McElreavy Back Into Trenches

Larry McElreavy during his stint coaching the Columbia University football team.
Valley News file

Larry McElreavy during his stint coaching the Columbia University football team. Valley News file

Newport — The fire still burns.

Larry McElreavy took his first football coaching job as an assistant to Bob Underhill at Newport High School in 1971. Forty-three years later, he is back at the place he started after being selected last week to replace Larry Carle as the head coach of the Tigers.

And the 67-year-old McElreavy couldn’t be happier.

“I feel like I’m 25,” he said.

The Larry McElreavy story is one of peaks and valleys, but the one constant is his desire to coach football. He has had seven college football jobs and was affiliated with the NFL combine. He has sold cars — including the last 13 years, where he has been the top salesman at Durand Automotive in Westminster, Vt.

However, there was not a day that went by, no matter how many cars he sold, that he didn’t think about being a football coach. And he never stopped trying.

“I have a wall full of rejection slips,” said McElreavy of those dark moments.

But the world turned a little brighter for McElreavy two years ago when he took the job as the football coach at the Claremont Middle School. While this may have seemed as a comedown for a man who had been the head football coach at a Division I school (Columbia), it was crack in the door.

“Those two hours of football practice were the two most enjoyable hours of my day,” said McElreavy, a 1964 Stevens High grad. “I will be ever grateful to (athletic director) Gordon Dansereau for giving me the opportunity to coach again,” he said.

And he is really taking his new job seriously.

McElreavy has always been a morning walker, traversing several miles a day with his dogs around the woods near his Charlestown home. More recently, he has joined a health club, swims three days a week and has started running a bit more and doing pushups.

“I can’t ask the Newport players to do something I can’t do,” said McElreavy.

One thing the Newport football players will never do is eat like McElreavy — not unless they want a diet of yogurt, bagels and wheat crackers. “I do cheat a little and get a large order of fries once in a while on a Saturday night at McDonald’s,” he said.

McElreavy plans on talking soon to Carle, but he knows he taking over a solid football program.

“I thought about that a lot when I was going through the interview process,” McElreavy said. “I knew that I was not applying for a job with a bad program. This is a good program, and I hope to make the transition as easy as possible. This is a school that has a wonderful heritage.”

McElreavy is not exactly sure what Carle’s football philosophy has been, but when told that Newport preferred a possession game — to run the ball first — he thought that would be just to his liking. “When you have the ball, the other team cannot score,” he said. “Besides, I’m not going to change a system that works.

“I know whatever changes will be made will not be with the players, who have had good coaching and success. If there is any changing, it will be me learning what they know. I’m not going to ask a whole team to change its football philosophy just to please me.”

McElreavy is in the process of putting his staff together and hopes to contact Newport athletic director Doug Beaupre soon to set up a meeting with the players. He also plans on doing what he can to keep the interest in football at Newport by talking to the boosters and other groups, if necessary.

McElreavy said he has already seen the schedule and, while he may not know much about some of the opposition, he does know he has a Friday night football game on the schedule at Stevens. “That should be quite a night,” he said.

However, the bottom line is that he is coaching football, and nothing could please him more.

“Football is a hard sport physically and mentally,” the Tigers’ new coach said. “Every play is three to five seconds of mayhem and energy, and when the game is over you are hurting a bit, but it’s a good hurt.”