Jerry Smith, athletics director at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, has known coach Brian Minnie, the Trojans’ head football coach, for over 30 years.
Smith had the opportunity to coach Mini while being part of the coaching staff of the JFK Memorial High School football team in the Iselin section of Woodbridge in the early 1990s and has pursued Mini’s career ever since.
The strong bond that Smith and Minnie formed over the years led the two to reunite at Edison, with Smith tabbing Minnie as the new head coach of the St. Thomas Aquinas football program in Edison when he took over the athletics department three years ago.
Mini has led the Trojans to two winning seasons in the three years since, the most recent event this past fall, when St. Thomas Aquinas advanced 9-1 and qualified for the state tournament.
“I always follow the careers of the people I respect, and he was one of them,” Smith said of Mini. “I followed his football career when he was in Rowan and then when he started coaching. He took a football program here that had only nine kids at the time, and it grew up in a place where we were coming into a (9-1) season and making the playoffs. It says a lot. ”
At 11:30 a.m. on March 17, Smith received a phone call from assistant coach Chris Young that he thought he had never heard of. The news was that Minnie had a heart attack on her way to work that morning and died at the age of 46.
The St. Thomas Aquinas community shared the news of Minnie’s death with the public that afternoon through a statement on its social media platform.
“We are sorry that head football coach Brian Minnie has died. In this difficult time, please keep Mini Family and STA Family in your prayers. Counselors and the campus ministry will be available to assist any student during this difficult time.
Athletic exercises were canceled out of honor following the news of Mini’s death.
Smith 1:05 p.m. A part of the St. Thomas Aquinas football program that currently brings together 45 players. To break the heartbreaking news.
The players broke down in tears and had stomach ailments when they were told Mini had died.
“I never spoke in front of a group of young people and saw the devastation on their faces as I told them the news,” Smith said. “I told them to respect his legacy and do the right things that would make him proud.”
Smith added that once he heard the news of Mini’s funeral plans, he would make sure that all the football players would get a bus big enough to take them to the funeral, so that they could pay their respects to their favorite coach.