IRVINGTON, NJ — It’s been a memorable couple of months for Irvington High School football coach Ashley Pierre, affectionately known as “Coach Smoke.” He was recently named NJ.com’s football Coach of the Year and, on Sunday, Jan. 30, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Coffee4Coaches contest named Pierre as one of this fall’s winners.
The NJSIAA, a nonprofit organization, comprises approximately 435 accredited public and nonpublic high schools in the state. A member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the NJSIAA conducts tournaments and crowns champions in 33 sports.
The NJSIAA Coffee4Coaches contest is dedicated to recognizing and awarding nominated coaches of seasonal sports for going above and beyond for their athletes.
“I just got a call one day and I was told that I was selected for this. I guess they select an outstanding individual who pours into the community,” Pierre told the Irvington Herald on Friday, Feb. 4. “I was told that I was one of the people who won this, so it was kind of cool. This along with the Coach of the Year award has been cool to see.
“I heard about this contest through our athletic director, (John) Taylor. I’ve seen the contest before in the past, but when I won the New Jersey state Coach of the Year, one of the reporters or one of the people that sat on the committee of the State Coaches Association kind of told me that I probably would be receiving another award for what I do for the community, how I service the youth and how I go above and beyond, and I think that’s what it was,” he continued. “So I kind of had a feeling something like this was coming, but it was an honor to win this, as well as Coach of the Year.”
Pierre and the other Coffee4Coaches winners were awarded $100 gift certificates for Wawa coffee. Pierre, a first-time Coffee4Coaches winner, said it feels good to be recognized and to be representing Irvington.
“It feels good to be a champion, it feels good to be recognized as the best coach in the state, and it feels good to be a winner of a contest that represents the work that we’re doing in the township of Irvington and what we’re doing for the youth,” Pierre said. “So it feels awesome to do that and to be recognized for that, because it’s a lot of work that gets done that’s bigger than just football. This is a pretty cool accolade to put on the resume.”
Enjoying yet another win for his team on and off the field, Pierre also said he’ll be recognized at an upcoming banquet in March. Reflecting on his accomplishments, Pierre said he has surmounted his challenges and has turned them into wins.
“It feels good. It feels like everything you’re doing on a day-to-day basis is worth it,” Pierre said. “At the end of the day, you’re helping to change lives, and you’re making a difference.”
Pierre was nominated for the Coffee4Coaches honor by Irvington Athletic Director John Taylor.
“He’s deserving of my nomination because he goes into his own pocket whenever he sees a student in need. He buys everything, (such as) meals for the kids when they’re hungry,” Taylor told the Herald on Feb. 8. “During our training, he single-handedly works with different alumni and community members and makes sure the players are fed during tour days. For our tour days, the students are here from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at night. If he meets a student who needs cleats or if a student needs to get to a college because they want to provide him with an official visit, he makes sure they get out there.”
According to Taylor, for the graduating classes from 2016 through 2021, Irvington had 20 athletes receive Division I athletic scholarships.
“A lot of that doesn’t happen without Coach Pierre’s help, not only in the recruiting process but just keeping them in the program and keeping them feeling like they belong and making them feel like they’re important enough,” Taylor said. “If anyone deserves that kind of accolade from around the state, it’s definitely Coach Pierre. I would take him hands down over anyone.”
Photos Courtesy of Ashley Pierre