When former Bangor High School football star and Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter McCarty first attended the University of Massachusetts, he majored in criminal justice.
“I didn’t want to be stereotyped as a jock,” explained McC arty, who was a fullback and defensive end at Bangor. “But by the end of the first semester, I said to myself, ‘Who am I kidding? I want to be a coach.”
So he switched his major to education and graduated with a degree in 1978. He went on to Syracuse University and earned his master’s in physical education four years later.
He was a graduate assistant coach at Syracuse under George O’Leary, who went on to become the head coach at Georgia Tech.
McCarty has spent more than 30 years as an assistant football coach and his latest stop is the University of New Hampshire where he will be the first-year defensive line coach this fall.
His resume includes stints at Bangor High, Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, Stanford University, Georgia Tech, Central Florida, Holy Cross, Cornell, Western Michigan, Illinois, Maryland and Fordham as well as Syracuse.
The Maine Sports Hall-of-Famer spent the last two seasons at Fordham but when Jon Shelton left UNH after eight years as a defensive line coach to become defensive coordinator at Southern Connecticut State, UNH coach Sean McDonnell called McCarty and asked if he would be interested in taking Shelton’s job.
McCarty’s two sons, 17-year-old Cullen and 14-year-old Jackson, are living with his ex-wife in York so McCarty jumped at the opportunity. He used to take his sons to McDonnell’s summer football camps at UNH.
“Coach McDonnell and his staff were always very good to my boys. They were very hospitable, said McCarty, who has known McDonell since college when they played against each other when McDonnell was a defensive back at UNH.
“I’ve had to sacrifice my family [responsibilities] for my coaching career. I don’t want them to get the short end of the stick any longer. I need to be around them more. I need to be a better father more than I need to be a better coach,” added the 58-year-old McCarty. “All of my previous experiences have been great but you reach a point where you want to be closer to home. It’s easier to be around people you’ve known for years.
“It’s a great situation.”
McDonnell said hiring McCarty was a “no brainer.”
“I’m so excited to have him here,” said McDonnell. “He is a great teacher who has a lot of experience. He communicates well with the kids and he will get them to play hard,”
McDonnell said McCarty related well to the players during the spring session.
McCarty has worked with the likes of current Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, Miami Dolphins assistants Mark Duffner and Kevin Coyle; former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, O’Leary, former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman, current Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, University of Iowa linebackers coach and former University of Maine standout Jim Reid and former UMass, Syracuse and New England Patriots boss Dick MacPherson.
“I have been around some great head coaches and assistants who have helped me throughout my career,” said McCarty. “They all had different ways of doing things. There is no one way of doing something. Sometimes you have to change things. If you try to do something the same way all the time, you will never develop as a coach. You have to keep working on gaining knowledge.”
McCarty feels fortunate to have had the coaches he had at Bangor High School.
“Being around Gerry Hodge, Bob Cimbollek, Bob Kelley and Gabby Price had the biggest impact on me,” said McCarty, a former all-conference linebacker and co-captain at UMass.
Hodge is the late former Bangor football coach, Cimbollek was the basketball coach, Kelley coached baseball and Price was a football assistant who later became head coach of the Rams and is now head coach at Husson University in Bangor.
McCarty’s coaching resume includes three bowl games — Illinois’ 63-21 win over Virginia in the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl in Miami; Georgia Tech’s 24-14 upset win over No. 11 Stanford in the 2001 Seattle Bowl; and Central Florida’s 49-48 loss to Nevada in the 2005 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
McCarty said the highlight of his career has been the “relationships with the players.”
“That’s the great thing about our profession. When you hear from your former players, you’ve obviously had an impact on them,” said McCarty. “The process is all about developing young men.”
He has coached several players who went on to play in the NFL including defensive end Eric Hicks, who registered 40.5 career sacks with the Kansas City Chiefs; Al Wallace, a defensive end with six NFL teams, and Will Svitek, who played on the defensive line at Stanford but was an offensive lineman with the New England Patriots last year.
Hicks and Wallace played at Maryland.
But McCarty is just as proud of the players who didn’t go on to play pro ball.
“We had some great kids at AIC. They may not have been as good as some of the other kids I coached (at bigger schools) but I had the opportunity to win some games with them (and I enjoyed it),” said McCarty.
McCarty also likes the interaction among the coaching community and the willingness of coaches to help each other.
“It’s like a fraternity,” said McCarty.
In addition to his defensive line responsibilities, McCarty also will be involved in recruiting with Atlanta, Pittsburgh and western Massachusetts his areas of concentration.
UNH is coming off a 10-5 season when it reached the Football Championship Series semifinals for the first time before losing to North Dakota State, which claimed its third consecutive title.
The Wildcats defeated Maine 41-27 during that playoff run in the first playoff football game ever hosted by the Black Bears.
And for the first time in its 78-year existence, UNH’s Cowell Stadium will have lights as part of its renovation.
“I’m excited. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here with the renovation and the lights,” said McCarty. “It’s an exciting time for UNH football.”
He said spring football went “very well.”
“We got a chance to spend time together and get to know each other,” said McCarty.
One of his players McCarty will coach is sophomore defensive end Cam Shorey of Calais, who has been sidelined by injury but will be ready for the fall and is expected to be in the defensive line rotation.
“He looks great now. He’s going to be a good player for us. I’m excited about his potential,” said McCarty.
McCarty has no desire to coach at the pro level because he doesn’t want to have to “deal with those egos.”
McCarty will come home to the Bangor area Nov. 22 when UNH visits Alfond Stadium in Orono to renew its annual rivalry with Maine.
“We had some good battles with Maine when I was playing at UMass,” said McCarty. “Coach (Jack) Cosgrove does a tremendous job. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he has done up there. He has put a bunch of guys in the NFL. He has done a great job with that program. It will be a fun experience.”