Acosta brings big-time resumé, spiritual mindset to SJV football

January 26, 2024 at 7:00 a.m.
New St. John Vianney football coach Bobby Acosta (left) shares a smile with former Lancers football coach/athletic director Mike Alberque after Acosta's hiring on Jan. 15. Courtesy photo
New St. John Vianney football coach Bobby Acosta (left) shares a smile with former Lancers football coach/athletic director Mike Alberque after Acosta's hiring on Jan. 15. Courtesy photo

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

When St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, hired Bobby Acosta Jan. 15, it procured both a successful football coach and faith-driven leader of young men.

A devout Catholic who has coached at the high school, college and professional levels, Acosta discovered the advantages of coaching at a Catholic institution while with the College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minn.

New SJV football coach Bobby Acosta got to pose with the school mascot when he officially took over the job Jan. 22. Courtesy photo

“The kids were grounded differently,” he said. “When you have faith within your program, it becomes a spiritual thing and a bigger picture. We’re not just playing for a championship; we’re playing for our creator and to infuse joy in people’s hearts. When I meet a spiritual family and they’re academically driven, you can win with that kid.”

The native of West New York, N.J., brings that attitude to a program that has fallen on hard times. SJV was 3-7 last fall, 11-19 the past three seasons and without a state playoff victory since 2017. He also brings a winning pedigree dating back to college, when he played for perennial NCAA Division III national finalist Rowan University, Glassboro.

As a high school head coach, he gained Shore Conference experience at Marlboro and Monmouth from 2002-07. Acosta guided IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla., to a No. 1 national ranking in 2020, and was instrumental in developing J.J. McCarthy, who quarterbacked the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to the national championship earlier this month.

Acosta also had college assistant stints at Rowan; Bucknell, Lewisburg, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Cornell, Ithaca, N.Y.; The College of New Jersey, Ewing; and Delaware, Newark, where he worked closely with future Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. He was head coach at Widener, Pa., and came to SJV after serving as offensive coordinator/receivers coach at University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff.

There were NFL preseason coaching internships with the Cleveland Browns in 2008 and New York Jets in 2010.

It’s an impressive resumé but, as Acosta noted, sometimes the big time can lead to rough times.

“I tried college football again, and I was sleeping in my office, sleeping in my car,” he said. “I wasn’t making enough money to pay the bills. I was working at a Holiday Inn from 11 to 7 a.m.


Bobby Acosta and JJ McCarthy share a happy moment at IMG during Acosta's time as head coach there. Acosta helped to develop McCarthy, who's one of college football's hottest names after quarterbacking the University of Michigan to the national title in early January. Courtesy photo

“Last year I suffered a retinal detachment and I think that was God telling me to slow down,” he continued. “I [temporarily] lost my vision, but I gained vision of my career and said ‘I gotta go back home.’” 


Acosta chose SJV for several reasons. He wanted to be closer to his children –  14-year-old Aiden and 10-year old Sophia – who he has been apart from due to coaching. He also knows of the school’s potential after recruiting players from there while a college coach.

“I have friendships with people in the building,” he said. “I love the academic reputation, it’s 10 miles from my mother, it’s 20 miles from my kids. It’s all aligning. My kids will come here. Aiden plays soccer and Sophia is a basketball player and we have a great girls basketball program here.”

Since officially starting on Jan. 22, Acosta has met with the players and been watching tape. He sees a young team victimized by injuries last year, and likes the core group and their ideals.

“They’re hungry,” he said. “They had their first lifting session and the enthusiasm, the numbers, the energy in the weight room was all there. The coaches are coaching hard.”

And he’s dealing with quality kids.

“We’re in a town with great families that put academics in the forefront,” Acosta said. “There’s a discipline to academics. My philosophy is ‘the smarter the player the better the player.’”

He also appreciates players of faith, especially since he has reconnected with God after some rough times. While playing at Rowan during the same time his brother Jason was at TCNJ, the twins got a phone call on Jan. 30, their birthday.

“Someone took my dad’s life,” Acosta said. “I was angry, I held anger in me. But when I found God again, I found purpose again, and my entire life changed.”

Ironically, he was hired by IMG on Jan. 30, 2020, and was hired at SJV 15 days prior to his birthday. He sees those as positive signs

“There’s something that’s driving this spiritual journey that I’m on,” Acosta said. “I literally close my eyes and God puts me in a place and he tells me to go have an impact.”


Bobby Acosta congratulates receiver Steve Ishmael as he comes off the field for Syracuse when Acosta was an assistant there. Courtesy photo


St. John Vianney new head football coach Bobby Acosta meets with his team in the weight room during his first official day on the job Jan. 22. Courtesy photo

 


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When St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, hired Bobby Acosta Jan. 15, it procured both a successful football coach and faith-driven leader of young men.

A devout Catholic who has coached at the high school, college and professional levels, Acosta discovered the advantages of coaching at a Catholic institution while with the College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minn.

New SJV football coach Bobby Acosta got to pose with the school mascot when he officially took over the job Jan. 22. Courtesy photo

“The kids were grounded differently,” he said. “When you have faith within your program, it becomes a spiritual thing and a bigger picture. We’re not just playing for a championship; we’re playing for our creator and to infuse joy in people’s hearts. When I meet a spiritual family and they’re academically driven, you can win with that kid.”

The native of West New York, N.J., brings that attitude to a program that has fallen on hard times. SJV was 3-7 last fall, 11-19 the past three seasons and without a state playoff victory since 2017. He also brings a winning pedigree dating back to college, when he played for perennial NCAA Division III national finalist Rowan University, Glassboro.

As a high school head coach, he gained Shore Conference experience at Marlboro and Monmouth from 2002-07. Acosta guided IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla., to a No. 1 national ranking in 2020, and was instrumental in developing J.J. McCarthy, who quarterbacked the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to the national championship earlier this month.

Acosta also had college assistant stints at Rowan; Bucknell, Lewisburg, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Cornell, Ithaca, N.Y.; The College of New Jersey, Ewing; and Delaware, Newark, where he worked closely with future Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. He was head coach at Widener, Pa., and came to SJV after serving as offensive coordinator/receivers coach at University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff.

There were NFL preseason coaching internships with the Cleveland Browns in 2008 and New York Jets in 2010.

It’s an impressive resumé but, as Acosta noted, sometimes the big time can lead to rough times.

“I tried college football again, and I was sleeping in my office, sleeping in my car,” he said. “I wasn’t making enough money to pay the bills. I was working at a Holiday Inn from 11 to 7 a.m.


Bobby Acosta and JJ McCarthy share a happy moment at IMG during Acosta's time as head coach there. Acosta helped to develop McCarthy, who's one of college football's hottest names after quarterbacking the University of Michigan to the national title in early January. Courtesy photo

“Last year I suffered a retinal detachment and I think that was God telling me to slow down,” he continued. “I [temporarily] lost my vision, but I gained vision of my career and said ‘I gotta go back home.’” 


Acosta chose SJV for several reasons. He wanted to be closer to his children –  14-year-old Aiden and 10-year old Sophia – who he has been apart from due to coaching. He also knows of the school’s potential after recruiting players from there while a college coach.

“I have friendships with people in the building,” he said. “I love the academic reputation, it’s 10 miles from my mother, it’s 20 miles from my kids. It’s all aligning. My kids will come here. Aiden plays soccer and Sophia is a basketball player and we have a great girls basketball program here.”

Since officially starting on Jan. 22, Acosta has met with the players and been watching tape. He sees a young team victimized by injuries last year, and likes the core group and their ideals.

“They’re hungry,” he said. “They had their first lifting session and the enthusiasm, the numbers, the energy in the weight room was all there. The coaches are coaching hard.”

And he’s dealing with quality kids.

“We’re in a town with great families that put academics in the forefront,” Acosta said. “There’s a discipline to academics. My philosophy is ‘the smarter the player the better the player.’”

He also appreciates players of faith, especially since he has reconnected with God after some rough times. While playing at Rowan during the same time his brother Jason was at TCNJ, the twins got a phone call on Jan. 30, their birthday.

“Someone took my dad’s life,” Acosta said. “I was angry, I held anger in me. But when I found God again, I found purpose again, and my entire life changed.”

Ironically, he was hired by IMG on Jan. 30, 2020, and was hired at SJV 15 days prior to his birthday. He sees those as positive signs

“There’s something that’s driving this spiritual journey that I’m on,” Acosta said. “I literally close my eyes and God puts me in a place and he tells me to go have an impact.”


Bobby Acosta congratulates receiver Steve Ishmael as he comes off the field for Syracuse when Acosta was an assistant there. Courtesy photo


St. John Vianney new head football coach Bobby Acosta meets with his team in the weight room during his first official day on the job Jan. 22. Courtesy photo

 


The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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