all been affiliated with Catholic schools.

“Faith gives you the understanding that there is a plan,” he said. “If you do everything you’re capable of doing, the rest will all get taken care of.”

Flood said he hopes that plan includes remaining at Rutgers for the rest of his coaching career. Even with all his success on the sidelines, he has not forgotten his St. Francis roots.