Becker ready for a challenge at Roosevelt

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Ed Becker was an assistant football coach at Kent Roosevelt when the Rough Riders fielded some of their best teams ever.

Now he's hoping he can return the Rough Riders to their former prominence as their new head coach.

Becker, a Roosevelt assistant under former head coach and current athletic director John Nemec for 16 years, was chosen to take over the Rough Riders' football program at the Kent City Schools board meeting on Tuesday. Becker replaces Joe Vassalotti, who posted a record of 8-22 in his three seasons at the helm.

After serving as an assistant for so long, Becker never envisioned himself as becoming the head coach at Kent Roosevelt someday.

"Honestly, no," he said. "Things just kind of happened. But I feel I have the experience for it. I played and coached against a lot of the guys who are coaches in the league now, so I feel very comfortable.

"Being there that whole time (as an assistant), I know it's just a class organization _ the school system and the football program itself. There's a pretty rich tradition at Roosevelt and I'm really just thrilled to be a part of it. I hope to carry on that tradition."

Nemec, for one, thinks Becker will do just that. Becker was Nemec's defensive coordinator for most of his 16 years as an assistant, including the Rough Riders' best run under Nemec when they went 28-2 from 1989-91. Roosevelt also won five league championships with Becker on staff.

"He produced some of the best defenses we've ever had," said Nemec. "He's an outstanding man as well as a coach, just tremendous. He's very enthusiastic and he's determined to get the job done.

"He has a great way with kids, he's a hard worker, and he has tremendous support from our assistant football coaches and our entire school community. He's coached with all our current assistants except Dennis Love, and he coached Dennis Love, so it's not anything the guys will have to get used to. He'll hit the ground running."

Becker brings solid credentials to the job, aside from his lofty accomplishments as defensive coordinator. A member of the Walsh Jesuit Hall of Fame, Becker was an all-state defensive end with the Warriors and later played two years of football at the University of Tulsa from 1975-76. He then transferred to Kent State, where he graduated in 1979.

Becker has had one previous head coaching stint, at Woodridge in 1998.

At the moment, Job One for the Rough Riders' new boss is to stop the flow of players vacating the Roosevelt football program, one of the sticking points for the administration during Vassalotti's tenure.

"Maybe it's just a sign of the times in a lot of schools. Kids are busy and they're doing something else," said Becker, who has taught at Roosevelt since 1979. "We just want to get as many kids out as we can and get them re-educated as to the tradition of the program. I think once we do that, we'll get the numbers back."

Becker is also well aware that after consecutive 2-8 seasons, the natives are growing more than a little restless in Kent.

"We need to get back to that attitude where we expect to win every Friday night," he said. "It's about giving your best effort. If the kids put their best effort in, that's all we can ask. I'm also encouraging our former players to show up at practices and at our workouts during the summer so our kids can see the Roosevelt tradition for themselves.

"We've got a veteran coaching staff and I know most of those guys, so I'm confident we can turn it around fairly quickly. We've got some great people and some great facilities, and the kids, once we get them there we'll be fine."

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E-mail: thardesty@recordpub.net

Phone: (330) 678-5460

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