The New York Giants have selected Hackensack's Benjie Wimberly as the 2020 Lou Rettino High School Coach of the Year presented by Gatorade.
Wimberly is one of the living legends of New Jersey high school football, and has gone 50-38 as the head coach of the Hackensack Comets since 2012. Prior to joining the Comets, Wimberly was the head coach at Paterson Catholic High School from 1995-2010, where he coached legendary Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and won seven state championships. He has accumulated 171 career victories.
While the Comets were able to win just one game this season, the Giants wanted to use this year's honor to acknowledge a coach that has done tremendous work in impacting the community, rather than one that has solely found success on the football field. As someone who simultaneously balances three big roles as Assemblyman for the 35th Legislative District in New Jersey, Director of Recreation for the City of Paterson, and Head Coach at Hackensack High School, there is no coach more deserving of the Coach of the Year award than Wimberly.
"This is the worst season I ever had as far as wins and losses," Wimberly said on a video conference with Giants Super Bowl XLVI champion receiver Victor Cruz and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. "But as you look back, it was actually a truly challenging season because of COVID-19. I, along with Senator Paul Sarlo, worked with the Governor [Murphy] just to have a football season this year. Just dealing with everything from keeping the kids safe, to dealing with social justice issues, and not just Paterson and Passaic County but also being involved in Bergen County when it came to social justice issues.
"This year, when you get down, it's how you bounce back. I've been up and down… We've won quite a few championships and a lot of games and had some great players. But this year is pretty fitting with everything else going on to be Coach of the Year. I appreciate it."
This year, Wimberly was part of a group that founded the New Jersey Minority Coaches Association. As its mission statement reads, the group was formed "to increase the knowledge and development of students and minorities involved in athletics. The NJMCA is dedicated to providing a positive atmosphere where issues can be debated and resolved in a timely and respectful manner."
At the moment, the group is putting an emphasis on raising the level of college recruitment in inner cities, addressing any potential issues with officiating, and creating interest in several different areas, such as coaching, officiating, teaching, school administration and more.
"He's been a mentor for so many years for so many men," Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said on the call. "Look at the first half of that word, mentor. It's men, and then tor. He's given a tour to all these men on life's journey, showing them what needs to be done to ultimately become those productive citizens in society."
Wimberly has done some tremendous work on and off the field, but his impact in the community goes well beyond the game. As an Assemblyman for the 35th Legislative District in New Jersey, he serves and represents six towns in Bergen and Passaic County, including Paterson.
Wimberly currently serves as the chair of the New Jersey Housing and Community Development Committee. In addition, he is the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment. These are only two of the numerous committees related to budget, transportation and education that are a part of Wimberly's mission.
On top of this, Wimberly is the Director of Recreation for the City of Paterson. In this role, he has focused on expanding summer and after-school opportunities for the youth in the community, as well as increasing the city's recreational programming for citizens of all ages.
"Coach Wimberly has been an influential person in my life and a lot of kids' lives and a lot of adults' lives as well," Cruz said.
Wimberly has been making a difference in the Paterson community for quite some time. Some of Wimberly's previous roles include serving as a Paterson City Councilman, Eastside High's baseball coach, and a special education teacher in Paterson's Public Schools.
The Lou Rettino High School Football Coach of the Year Award is part of the Giants' continuing effort to support local youth football programs. The Giants elected to name the award in memory of former Union High School (NJ) coach, Lou Rettino, for his fine commitment to the game of football, his community and the betterment of his athletes' lives. The selection is based on the coach's continuing commitment towards promoting youth football, developing motivated student-athletes and his overall community involvement.
In recognition of Coach Wimberly's selection as Coach of the Year, a $4,000 check will be granted to Hackensack's football program from The Giants Foundation and Gatorade. He will also receive a certificate of recognition signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Giants head coach Joe Judge.