Youngsville connection to Browns’ head coach

There were at least a couple of Warren County natives proud and impressed to see Mike Pettine Jr. named new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

There are some strong ties to Pettine from the Youngsville area.

Youngsville High School graduate John DeSimone owes his high school football coaching career to the Pettine family.

DeSimone, a quarterback with the Eagles, went on to coach with Pettine Jr. for six seasons at North Penn High School, just outside of Philadelphia, when Pettine was head coach of the Quad-A state power. From an outside linebackers coach under Pettine Jr. from 1996 to 2001, DeSimone went on to become the head coach of Wissahickon High School in Pa. for another nine seasons.

As head coach at Wissahickon, DeSimone called on Mike Pettine Sr. for a little help. Pettine Sr. came out of retirement to help the Youngsville grad in his first gig as head coach.

The Pettine name has been synonymous with success in Pennsylvania high school football. Mike Pettine Sr. went 326-42-4 in 33 seasons and won the Class AAAA state championship four times at Central Bucks West High School.

Pettine Jr., tutored by his father at CB West prior to North Hills High School, went on to become an outside linebackers coach for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, and defensive coordinator for the New York Jets and most recently, Buffalo Bills.

It gives Cleveland Browns fanatic Eric Mineweaser, of Youngsville – who has attended the NFL Draft on behalf of his beloved Browns- something else to chomp on.

“I haven’t personally got to meet (Pettine Jr.) yet, but I am hopeful to someday have that opportunity,” said Mineweaser. “However, I do have memories of him from his days in high school. I recall watching the ESPN series with him and his father. I don’t recall the name of the series (The Season), but I can tell you I never missed one episode. I remember watching closely as his North Penn team battled through the football season only to face his father twice that year – his dad coached at Central Bucks West. I felt compelled to watch each episode because I knew John DeSimone would be shown in at least one scene. Sure enough, it happened, when coach Pettine had a briefing with his team, there was “Johnny D” sitting amongst the team! Since then, I really followed coach Pettine closely.”

Fond memories for DeSimone, no longer a high school coach, but rather a pee wee football coach for his son.

DeSimone was the ninth-grade football coach at North Penn when Pettine Jr. became head varsity coach, and DeSimone said he latched on to the defensive specialist’s vision right away.

“I just told him about how I wanted to learn as much high school football from him as I could,” said DeSimone. “We talked about our dads (being football coaches). We just hit it off. When I first joined the staff, a lot of the things we did at North Penn just made a lot of sense, and I learned a lot about football through those years. The experience at North Penn just gave me the confidence to go on, and take that job at the Quad-A level.

“I wanted to be a coach,” said DeSimone. “(Pettine Jr.) told me, ‘I know you were a quarterback in high school, but if you want to be a head football coach, you’ve got to know the (offensive and defensive) line.”

Mineweaser said, “I thought it was cool to hear of John coaching at such a large school. He was always a football-minded player. I was a manager for John when he played QB in the late 80’s in Youngsville. I always knew John would go on and be successful and do things that he enjoyed, such as coaching.

“After I saw that series (on the Pettines), I thought John would follow Mike up the ranks, but it’s understandable the time commitment. John DeSimone comes from a great family and is committed to his family. The time commitment is crucial and I think that’s why John stayed behind and not move up the ranks.”

DeSimone echoed those sentiments in that the preparation in becoming a head coach is crucial. He said his time at North Penn was important to becoming a head high school football coach at such a large school, Wissahickon.

But he added that not becoming head football coach at Youngsville High School was just as important to him becoming a head football coach.

Interestingly, DeSimone said he interviewed for a vacant head coaching position at Youngsville, but was not prepared for the interview – not prepared to answer questions about how he would handle off-season workouts or the school’s booster group, nonetheless his offensive or defensive schemes. DeSimone said the Youngsville interview made him focused on getting the job at Wissahickon, and he was prepared to answer every question they could throw at him.

DeSimone said it doesn’t surprise him that Pettine Jr. would jump at the chance to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

“Everyone was telling me not to take that job (at Wissahickon), because the program was in shambles,” said DeSimone. “It was actually his dad that said, ‘That’s the program you want to take over, when the program is down.’ And I can see Mike doing this, when he probably also talked to his dad about that.”

DeSimone said he hasn’t had the chance to congratulate Mike Jr., but he speaks to Mike Sr. regularly, and offered his congratulations.

Mike Pettine Jr. knew what he was doing, he is a “football guy,” said DeSimone. “He said, ‘I’m hitching my wagon to this Rex Ryan (current N.Y. Jets head coach).’ Mike’s a pretty bright guy and always did well with computers. When he went down (to the Baltimore Ravens), doing the filming, filming practices, and he converted software… the more he did, he probably stuck his nose in there, and they realized, this is a football guy.”

Mineweaser will always appreciate the local connection.

“Though he didn’t up with coach Pettine, John helped him write his resume for his first big job,” he said. “Simply putting all these pieces together makes it especially special for me knowing we have a local connection with the team that I truly love! Everyone knows that the Browns have been through a lot and I’m hopeful coach Pettine will help turn the corner for us!

“In the meantime, I will hope and pray I get the opportunity to meet him; who knows, maybe with the DeSimone family someday!,” he said.