Jeff Roy steps down as Shelton coach after 16 years
When he returned home from Central Connecticut State, Shelton’s Jeff Roy never thought he’d ever become a teacher or even a football coach, never mind the eventual successor to championship coach Joe Benanto.
But a call from his friend Ken Roberts, who invited him to become an assistant in 1994, kick-started a long coaching career, which culminated in Roy’s elevation to head coach 10 years later.
“I figured I’d give it a shot and I just fell in love with the game again,” he said. “I got the passion back.”
That passion has carried him through 25 years coaching at his alma mater, including the last 16 running the program. But on Wednesday, Roy announced his resignation as Shelton’s head coach.
He met with his team to give them the news Wednesday afternoon.
For Roy, now 52, the reason is simple: His 7-year old Twins — Brady and Luke — need him.
“I’ve been thinking about it the last couple of years,” said Roy, whose teams went 129-46 (.737 winning percentage) and reached three state championship games. “My twin boys are 7 and they’re getting more and more active and want to do everything: Play football, go golfing, go fishing… you name it.
“That’s the No. 1 reason. My wife (Kim) and my kids need me around. It was a tough decision, but at the end of the day it was an easy decision because my wife and kids come first. They need me and this is an important age for my boys.”
A 1985 Shelton graduate and an All-Housatonic League selection, Roy started in the defensive backfield at CCSU for four seasons. He took a job at Sikorsky Aircraft when Roberts, another Shelton product, asked him to join Benanto’s staff.
Roy rose through the ranks, became a teacher and ultimately Benanto’s defensive coordinator. Shelton won titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, Benanto’s last as head coach.
Roy took over for Benanto, his mentor, in 2004. Roy’s first team went 8-2, but then dipped to 3-7 the following season.
As it turned out, that was Roy’s first and only losing season.
Shelton reached its state championship game under Roy in 2007, but lost to Greenwich 28-14, in the LL final.
After a six-year playoff drought, the Gaels finally broke through again in 2014. This time, however, they lost to Xavier, 28-27, in overtime when quarterback Mark Piccirillo was ruled to have fumbled before crossing the goal line — a call Roy and his staff still dispute.
Shelton returned to the final in 2015, but lost to eventual No. 1 Darien, 39-7, in the Class LL championship — a game in which his quarterback, Zach Tuskowski, broke his collarbone on the Gaels’ first series.
Both the 2014 and 15 seasons were unbeaten, SCC Championship years for the Gaels.
“We came right back and we went undefeated and got to the final again,” Roy said. “I’m proud of the overall winning percentage and the winning seasons every year…and just the consistency of winning with the program, which is not easy to do as a public school in Class LL.
“I’m proud that the program continues to grind.”
Overall, Roy’s teams reached the state playoffs seven times, all in Class LL, including five-consecutive years from 2014 until this season when the team went 7-3 and just missed out on a Class LL playoff berth.
“The biggest part for me has been all the memories and friendships I got to develop with all the coaches and kids over years and the camaraderie we had. Shelton football has given me a ton to be thankful for. I’m blessed to have been involved and been the head coach for so long.
“I have to thank (athletic director) John Niski, the entire administration and — really — just the entire town has been so supportive of me over the years. It’s awesome to coach in this town. I can’t say enough about that: To have been coaching that many years and getting support throughout.”
As for his successor, Roy said he hopes the school will keep the job in-house, and that his staff stays together.
“The youth program is in place,” he said. “I’d like to see the entire staff stay and keep this thing rolling. There are a lot of good guys on staff.”
As for him, he plans to coach next season — but this time in Shelton’s flag football program, where his Twin boys are beginning to take their first snaps as Shelton football players.
“I’ve been involved in Shelton football my entire life,” he said. “I’ll still be around. I’m not going to be head coach anymore, except for my boys’ flag football teams. But I’ll be around.”
Sean Patrick Bowley is the executive producer of GameTimeCT.com. Email him at email@example.com. Twitter: @SPBowley