Kiernan has hand in Super Bowl

Looking at the Super Bowl matchup, one can easily see the influence of Bill Belichick on each team, as his coaching tree branches out to virtually every NFL team. However, if one looks close enough, one might even be able to spot a small sprout from Gannon University football coach Jim Kiernan.

Nick Caserio, the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots director of player personnel, received his first coaching position, a graduate assistant job, under Kiernan while he was offensive coordinator at Saginaw Valley State University in 1999-2000.

“He’s a very smart guy with a tremendous work ethic,” Kiernan said of Caserio, who coached running backs for Kiernan in 1999, before moving to the other side of the ball the next season.

Kiernan said he interviewed several candidates before handpicking Caserio for his drive for success.

“When you’re looking for a GA, you want to find someone who’s got a good background and is dependable—Nick was that guy,” he said. “Talking to guys beforehand, I found out his work ethic is relentless; he could just put in hour after hour of work.”

After his tenure at Saginaw Valley State, Caserio served another graduate assistantship at Division-I Central Michigan University in 2001. Later that year, he moved up to the Patriots, thanks in part to his relationship with college teammate Josh McDaniels, whom Caserio played with while at John Carroll University.

At 36, Caserio is considered one of the NFL’s rising stars. On Jan. 9, he turned down an opportunity to interview for the Indianapolis Colts’ general manager position, telling reporters in a conference call that, “I have a great job here in New England, I work with a great staff. I’m privileged to work for the head coach that I do.”

Caserio has held his current position since 2008, after he served as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2007, helping to orchestrate New England’s record-setting offense.

Despite his success, Caserio and Kiernan still maintain a relationship, as Kiernan said he talks to Caserio several times a year, the last phone call coming during the summer.

Kiernan said the friendship reaches much further than football.

“We talk and stay in touch, and sometimes it’s nothing more than ‘What’s going on?’” he said.

If the Super Bowl didn’t present an interesting enough connection for Gannon’s football coach, the Patriots are taking on Kiernan’s beloved Giants. Kiernan’s family has held season tickets for the Giants his whole life, as he recalls many fond memories attending games at Giants Stadium, Yankee Stadium and the Yale Bowl.

“It’s kind of a cool situation for me,” Kiernan said of the Super Bowl. “If the Giants win, that’s a win for my team, but if the Patriots win, Nick gets another ring.”

JOE CUNEO

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