Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead wrapped up Fordham head coach Andrew Breiner in a massive bear hug on Wednesday evening, just before trudging to a charter bus with the Nittany Lion logo on the windshield.
“Love you, brother,” they gruffly exchanged, clapping each other on the back.
The two had reunited for an afternoon of satellite camping in the muggy June Jersey air at the beautiful Peddie School, a private (and pricy) high school with immaculate facilities that contrast sharply with the surrounding farmland and scattered local businesses.
Moorhead had been Breiner’s role model, mentor and boss for seven years and at a few different schools before the former departed his head coaching position at Fordham to become Penn State’s new offensive coordinator.
When he did, Breiner was flooded with phone calls from reporters curious about the man who would bring the Nittany Lions its first true spread, zone-read, uptempo attack.
“Seven years. We used to joke that it was a common-law marriage in New York,” laughed Breiner, on a chilly evening in December, just after Moorhead was announced as the new offensive coordinator. “Yesterday was our divorce, and today is literally the first day I’ve been at work in seven years that I’m not working with Coach Moorhead.
“Saying goodbye to him was tough.”
Fast-forward a few months, and Breiner found himself as the new head coach of the Rams — a move Moorhead predicted, according to Penn State head coach James Franklin — and hosting a satellite camp at the Peddie School with Penn State as a guest staff alongside coaches from Virginia, Monmouth and Sacred Heart.
The coaches evaluated and instructed about 200 high school players, including standouts like Class of 2018 wide receiver Jahan Dotson (expected to be one of the top prospects in the country at his position), a recent Peddie School transfer, Class of 2019 defensive lineman Antonio Alfano and Class of 2018 pro-style quarterback Artur Sitkowski.
Before the four-hour camp could even happen, however, it needed to be created.
“We planned early on that we would do something like this, a camp up in Central or Northern Jersey with them,” said Franklin. “But it’s been good. I think it’s been good for both sides.”
Breiner said Moorhead broached the subject to him after the idea surfaced in Penn State recruiting meetings.
“(He) called me one day and said ‘Hey, we’re throwing around ideas, looking at some different possibilities, and would you guys be interested?’ And we said, ‘Yeah! We’d be interested,’ ” he said.
They started working through the logistics — Fordham has a one-man football operations staff while Penn State has about 20 in the department, give or take a few — and then the NCAA ban came down.
“We were like ‘Well, OK ... guess this isn’t happening,” said Breiner. “Then through the backchannels we started to hear the whispers (that) there was a chance they’d lift the ban …We quietly worked on it, then when the ban was lifted it was full speed ahead.”
And of course, getting back into a rhythm with his old head coach was easy. There the two stood on Wednesday night, the former pupil-turned head coach jawing at his mentor a bit as they studied the dozen-odd quarterbacks putting the young receivers through their routes.
“It’s a lot like riding a bike,” Breiner joked. “You know, it’s true. He is one of my closest friends, he’s a mentor, he’s kind of the big brother that I never had. And we talk multiple times a week. But when we got back onto the field, it was just like we were out there for practice.”