VERO BEACH — Vero Beach High School ended its head football coaching search today by appointing Walton High School head football coach and athletic director Lenny Jankowski to the position.
Jankowski, a John Carroll graduate, brings a 72-45 record to VBHS. He led the Golden Rams to its lone state semi-final appearance in football in 2003, and their first-ever playoff appearance in 2002.
Also of note, Jankowski’s starting quarterback at Walton, Liam Miller, threw for 2,875 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2010.
“I’m really excited to get to Vero and start establishing relationships with the players, faculty, and the members of the community,” said Jankowski. “I’m looking forward to my kids growing up the Vero Beach community. It is very important when you make these kinds of career moves that it will be good for your family.”
Jankowski, 39, and his wife of 12 years, Ally, have three children: Abby, 11, Ryan, 9, and Emma, 6.
“Vero is such a community driven school, and for football, there is nothing better than Vero,” added Jankowski. “This is the only job I’ve inquired about in five years. It is exciting to be at a place with a strong tradition and to be able to play as good of competition as possible.”
Vero Beach High School Principal Eric Seymour, Assistant Principal Greg Ahrens, and Athletic Director Tim Tharp interviewed four finalists over the weekend, which had been narrowed down from eight by a committee.
“It was a very difficult decision – all the candidates were extremely qualified,” said Tharp. “Mr. Seymour and I felt that Coach Jankowski was the best fit at this point in time, and we feel like we’ve got a great coach.”
The eight candidates interviewed by the committee were given 15 questions to answer over an hour-long interview, and were then rated by each member of the committee. The finalists were selected based on the committee’s ratings.
St. Thomas Aquinas Defensive Coordinator Rocco Casullo was an early favorite for the job, but he withdrew his name from consideration before the finalists were selected.
Milton High Head Coach Bobby Johns and two Vero Beach High alumn — Pope High (Marietta, Ga.) Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Howie DeCristofaro and Offensive Coordinator Josh Smerker — were the other three finalists for the job.
Smerker, Vero’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, was a finalist for the job in spite of having no prior head coaching experience.
“They felt like they made the best decision for the program, and I’ll keep supporting VBHS,” said Smerker. “I’ll always be a Fighting Indian, and not getting the head coaching job at Vero doesn’t change that.”
Fighting Indian Football Booster President Dave Morby was excited about the new hire.
“The FIFB are ready to support the new head coach of the football team 100 percent,” said Morby. “We’re sure that Coach Jankowski will bring great things to this program, including opportunities for our players to achieve the exposure to the possibility to get to the next level.”
“We hope the community will get behind this decision and come out in support of the new coach,” added Morby. “Our new coach will be very active in the community as well as on the football field. As always, we know the 12th Man will not let us down.”
Tharp is equally excited about his new football coach.
“A lot of great qualities came through during the process, and during the vetting process as well,” said Tharp. “He handled himself extremely well in the interview process. From a personal note I know the detailedness of everything that goes into being an A.D. in terms of planning and working with coaches. He’s achieved success at Walton, and has a great track record of success elsewhere.”
“I’m excited for the community, and he’s thrilled to get the job,” added Tharp. “He has a great ability to teach kids on and off the field. You speak to people who are involved in that community and he’s really grown Walton’s program. He’s known for his innovation offensively, but he has a strong football mind on both sides of the ball. College recruiters all rave about his ability to work with them in providing info during the recruiting process. His packaging of the student athletes and rapport he has with college coaches are things our kids will benefit from. There are a lot of good things there that he brings to the table on our behalf.”