St. Thomas Aquinas High School Athletic Director Jerry Smith has known the Trojans’ head football Coach Brian Meeney for over 30 years.
Smith got the chance to coach Meeney when he was a part of the J.F.K Memorial High School football team’s coaching staff in the Iselin section of Woodbridge during the early 1990s and has followed Meeney’s career ever since.
That strong bond Smith and Meeney formed over the years led the two to meet up again in Edison, with Smith tabbing Meeney as the new head coach of the St. Thomas Aquinas football program in Edison when he took over the athletics department three years ago.
Meeney has since led the Trojans to two winning seasons in three years, the most recent coming this past fall when St. Thomas Aquinas went 9-1 and qualified for the state tournament.
“I always follow the careers of people I respect and he was one of them,” Smith said of Meeney. “I followed his football career when he was at Rowan and then when he started coaching. He took over a football program here that only had nine kids at the time and grew it to a place where we are coming off a (9-1) season and made the playoffs. That says a lot.”
At 11:30 a.m. on March 17, Smith got a phone call from assistant Coach Chris Young relaying the news he never thought he’d hear. That news was that Meeney suffered a heart attack on his way to work that morning and passed away at age 46.
The St. Thomas Aquinas community shared the news of Meeney’s passing to the public that afternoon through a statement on its social media platforms.
“We are saddened to share that head football Coach Brian Meeney has passed away. At this difficult time, please keep the Meeney family and the STA family in your prayers. Counselors and Campus Ministry will be available to assist any student in need during this difficult time.”
We are saddened to share that head football coach Brian Meeney has passed away. At this difficult time, please keep the Meeney family and the STA family in your prayers.
Counselors and Campus Ministry will be available to assist any student in need during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/PUbN25kJpq
— St Thomas Aquinas HS (@stahsedison) March 17, 2022
Athletic practices were canceled out of respect following the news of Meeney’s passing.
Smith gathered all 45 players who are currently a part of the St Thomas Aquinas football program at 1:05 p.m. to break the heartbreaking news.
Players broke down in tears and were sick to their stomachs when they were told Meeney had passed away.
“I’ve never spoken in front of a group of young men and seen the devastation on their faces like I did when I told them the news,” Smith said. “I told them to honor his legacy and do the right things that would make him proud.”
Smith added that once he hears the news of Meeney’s funeral plans, he will make sure to get a bus big enough to drive all the football players to the funeral, so they can pay their respects to their beloved coach.