I love to share stories about former professional athletes who have enriched the lives of young people as teachers and coaches. One example of this is Zack Valentine, a former pro football player who became a leading high school football coach and physical education teacher in New Jersey.
Zack was born May 29, 1957, in Edenton, North Carolina. As a youngster, he attended home town John A. Holmes High School in the Edenton-Chowan School District. After his high school graduation, Zack attended nearby East Carolina University.
After college, Zack played pro football for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1979-1981), and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1982 season. With the Steelers, the 6’2″, 220-pound linebacker garnered a coveted Super Bowl ring in 1979.
After Zack concluded his pro football career, he accepted a position as a physical education teacher at Woodbury High School in Gloucester, New Jersey. He also served as the head football coach for the Thundering Herd for 11 seasons. During his tenure, he led his team to a 10-2 record (2012) and three trips to the South Jersey Group 1 Final, including one championship in 2009. That year, the Gloucester Times named the victorious coach their Football Coach of the Year. Overall, Zack’s record was 82 wins and 37 losses. Only one other coach in Woodbury High history has logged more wins.
As a coach, Zack is known for his focus on more than what his players accomplish on the field; he is immeasurably concerned about what they also accomplish in their academics and in their personal lives. “He’s been a great coach to these kids,” says Woodbury’s Athletic Director Grant Shivers, “and sometimes I don’t think our kids always understand how lucky they are to have a coach like him.”