Secaucus’ Pein heads to Caldwell to play sprint football; Remembering Bottino; Weehawken moves forward with football

Secaucus graduate Hunter Pein (seated center) has signed on to continue his athletic career at Caldwell University, participating in sprint football and track and field.
Secaucus graduate Hunter Pein (seated center) has signed on to continue his athletic career at Caldwell University, participating in sprint football and track and field.

When Hunter Pein suffered a devastating elbow injury almost two years ago, the recent Secaucus High School graduate thought that his chances of a college scholarship were history.

But then, Pein was introduced to the idea of Caldwell University sprint football, formerly known as lightweight football.

It’s an idea that has been prevalent in colleges such as Princeton, Army (West Point) and Rutgers, but hadn’t been popular in many other schools. But Caldwell decided to introduce sprint football, for players who weigh 178 pounds and less, three years ago and can offer scholarships for prospective players who are willing to play under the weight guidelines.

“The coaches at Caldwell sent me an email last December,” Pein said. “They then called me and said they were interested in me. I knew someone, Jaden Gonzalez, from Secaucus who played at Caldwell. He talked to me about it. Right away, I was interested. I listened to what everyone had to say. For me, it was another chance for me to play football.”

Pein was also interested in Caldwell, because the school was offering scholarship money for the multi-talented Pein to throw the javelin as well.

“I went to visit the school,” Pein said. “The coaches saw what I threw during the season with the javelin. I knew that I could throw there. But when I got hurt, I was contemplating not competing in the javelin. But I decided to continue after I rehabbed the injury. I was determined to make it back after the injury.”

So Pein worked hard to get back into shape for both football and track and field.

“I was determined to get past the injury and put my best foot forward,” Pein said.

And Pein will head to Caldwell later this month to begin his college career. It’s an incredible tale of perseverance and persistence.

“It’s amazing,” said Pein, who plans on majoring in criminal justice and psychology at Caldwell, with an eventual eye on becoming an agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “It’s so much of a relief knowing that I’m getting a chance to play football. It’s great to know that I’m getting a chance to compete after high school.”

Pein will be coached by some coaching giants at Caldwell. The head coach is Jim Kelly, who had stints at Clifton, Nutley and Queen of Peace during his heyday and one of the assistants is the legendary Ken Trimmer, who was the head coach at Caldwell High School for more than 25 years and coached at Caldwell for almost 50 years.

Trimmer is the driving force behind the annual Phil Simms New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Game.

So Pein is in good hands at Caldwell. It’s a great situation for him moving forward.

“It’s a whole different world,” Pein said. “I’m excited to get this opportunity.”…

Speaking of football, Weehawken has hired a new head football coach in Bill Campi, who replaces Nick DeStefano.

There were some rumors coming from the Town on the Cliffs that the school was about to drop the sport of football since DeStefano moved on to become an administrator in the district after two seasons.

But DeStefano said that the rumors are not true and Campi will take over to make sure the program remains solvent.

It has been a struggle in recent years to have enough players to field a competitive team, but the school will move forward with football this season.

We will have more about high school football later this month, as the teams begin practices for the 2019 season…

There will be some new coaches in place this season with Matt Gallo, the former St. Anthony head coach, taking over at Snyder and former Snyder head coach Ray Marshall moving down Kennedy Boulevard to the City Line to take over the Marist program…

In closing, Hudson County lost a true giant last week when Bayonne’s Vinnie Bottino passed away. Bottino was the owner of the Big Apple Sports Palace in Bayonne for almost 40 years.

Bottino’s place was a stomping ground for many sports fans over that time. Several sports celebrities would frequent the Big Apple. When the New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup in 1995, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux brought the Stanley Cup to the Big Apple to celebrate the day after the Devils won. Former Giants linebacker Steve DeOssie, the father of current Giants long-snapper Zak DeOssie, would stop by on a regular basis.

When the movie “Mortal Thoughts” was filmed in parts in Bayonne, stars Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Juliette Lewis all visited the Big Apple. It was a popular place.

More importantly, if there was an organization that needed help, Bottino was the first to donate. He gave gift certificates to practically every league under the sun. He helped to sponsor basketball teams and football squads. He went out of his way to assist the Bayonne High School teams with his incredible generosity. In fact, Bottino was perhaps the most generous person in Bayonne. He gave and gave and gave some more.

Bottino and his wife, Toni, sold the business a little more than two years ago in order to spend more time with their grandchildren. It’s a shame that Vinnie didn’t get more time to enjoy his family after working so hard for so long. It’s a major loss for all who remember the Big Apple and especially recall the wry personality and giving spirit of Vinnie Bottino. – Jim Hague


Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com