Deering High has hired Rob Susi as its new varsity football coach.

Susi has over 20 years of coaching experience, including as a high school assistant at South Portland, Falmouth, Deering and, most recently, the past three seasons at Cape Elizabeth, where he was the defensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.

Susi, 52, lives in South Portland. He said in his one season at Deering in 2014 he felt a connection with the student-athletes.

“When I was there the last time I felt really good. I loved working with the kids and I felt it was a situation where a lot of the kids at Deering needed that strong male role model and quite a few were new to football,” Susi said. “I felt my particular skill set fit very well.”

A 29-year officer with the Falmouth Police Department, Susi has been the school resource officer at Falmouth High for 24 years.

Susi replaces Jason Jackson, who was told in January he would not have his contract renewed for a fourth season. Jackson claimed that one parent forced his termination.

“I can’t speak about what happened with Coach Jackson because I wasn’t there and I don’t know much about it,” Susi said. “But what I would say to parents and supporters of the program is whatever’s happened in the past is in the past and all we can worry about is what we can do to make Deering football as successful as possible going forward.”

Susi said his first priority is to build a staff.

“That’s the first thing I’m trying to work on, calling to find out where the program ended and what coaches are still available because it’s very late,” Susi said.

Susi was in a “strong candidate pool,” according to Melanie Craig, Deering’s athletic director. He and other finalists were interviewed before the February vacation week by a seven-person committee that included representatives of Deering’s administration, varsity coaches, community members and student-athletes.

Susi was the choice of the interview committee. His hire was approved Monday morning by the superintendent of Portland Public Schools.

“His reputation is stellar. Rob Susi is a man of stand-up character,” Craig said. “As the school resource officer at Falmouth, he’s made a career out of being a role model for kids and working with kids.”

Susi becomes the fifth football coach at Deering since 2012.

“He had many options on the table and he chose to come here and he’s a great fit,” Craig said. “He’s the right fit for our program and our kids. For all of our turmoil, we’ve accomplished some great things and we feel our student-athletes are going to work hard for him.”

Susi was Deering’s defensive coordinator in 2014. He was the interim coach in that season’s Thanksgiving Day game against Portland after head coach Mark Riddell resigned the day before the game.

Jackson took over for the 2015 season. Deering was a combined 11-17, including 1-2 in Thanksgiving Day games, in Jackson’s three seasons. The Rams had a 2-8 record in 2017.

Susi is a 1984 graduate of Waterville High.

He went to Boston University where he walked on to the football team only to injure his knee. After transferring to Maine, his football days were again cut short by a more serious knee injury.

“I have a grand total of about five weeks of college football experience,” Susi said.

Susi both played and coached at the semi-pro level. At the high school level, Susi spent three seasons with Falmouth High, then four years at South Portland under Steve Stinson before his one year at Deering in 2014.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig