PORTLAND — Jack Cosgrove, the head football coach at the University of Maine for 20 years now, addressed his first remarks to the many young coaches in the room.

It was 1978, Cosgrove’s first year as an assistant coach at Maine, and one of his jobs was driving the 16 millimeter film to Boston to get it processed, then driving back to Orono so the coaching staff could break down game film. It was as unglamorous a task as any a football coach could have, but Cosgrove did it because he knew it was the first step toward something better.

“It comes down to passion and love for the game,” Cosgrove said.

The National Football Foundation’s Maine chapter held its annual kickoff luncheon Thursday. The head coaches of each of the six college football teams in Maine each spoke about the upcoming season. Their audience included some of the best football minds Maine has ever seen, men like former Maine coach Walt Abbott, former Colby coaches Dick McGee and Tom Austin, and former Bowdoin coach Howard Vandersea.

The event was less a preview of the 2012 season than a reunion. It was a chance for old friends to catch up, and for young coaches to soak it all in. It was a day to celebrate some pride in the profession.

One of the young coaches Cosgrove addressed was Derek Antonioni. Just 24, Antonioni is entering his second season as Colby’s running backs coach. He sat next to McGee, and spoke with Austin.

“I’ve heard all about them from Coach (Jonathan) Michaeles and Coach (Ed) Mestieri, how great they were at Colby and how much they taught them,” Antonioni said. “Now that’s all trickling down to me.”

Teaching the game doesn’t stop with the players, Austin said.

“That’s what makes the game so special. Football coaches, and I don’t know where it started, just naturally share, do so willingly,” Austin, now an assistant coach at Bridgton Academy, said. “They give young bucks an insight into what it takes, how to treat young men, how to prepare, and to work through the thick and thin, the good times and bad times, because they go together.”

Austin learned the game from his father, Buck Austin, who coached at Bridgton High School and Fryeburg Academy. Later, Austin was influenced by his coaches at Maine, Harold Westerman and Jack Butterfield.

“Those people willingly passing on thoughts about how to approach the game, just as Jack did today,” Austin said.

Austin has some basic things he tries to teach every young coach. Be yourself. Treat the players as you’d like to be treated. Don’t be too exotic, keep it simple on both sides of the ball, and above all, focus on the fundamentals.

“I just had this conversation with a young coach not too long ago. If you give me two equal, God-gifted kids, whomever has the best technique will prevail. Spend time there, and the rest takes care of itself,” Austin said.

Cosgrove turned his attention to Michaeles, who is entering his first season as Colby’s head coach. Cosgrove pointed to his salt and pepper hair.

“In 1993, this was jet black,” he said.

Again, Cosgrove turned his attention to the young coaches. The job can be grueling, with long hours and brutal pay, he said.

“Hang with it,” Cosgrove said. “It’s going to be rewarding for you.”

Antonioni was listening.

“What Coach (Cosgrove) was just talking about, stick with it. It’s the best profession there is,” Antonioni said. “I made the right decision.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

 

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