BOB LIEPA PHOTO
Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s new head coach, Jack Martilotta, is shaped by his military background.
While sitting in a guard tower in Baghdad, just outside of Sadr City in 2005, Army soldier Jack Martilotta experienced a seminal moment. Having seen his share of death, destruction and violence in the war in Iraq, Martilotta said he thought about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Martilotta, who had worked for IBM, decided he was no longer going to do something he didn’t want to do.
“That’s when I decided I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I wanted to have a positive impact on the world, and I thought I could do it by teaching.”
After returning to the United States, Martilotta went about doing just that. He is still in the Army, serving as a platoon sergeant for the 69th Infantry Regiment in New York City. In addition, he teaches middle school science in Greenport. And, oh yeah, he is the new head coach of the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island high school football team.
Martilotta, who was a defensive end for the Porters in the early 1990s, had been on the coaching staff the past three years before succeeding Jim Anderson in the top job.
Monday was like the first day of school, in a sense, for Martilotta, as preseason practice started for the Porters at Greenport High School. “There’s a lot more responsibility, but I’m enjoying it,” he said.
Last year the Porters reached the playoffs for the first time since 2001, losing to Elwood/John Glenn in a Suffolk County Division IV quarterfinal. They finished with a 4-5 record. About 10 players return from that team.
Some early-morning rain and cloud cover cooled things off for Monday morning’s training session, but sun or no sun, training camp is still hard work.
“It was pretty bad at the end,” senior fullback and linebacker Tyler McNeil said of a series of conditioning drills. “After the first couple of days, we get used to it. It’s not so bad after that.”
The Porters can expect a disciplined regimen from a coach whose military background comes out in football. Players described Martilotta as a no-nonsense coach.
“He runs it like a Marine base,” junior running back and cornerback Ryan Malone said. “No joking around. It’s all business. He makes sure everything happens the way he wants [it] to happen, which is good. We need structure.”
Forty-one players reported on the first day of practice. Martilotta, who is assisted by offensive coordinator Tom Mangiamele and defensive coordinator Mike Miller, said he expects that number of players to reach 50 sometime soon.
What does Martilotta ask of his players? “Give a hundred percent, play hard, do well in school, stay out of trouble,” he replied.
Martilotta has been shaped by his military experience in Iraq, where he spent over a year. “It was a really violent time there,” he said. “You see some things, and some things really change your opinion on life.”
Martilotta described war as a period of “extreme boredom punctuated by a series of extreme violence.” He said he had a tough time adjusting to life back in the United States after what he saw in Iraq. Asked how long it took him to get reacclimated to life in America, he answered, “I’m still working on it.”
Martilotta said he was fortunate to be doing what he does. “How many grown men get to go to football practice?” he asked.
The Porters sure have their work cut out for them. They are seeded eighth in the division, and will open their season at home on Sept. 11 against powerhouse Babylon, of all teams.
How does Martilotta feel about that?
“How do I feel about it? We’re planning to go there and win,” he said. “As long as they’re prepared, as long as I do my job to get them prepared, that’s the plan. I’m not going out there to do anything else.”