BY JIM SCHILTZ
NISKAYUNA — John Furey has taken on a different role with the Niskayuna High School football program.
The Silver Warriors’ retired varsity coach was in the Niskayuna press box for Friday night’s season opener against Saratoga Springs, relaying what he saw to the sideline, and Wednesday he’ll be directing the high school’s freshman team when it hosts Queensbury in its 2017 debut.
He’s back for a 36th season after leading Niskayuna’s varsity for 22 years, and serving as an assistant at Bethlehem for 13 years before that run.
“I have my heart and soul in the Niskayuna football program,” Furey said. “I’ll do everything I can to help the program get itself on its feet again.”
One of Furey’s former star players, Brian Grastorf, stepped in this year to lead the Niskayuna varsity.
“We were looking for lower-level coaches, and Brian asked him if he would do it,” said Larry Gillooley, Niskayuna’s athletic director. “It was a no-brainer. John is so good around kids.”
Furey is working with 35 ninth-graders. Many, he said, are familiar faces.
“I coached them when they were younger [in the Capital District Youth Football League],” Furey said. “It’s a good group of kids, and I know a lot of them. I’m having a great time. I get to coach and not have to deal with all of the things a varsity coach has to.”
Furey’s job as freshman coach is to ready his players to someday be impact performers at the varsity level. It entails instruction and motivation on the field and away from it.
“From here they’ve got four years of football at Niskayuna,” Furey said. “We’ve got them in the weight room two times a week. One of the things we’re trying to do is get them committed to the weight room.”
On Friday night’s he’ll be in a press box donning a headset and passing on things he sees to his son Pete, who serves as the varsity team’s defensive coordinator.
“It’s not something I’m used to,” Furey said. “I love being on the sideline. I love the energy, and with the freshman team, I can do that so this situation is perfect for me.”