Essex County Football Coaches Hall of Fame beckons Hill, 3 others


    By Mike Kinney

    The Halls of Fame that continue to beckon Irvin “Poochie” Hill for his commendable work in both high school football and boxing will never match the number of young lives he continues to touch by way of his coaching, his counsel and his outsized sense of caring.

    But that obviously won’t stop them from trying.

    Hill will be one of four men enshrined in the Essex County Football Coaches Hall of Fame during halftime of the 25th annual Paul Robeson All-Star Football Classic June 14 at Robeson Stadium in East Orange.

    The former Newark Weequahic and Albany State and Ramapo College standout and longtime assistant coach will be joined by longtime Glen Ridge head coach Duke Mendez, who retired last fall, legendary East Orange head coach Tom Dean and longtime Belleville assistant Joseph D’Ambola. Both Dean and D’Ambola will be honored posthumously.

    The 56-year-old Hill is already a member of the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame, Class of 2004, and the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, along with an armful of other prestigious awards bestowed upon him in recent years.

    He was, for instance, named the first Essex County Assistant Football Coach of the Year in 2009, when he served on the staff of former head coach Altarik White. Hill was on the staff when Weequahic went 11-1 and captured the Central Jersey, Group 2 championship.

    Hill also collected a number of other citations during a long amateur boxing career that began when he won the NJ Golden Gloves Novice championship while a senior at Weequahic High in 1979. He was at the time also a valued member of the school’s wrestling squad.

    Clearly, this former boxer, running back, DB, wrestler, has some moves he could show to current or aspiring gridders, grapplers and sluggers. But Hill has been just as glad through the years to be a voice of authority to the youngsters on what moves not to make in their lives.

    Hill retired recently as a senior corrections officer at Northern State Prison in Newark after more than 25 years both there and at East Jersey State Prison in Avenel. Prior to launching his career with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Hill had been a Newark police officer for two years and a member of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department from 1987 through ’91.

    He has seen some things. And luckily for scores of youth from the Brick City and elsewhere, Hill has never been afraid to share some things with them. It’s a giving-back outlook he developed while playing for legendary head coach Burney Adams at Weequhic.

    “I want to talk to the kids about the importance of choosing to do the right things and not becoming a statistic by choosing the wrong things,” Hill had said several years ago while working with the Leaders for Life Program, which is affiliated with the Phil Simms North-South High School Football Classic. He was sharing his warnings and his deep commitment to honor and decency with over 300 youngsters from Newark, Paterson, East Orange, Trenton and Irvington.

    “These kids are surrounded by some awful things,” Hill had said. “But through football and education and guidance they can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

    There is a light at the beginning of that tunnel, too, whenever Hill is in the picture. Just listen to what Altarik White said when his trusted sideline sunbeam was named Assistant Coach of the Year:

    “Poochie is really a special advisor to the guys; he’s a motivational inspiration to the guys on he team and the other coaches, too,” White said. “The job he has is more important than the one any of our positional coaches have. He does the little jobs no one else wants to do and does them because he wants to.”