St. George: 'It's very bittersweet'

We caught up with Nick St. George, who will take over for departing Alex Rotsko as head football coach at Longmeadow High School. Given the success Longmeadow has enjoyed during Rotsko’s 19 years at the helm, St. George has quite the act to follow. Fortunately for the Lancers, there aren’t likely to be many bumps in the roads towards continuing the success. St. George has been coaching in the Longmeadow football program for the past 25 years, including the last 11 as defensive coordinator.

St. George has been Rotsko’s right hand man both on and off the field. While bittersweet, St. George is excited about the new role and discussed the transition with ESPNBoston.com before a send off for the former coach. Thursday, we’ll have an in-depth look at Rotsko and his stellar career.

His reaction to Rotsko’s departure and becoming his successor: “It was very unexpected. I really wasn’t sure how to take it at first. I have a young family and they come first but my wife and I talked it over and we decided this could be a really great thing for us, so here we are. I’ve been walking around in a state of disbelief. Alex and I have been really close for the last 16 years. I’ve been feeling a little emotional. It’s very bittersweet. I’d hand it over to him in a second if he wanted to come back. I love working with him.”

On the importance of keeping things consistent for the program: “Our entire staff is staying in place which is probably the most comforting thing about taking over. Before the position got posted, I talked to people to see if they were coming back. Everybody I talked to said if I got the job, they’d be coming back. I think the most important thing was the consistency for the kids. The same defense, the same offense, the same coaching staff. Hopefully, we’ll make this as seamless as possible. The biggest change is the guy standing on the sideline is going to be shorter this year.”

On replacing a coaching legend with 15 straight Super Bowl appearances: “You can’t replace Alex Rotsko but we’re going to do the best job we have. I’ve been the defensive coordinator since 2000. Gradually, as we’ve worked together, he’s been giving me more responsibility.”

On keeping the players hungry despite the constant success: “Nobody wants to be that class. That’s one of the biggest motivating factors. People don’t realize the pressure these kids are under. Everybody will know the class that doesn’t come through. Unfortunately, success is great but there’s always a downside. The pressure is great, but it helps to motivate them.”

On where Longmeadow football is and where it’s going: “I don’t think there’s any place to take it. We’ve accomplished everything there is to accomplish. Right now, it’s keeping the kids hungry and keeping the desire to excel and keep doing what we’re doing. Hopefully in a year or two they’ll have the state playoff system and that will be a new challenge. But right now, we’re just going to keep doing what we do.”

On the potential of a statewide football playoff: “They’re doing the best they can with nobody wanting to give up Thanksgiving Day. Everything has its positives and negatives. It gives us a true state champion, but it also forces the two teams playing for a state championship to play a meaningless game on Thanksgiving. In the end, we’ll obviously do whatever the state wants us to do.”

On Alex Rotsko, the man: “He’s a great guy, a great teacher. You always learn something working with him. It’s hard to describe coach Rotsko. He’s a gentleman. He has the highest integrity. He has work ethic you try to teach people about. I’ve heard many players refer to his work ethic. They see how hard he works and don’t want to let him down. He always does the right thing. He talks about playing football the right way and living the right way. He’s taught all of us how to do things the right way. I can’t imagine how I’d be as a person without having met him."