Hudson Catholic president Father Warren Hall has made a number of landmark moves in the past two years, all working to bring the Jersey City school back from the brink of closing. The Hawks went co-ed, then brought in actress Aileen Quinn ("Annie") to run the drama program. They have restored morale and boosted the spirits of students, faculty and alumni alike. Hall even joked on Monday in a sweltering gym that he "won't be done until the Pope is teaching religion." However his biggest new hire to date, both in stature and in size, is former New York Giant star Leonard Marshall, who was introduced Monday as the new varsity football coach.
While it may seem like a bit of a stretch, Hudson Catholic's football program has never been world class and its facilities for the sport are public fields, the move is in line with Hall's approach to all things at the school in his tenure. Marshall, who has called New Jersey a second home even after his glory days of winning two Super Bowls were gone, is as much a character hire as one with a football pedigree. Throughout his introductory press conference, the Louisiana native talked about being a sculptor of young people and a leader by example — traits which he was known for throughout his career and afterward. He has built businesses as well ... in clothing and the financial sector ... so his move to HC's spot for a $10,000 stipend should not surprise any. This was no vanity hire; this was a hire to continue to give not just the school, but the people of Jersey City another reason to take pride in the re-birth of a city.
"Our goal in this search was not just to find a football coach, it was to find a man of character who could continue to mold our young men as leaders in the classroom, in the community and on the field, and we are very excited that we have found that person in Leonard Marshall," Hall said. "Hudson Catholic continues to undergo a renaissance in rebuilding a great tradition of overall excellence, and we are proud to have Coach Marshall be a part of the team undertaking that process here in Jersey City."
Pride is what Marshall has always been about. Pride in his dedication to his alma mater, LSU, and to the people of Louisiana who he selflessly assisted following Hurricane Katrina. Pride in working with young people in a variety of camps over the past 20 years in Florida — teaching not just football skills but life skills as well. Pride in seeing how the Giants organization treats people both on and off the field, a family he feels as much a part of today as when he was on the sidelines.
Now Marshall's task will be building upon the great pride that many now feel as the school continues to make its way back from the brink.
"I am very excited to be able to take on this challenge, and work with the young people at Hudson Catholic," Marshall said. "The New York area has been a second home for me for over 20 years, and I have always loved the great character that the people of Jersey City display. I am honored to be part of that fabric now, not just as a football coach, but as a mentor and member of the community."
Marshall certainly will have his work cut out for him. He has never been a head coach, and will replace Chris Demarast, who resigned on February 19 after one season with the Hawks. Hudson Catholic has won NCIAA titles in football in 1976 and 1977, an HCIAA Conference Championship in 2007, and in 2008 the Hawks reached the Group 2 Non-Public League Finals as well, but they have never been the powerhouse on the field as some of their rivals are. However, Marshall will start by rounding out a coaching staff with a host of familiar faces to those in Jersey City, and then will go about shaping the team, and all those around him, in a manner that he has always known ... one of respect, hard work and discipline.
Will there be detractors and whisperings that maybe Hudson Catholic is becoming something that it is not supposed to be? Maybe. However Marshall, just like Father Hall and the other administrators at the school, have made it clear they intend to raise the expectations for excellence — academically, athletically, personally and professionally. If you are going to do that, then drawing the line with Leonard Marshall on your team is not a bad place to start.