The NFL coaching community is a small world, and never has that been more true than this week when a pair of one-time high school teammates will be on opposite sidelines trying to outwit the other.
Those one-time teammates are Giants head coach Joe Judge and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who for a short time played quarterback for the football team at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Stefanski, the son of former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski, would beat out Judge for the starting role on the freshman team, while Judge, due to family circumstances, transferred to Landsdale Catholic High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania to finish his high school education.
Despite their short time together as teammates, Stefanski, who would continue to play high school football as a teammate of Judge's older brother, a tight end on the varsity team, remembers the Giants head coach as being a tough-as-nails competitor.
“Just a very physical, strong player," Stefanski said. "I know he had a great career there at Lansdale Catholic. He was not surprisingly a tough player, and I think you see how he coaches and that is who Joe is.”
Over the years, the one-time high school teammates have kept in touch. They'll get together at the annual Combine, where they'll catch up over some beers, and they keep tabs on each other through their common circle of friends and acquaintances.
This weekend, they'll get the opportunity to catch up again in person--albeit briefly and before the Giants host the Browns.
“It is very cool," Stefanski said of the opportunity to coach a team that will face off against Judge's team. "I have followed Joe and his career. To see what he was able to do in college and New England--he won three Super Bowls up there--it is just outstanding.
"He is a good man. I know his family--just solid people, so I'm not surprised with where Joe is today,” Stefanski said.