BRANFORD — John Limone really bleeds red and white.
No, not only internally, but throughout. The 29-year-old former starting quarterback for Branford High has vaulted through the coaching ranks and is the new coach for the Hornets this fall. He’ll become the youngest head football coach in the Southern Connecticut Conference and won’t turn 30 until Dec. 18.
“It’s a new challenge for me,” Limone said last week before a Branford practice. “Do I have the experience guys like Tony Sagnella (North Haven) or Steve Filippone (Hand) have? No, but I have nine years in and have coached 90 high school football games. That’s a lot of experience.”
New challenge? Yes. Experience? Yes. New place? No.
Limone graduated from Branford in 2002 before he played defensive back at Marist College for two years.
After transferring to Southern Connecticut State University and retiring from playing, Limone joined the Branford football program as a volunteer wide receivers coach in 2004. He became the special team’s coordinator in 2007 before taking over the reins as defensive coordinator when Mike Tracy became the Hornets’ head coach in 2009. At the same time, Limone was an assistant coach for the Branford baseball team for three seasons.
“I always wanted to be a coach, but I don’t know if head coach was the original thing,” Limone said. “I learned so much from Len Bonn, who was my coach here. Gary Gravina hired me and Mike was huge as a person. These guys helped me grow up.”
While most of his 21-year-old friends had free time, Limone made plenty of sacrifices. Instead of going out, he watched film, talked to coaches and honed his craft.
“I wasn’t running around,” Limone said. “I came from here and started coaching here two years later. I was on the staff when we won a state championship(2005) and I’ve seen every record ups and down. This place means something to me.”
Limone worked in the Branford school system for five years until he left last December for a job with MN Reale Construction. He works 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., so he can make it to Branford High for practice right after school.
Limone said the on-the-field football things aren’t the biggest change for him.
“The football stuff isn’t the learning curve,” Limone said. “I’m comfortable with the X’s and O’s. It’s the organizational stuff, but I was really lucky with Mike. He took me through everything and told me everything I would have to do to become a head coach. I’ve been going to the SCC coaches meetings for the last four years.”
While many coordinators who vault to the head coaching position hire someone to replace them at the coordinator spot, Limone has chosen not to. He’ll remain the defensive coordinator while veteran coach John Rank will handle the offense. Limone has also brought back another veteran coach in Scott Jenkins, along with former Hornets Dan Rank, George Gerosa, Mike Fowler and E.J. Sattleberger.
“I felt like I had to have my hands on something and if I did the offense, it would be a learning curve,” Limone said. “I’ve called defenses for years.”
But will Limone eventually give up the defensive coordinator’s role to oversee everything? Probably not.
“I have a feeling I won’t want to give it up,” Limone said. “I’ve been doing it and know how I want it done. I don’t want to breathe down someone’s neck.”
Right now he’s just concerned with getting his team ready for the season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “There’s all the little things like scheduling and phone calls, but I have a great support system to help me.”