VIDEO: A.J Russo Returns to Lead Holy Spirit FootballPosted:
ABSECON - It’s been almost 20 years since A.J. Russo was officially affiliated with the Holy Spirit football program. But in many ways, Russo never left.
"That’s one of the things about Holy Spirit," said Russo. "When you come to this school you’re always attached to it. The alums are part of the school. So everybody that comes here, it’s a tradition, you give back, so you’re always involved. So even after graduation high school and going through college, I was always involved here at Holy Spirit."
The 1981 Spirit grad was an assistant under legendary Spartans coach Ed Byrnes in 1986. Fast forward almost two decades, and Russo will step in to lead the way in Absecon.
"He played with a lot of great athletes," said Dante Daniel, Holy Spirit junior. "And by him coming back, he brought a lot of alumni back to help us build our way back to a state title where we’re supposed to be at."
The Spartans reached a state title game each of the last three seasons under John Iannucci. But after winning it all in 2012, the Spartans came up short in 2013 and 2014.
"This coach right here, he’s something special," said Daniel. "He put fire in our hearts after that devastating loss to DePaul last year at states. And he told us don’t worry about that. That’s never something we should do as a Spartan. It’s all about culture here. As soon as he came here and set foot on this field, everybody was fired up. Like, we are ready for this season."
"Our goal at Holy Spirit is to always win a state championship," said Russo. "First and foremost. The culture here is that, and we’re trying to build that into the culture with the kids. So that’s our number one priority, getting these kids to realize that they have the ability, they have the strength, they have the conditioning, to make that a realistic goal. And that’s what we’re shooting for every year."
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