By Tom Pedulla—
Hasaan Sajid was a sophomore when he decided to give the Hackley football team a shot. Never mind that he had never seen a game and did not know the positions.
He arrived at the practice field with trepidation that escalated into fear when he saw players in helmets and pads making heavy contact. Coach Bill Tribou placed him at linebacker to observe the action.
“Stand out here, son,” the coach told him. “You’re not going to get hurt.”
Sajid, now a Hackley senior, progressed until he can mix it up with the best of them. The right guard and defensive lineman serves as the latest example of Tribou’s impact as he marks his 50th season as a football coach.
“He definitely pushed me hard, which helped a lot. It was a lot of trial and error. It was rigorous work, but I got through it,” Sajid said, grasping how much that process will help him meet other challenges.
Senior captain Jack Yalmokas cited a saying from Tribou, the Hornets’ offensive line coach and defensive coordinator, that he intends to live by: “You can be scared, but never be a coward.”
Yalmokas regularly reminds himself of those words. “All of my confidence in football and life in general comes from him,” he said of Tribou.
When 5-11, 170-pound Jake Byrne was required to oppose a massive defensive lineman from St. Dominic’s earlier this season, Tribou convinced him he could overcome his size disadvantage by staying low and keeping his feet driving.
“He was huge, much bigger than I was. But I was able to successfully block him for the win, which definitely was a big confidence boost for me,” Byrne said proudly.
When Joe McDermott took over the program last season with no previous head coaching experience, he relied heavily on Tribou’s advice and continues to do that.
“For someone like me, it’s great to have someone with so much knowledge and experience on my staff,” he said. “If there is something I’m unsure about, a question I might have, he’s been coaching for so long he’s pretty much seen everything. He knows how to approach different situations.”
Tribou served for 20 years as head coach at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua and ranks as the school’s winningest coach with 121 victories. The military veteran also worked the sidelines at Lincoln, Mamaroneck and Roosevelt. He gained experience at the college level at Fordham and Iona.
“From the defensive coordinator standpoint, he’s one of the best in the business,” McDermott said. “Some of the schemes he runs are pretty advanced. He’s such a good coach that he’s able to make it kind of easy for the kids. He’s able to communicate with them in a manner they can understand and execute on.”
Players embrace Tribou’s old-school approach because he can be as caring as he is combustible. “He’s a fiery guy. He’s not afraid to tell you what you’re doing wrong, but also quick to tell you when you’re doing a good job,” McDermott said.
Wearing a battered Hackley cap, there is no doubt that Tribou, a diminutive, bespectacled, bearded figure, is all in.
“He’s told us various times how much he loves us, how much he’s committed to bettering our football team,” Yalmokas said. “I would say he’s definitely the heart of the team.”
Tribou may be self-effacing to a fault. He declined to be interviewed, which means he is unable to shed light on nicknames he gave to certain players. It makes sense that he has referred to Byrne as “Fuego” since his sophomore year.
Other monikers are more of a mystery. Michael “Finn” McCool. Grayer “Grady” Hong. Connor “Dog” Kelly. Sam “Sun Bum” Suniwick.
Admiring players dutifully answer to whatever Tribou chooses to call them, just as they have for 50 years now.
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