The USA Football National Conference is the premier educational and networking event for high school football coaches and administrators.
Sessions will feature insight from top coaches, administrators and medical staff members along with discussions about key trends and topics in and around the sport. Check back to this page throughout the coming weeks as we add top speakers to our lineup.
Now in his 6th year as the Head Football Coach and Assistant Athletic Director, Rich Alercio has taken the Hilltoppers to three state championship appearances in the past four years. Highlighted by an undefeated 2018 State Championship season. Prior to coming to St Johnsbury, Alercio was named the first Head Football Coach in the history of Castleton State College. In only their second year, the Spartans had a winning record and finished second in their conference. During that second season at Castleton Alercio’s offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in five statistical categories.
Alercio began his career at West Chester University as a Graduate Assistant Coach. In his first year, they won the conference championship and went to the national playoffs. Two years later he moved to East Stroudsbury University as an assistant coach helping them win their conference championship and appear in the national playoffs. Most of his career was spent at The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) where he served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During his 15 years there, the Lions set nineteen individual and team records in rushing, passing and scoring, made six post-season appearances, won five conference championships and finished three seasons ranked in the nation’s top 10. In July, 2008, Alercio was featured in American Football Monthly where he was described as “a guru of offensive line play in the northeast part of the country.
Alercio lives in Vermont with his wife of 23 years, Kim. Their oldest son, Jake, is a senior baseball player at Fairleigh Dickenson University. Middle son, Shane, is a freshman football player at the University of New England in their inaugural season. Youngest son, Trey, is a junior wide receiver and cornerback for the Hilltoppers.
Bobby April is a veteran in the coaching game, with more than 40 years of experience. Having coached at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels, April has extensive knowledge of the game. He had stints at Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Arizona, Southern Cal, and Ohio State before moving up to the NFL. While in the NFL, April coached nine different teams and was awarded the NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year in both 2004 and 2008. Most recently, April moved back to the college level as the special teams analyst for Louisiana State University in the 2017 season before retiring.
Larry is a Colorado native, heading into his 31st year in public education. Currently he is the Director of Athletics and Activities in the Cherry Creek School District, though he has been a Special Education Teacher, Dean of Students, Athletic Director and Assistant Principal. In 2009 he was the Colorado Assistant Principal of the Year.
He has coached high school football, boys basketball and girls soccer. He has been involved in various committees in the Colorado High School Activities Association. Presently he is the Chair of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), the Ice Hockey committee, and is a member of the Boys Lacrosse committee. He has had the amazing opportunity to serve on the NFHS Ice Hockey Committee as well as a Board Member of the Colorado Athletic Directors Association for the last three years.
After he graduated as Honor Man (#1-ranked trainee) of SEAL BUD/S at 26, Mark served for nine years total on active duty and eleven as a Reserve SEAL, retiring as Commander in 2011. His leadership of teams was so effective the government tasked him with creating a nationwide mentoring program for SEAL trainees. He knew he could form a fitness company that prepared civilians for the physical AND mental/emotional demands of Navy SEAL-like lifestyle. So he started SEALFIT.
He also served as adjunct professor of leadership at the University of San Diego before the Navy called him up for duty in the Iraq War. Through Mark’s teaching, entrepreneurial endeavors and travel to foreign countries, he noticed the power of mental toughness, emotional resilience, intuitive leadership and a healthy spirit for anyone wanting breakthrough performance. They weren’t solely for combat or restricted to the business world or one culture. He’d watch them transform lives in people from every background, nation and belief system. So, he wrote and self-published his first book, Unbeatable Mind, in 2011 and launched its at-home study program. Three more books poured out in a torrent … The Way of the SEAL, published by Reader’s Digest, and 8 Weeks to SEALFIT and KOKORO Yoga, both published by St. Martin’s Press.
After growing up in upstate New York, getting a degree in economics and an MBA from NYU, he prepared for life as a high-powered CPA… and then left his high paying finance career for the adventurous life of a Navy SEAL officer. Now he’s once again sought after by those same corporations and institutions, as a trainer of the mental toughness and whole person training that shaped and healed him. Mark lives with his family in Encinitas, California, where he continues to train, explore, learn from others and generate more resources to improve the lives of everyone he meets.
P.J. (Philip John) Fleck was named head football coach at the University of Minnesota in 2017. When he took over, Fleck led a young and inexperienced Gopher squad to a 5-7 record. Those five wins were the most by a first-year Gopher head coach new to the program since the legendary Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.
Fleck won his Gopher debut, which made him the school’s first head coach to win his debut since 1986. Minnesota then posted a win at Oregon State, which made Fleck the first Gopher coach to win a true road opener since 1954. Minnesota posted three 30-point wins in 2017, which hadn’t happened since 2005.
Off the field, Fleck and his team can often be found at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and gave back to the community by hosting a diaper drive, canned food drive and turkey drive this year.
Fleck came to Minnesota after spending four years as the head coach at Western Michigan, where he was 30-22 overall and 21-11 in the Mid-American Conference. While leading the Broncos, Fleck authored one of the most memorable turnarounds in college football history. The Broncos were 1-11 in his first year in 2013, but ended the 2016 season with a No. 12 ranking, a 13-1 record, a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Prior to his time at Western Michigan, Fleck had stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rutgers University, Northern Illinois and Ohio State.
Fleck himself played receiver at Northern Illinois from 1999-2003 and helped lead the Huskies to a No. 10 ranking. He took his talents to the NFL breifly while playing with the San Fransisco 49ers.
Fleck and his wife, Heather, have four children, Gavin, Carter, Paisley (P.J.) and Harper.
Scott Hallenbeck has led USA Football, the national youth and amateur governing body of America’s favorite sport, since 2005. He oversees all aspects of the organization, including football development, communications, corporate partnerships and membership programs. Under Hallenbeck’s leadership, USA Football has become recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as well as the official youth football development partner of the NFL and all 32 NFL teams.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @USAFootballHC
Herb Hand, a veteran offensive line coach who has helped coordinate numerous dynamic offenses in his 27 years of coaching, is in his first season as co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Texas. He joins the Longhorns after coaching the offensive line at Auburn for the past two seasons.
A three-time finalist for Offensive Line Coach of the Year by Football Scoop (2008, ’16-17), Hand was also co-coordinator for an offense that led the nation in total offense for two consecutive years (2007-08) at Tulsa, one of which is the only offense to feature a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000 yard receivers (2007).
Most recently at Auburn, Hand brings a resume that includes working with programs that produced six conference championships in addition to three division championships. Offenses Hand has coached on have produced all-time leading rushers at three different schools including West Virginia, Tulsa and Vanderbilt.
While at Auburn, Hand’s offensive line was named one of three finalists for the Joe Moore Award (nation’s top offensive line) in 2017, and the unit was a semifinalist for the award in 2016. During that time, along with his time at Vanderbilt, he coached players who earned 11 SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week Awards.
Hand went to Auburn after two seasons at Penn State as the run game coordinator and offensive line coach. Before that, he coached the offensive line at Vanderbilt from 2010-13, adding run game coordinator duties in 2013. Prior to Vanderbilt, Hand worked three years at Tulsa, serving as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Hand also had successful stints with Virginia, Clemson, Concord College and Glenville State.
Hand earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Hamilton College in 1990, where he was a three-year starter on the offensive line for the Continentals, serving as team captain and earning All-NESCAC honors in 1989. He earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1993 from West Virginia Wesleyan while serving as a graduate assistant.
A native of Westmoreland, N.Y., Hand and his wife, Debbie, have three children, including two sons, Trey and Cade, and one daughter, Bailey.
Matt Heckel is proud that his entire career has been with Jeffco Public Schools, the same district where he was a student – having graduated from Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, CO. Matt’s first foray into high school coaching was football at Alameda High under Ron Woitalewicz, now the Dakota Ridge High School football coach in Littleton, CO. Matt has also coached soccer at Jefferson High School, and women’s basketball at Dakota Ridge. In addition to coaching, Matt taught English until 2005, then moved to the Athletic Director position at Dakota Ridge. As AD, Matt initiated the Dakota Ridge HS Athletic Hall of Fame, created a Super Fan group to encourage sportsmanship and founded a Leadership Council that promotes positive school culture.
Matt serves as an instructor at CADA Conferences and has been a presenter at several National Athletic Director conferences as well as the New Mexico State AD Conference. He is the 4A football league representative, and State Volleyball Chairman. Matt received the CADA 5A Athletic Director of the year award in 2013, and under Matt’s leadership Dakota Ridge HS earned the distinguished CADA State Award of Merit in 2016 — though he feels his greatest accomplishment is “proud father of two Dakota Ridge High School Graduates, Dr. Brandi Heckel and Shane Heckel.”
Coach Strait Herron has coached in South Carolina for twenty-eight years, starting his career directly after high school in 1986. That’s also when he first became a member of the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association.
His career began at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, but shortly thereafter he transferred colleges and began coaching at Strom Thurmond High School. Following the loss of a close friend and fellow coach, he took a break from coaching to obtain his BS degree in Secondary Education from Coastal Carolina University.
After graduation, Coach Herron returned to his hometown and began coaching at Rock Hill High School, where he also received his first teaching job. After three years, he took a job at Clover High School when his mentor and high school basketball coach was hired as the principal. There he worked his way up from a junior varsity coach to the varsity defensive coordinator, a position he held seven of the nine years at Clover High School. Eventually he took his talents back to his alma mater and coached for three years at Northwestern High School before moving to his current school, South Pointe High School.
Coach Herron was an assistant coach for five years until the door opened for him to move up, becoming the second head coach in school history. As a head coach, he has been reported as the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in South Carolina history. He has won five state championships in total and was also awarded the U.S. Army All-American Coach of the Year in 2018.
Coach Hester has been in the sports performance field for over thirty years as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, as well as owning his own sports training facility and being instrumental in building a corporate sports training company. As an assistant coach at LSU, Coach Hester trained two national championship baseball teams under Head Coach Skip Bertman. The 1997 team broke the NCAA baseball home run record that has not been broken since. After leaving LSU he opened his own training facility, HS2 Athletic Performance, where he trained over 15,000 junior high, high school, college and professional athletes. After hurricane Katrina he moved to Nashville he got involved in D1 Sports Training as the National Director of Training and helped build the corporation up to thirty-two training facilities.
While at Louisiana Tech, Coach Hester has helped Skip Holtz build a yearly conference championship contender going to the conference championship twice in five years and has gone to five consecutive bowl games. He has also developed more drafted players in the last five years than any other group of five conference teams. In 2016, he was a finalist for FootballScoop.com strength coach of the year.
Loren Johnson is the Head Varsity Football Coach at Highland Springs High School. He has just finished his ninth season as the Head Coach, where he has an overall record of 101-19 and three VHSL-5A State Champions. In the last four seasons, Highland Springs has amassed a total of 20,106 yards in and 1,956 points scored.
Coach Johnson came to Highland Springs from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Virginia where he was the head coach from 2003-2007. His coaching career started as an assistant at Lord Botetourt High School in Daleville, Virginia before taking over the ranks at Stonewall Jackson.
Brian Kight is an industry leader on leadership, culture and behavior. He provides simple, clear and immediately actionable systems that produce exceptional results for organizations, teams and people. Kight applies the “physics” of performance to the most important challenges in life and business. His clients include professional and collegiate sports teams, schools, banks, manufacturing, healthcare, accounting, insurance and others around the globe. As the CEO at Focus 3, Kight has worked for more than a decade directly with all levels of executives and associates. The trust clients have in Kight and his impact has made him one of the top-rated keynote speakers and consultants in the United States.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @TBrianKight
Coach Ken Leonard was born July 7, 1953 in Lexington, Illinois where he grew up as one of six children. He graduated from Chenoa (IL) High School, where he was a four-sport athlete, which led him to be a starter for the Hawks of Harper Junior College then a starter for the Trojans of Dakota State University in Madison, SD. Coach Leonard then attended and graduated college at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.
After obtaining his degree, Leonard returned to his roots at Chenoa, serving as assistant coach for the team. From there, Leonard took over as head coach at Gridley (IL) High School. While at Gridley, he led his squads to 3 conference crowns and 2 consecutive playoff appearances in 1981 and 1982. He achieved a 32-9 overall record in his four years there, which remains the best among Gridley coaches.
In 1984, Leonard took the head coaching job at Griffin High School in Springfield, where he has been ever since. On September 21, 2018, with a 45-6 win over Rochester, Coach Leonard became the winningest coach in Illinois with 375 wins.
Learn more about Ken and get an exclusive look into his family and football community by watching The Leonard Story here.
Phil Longo, engineer of the nation’s best FCS offense at Sam Houston State, was tabbed as the Rebels’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on December 16, 2016.
In Longo’s three years on head coach K.C. Keeler’s staff, SHSU won the Southland Conference twice (2014, 2016) and compiled a 34-10 overall record. The Bearkats advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs in 2014 and 2015 and quarterfinals this year, while rising as high as No. 1 in the FCS national polls in both 2015 and 2016.
The red zone was a key area of success for Longo’s offense. Over the last three years, no FBS team has had more red zone touchdowns than the 145 scored by the Bearkats.
Despite featuring a pass-heavy attack, Longo’s units also ranked top 10 among FCS teams in rushing in both 2014 and 2015. Sam Houston produced 1,000-yard rushers in 2014 (Keshawn Hill) and 2015 (Corey Avery) and a 900-yard rusher this past season (Remus Bulmer).
The 1,275 plays run by Longo’s offense in 2015 was also a league record. Three times in the past three seasons SHSU ran more than 100 plays in a game, including a school-record 118 plays in the 2015 NCAA opening-round victory over Southern Utah.
In 2014, Longo’s attack led the Southland in rushing (241.6 ypg, 9th nationally) and red zone offense (90 percent, 8th nationally).
Longo began his coaching career in the high school ranks. He was the winningest coach in school history at Parsippany Hills High School in Troy, New Jersey, serving as head coach from 1996-99. In 1999, his team competed in and won the 11th-highest scoring game in the history of high school football in the U.S. Longo earned NJ Star Ledger and Daily Record Coach of the Year honors in 1998-99 and was awarded the Sportsmanship, Ethics & Integrity Award by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
He entered the college ranks as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at D-III William Paterson University (2000-01) and was head coach at FCS La Salle in 2004 and 2005.
A running back at Rowan University from 1988-91, Longo was a member of the school’s first New Jersey Athletic Conference championship and NCAA Division III playoff team. The New Jersey native earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Rowan in 1992.
Longo, 48, and his wife Tanya are the parents of daughters Gianna and Macaria.
Noel Mazzone has spent the majority of his coaching career as an offensive coordinator, with a vast coaching history spanning across college and the National Football League. With stints at Ole Miss, Auburn, the New York Jets, UCLA, Texas A&M and more – Mazzone has remarkable experience with it comes to coaching. Currently, Mazzone is the offensive coordinator for the University of Arizona.
Head coach at Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, Troy McAllister was one of two national recipients of the this year’s Gatorade Coaching Excellence Award. McAllister not only led the school to the only state football titles in Chicago Public League history, but he’s also had tremendous feats off the field. At McAllister’s first practice as coach in 2010, only 12 showed up. Eight years later and Phillips High School is a two-time state champion.
In his eight years as a head coach, Nate Moore has compiled a 64-34 overall and a 13-5 playoff record between three different programs. Moore coached in the highly respected Midwest Athletic Conference while at Minster, the nationally recognized GCL South while at La Salle, and has navigated a rugged independent schedule at Massillon. In his eight years as a head coach, Moore has lost to non-playoff qualify-ing teams only three times. Prior to Moore’s arrival at La Salle, the school had never won a playoff game and had shared the GCL South title just twice in its 53 years of existence. In Moore’s second year at La Salle he led the Lancers to the 2014 Division II State Foot-ball title, finishing with a 14-1 record and a GCL South Co-Championship. In 2017, Moore’s third year at the helm in Massillon, the Tigers returned to statewide prominence by capturing the Division II, Region 7 Championship.
Former NFL offensive lineman Scott Peters is a leading instructor in teaching proper and effective contact skills to players and coaches on the youth, high school, college and pro levels. A fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles out of Arizona State, Peters began studying Brazilian jiu jitsu and other mixed martial arts disciplines to rebuild strength and mobility in his ankle while recovering from an injury, and he continued to his training following his NFL career. A two-time world champion in submission grappling, Peters has combined his football and MMA knowledge to create a program that assists players in improving performance while building blocking, tackling and block defeating fundamentals.
LaTonya Pinkard, born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee and later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, has always known she wanted to be in a position to serve others. She volunteered with Hamilton County Juvenile Court System which allowed her the opportunity to work with youth in her community. She has served as a Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society advisor and assists as a corporate writing coach in her spare time. LaTonya developed a love and passion for education, specifically in English, and made the decision while living in Atlanta and attending Georgia State University to focus on higher education as her career path. Continuing her education at Troy University, LaTonya received her Master’s degree in Post-Secondary Education with a concentration in English. With her education and experience, she expects only the best of her students. Understanding the diverse student population she teaches, she felt becoming a Certified Life Coach would assist professionally.
Ms. Pinkard is currently an Associate Professor of English at Independence Community College and was featured on the Netflix docuseries, Last Chance U season 3.
She is the daughter of Nathaniel and Mildred Pinkard and mother of two wonderful young men, Michael and Nathaniel. She instills in her sons to always be open to possibilities and appreciate the journey life will take you.
Coach Robert Pomazak is the head football coach at St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, Illinois. He also serves as a strength & conditioning coordinator.
Follow Coach Pomazak on Twitter: @robertpomazak
Andy Ryland is USA Football’s senior manager of education and training and has been with USA Football since 2010. He is a former Penn State linebacker and member of the U.S. Men’s Rugby team. Ryland was instrumental in the development of USA Football’s Heads Up Football and Master Trainer programs.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @USAFootballMT
Brother Ken Smith has been a pastor since 1974, where he began his career at the Killarney Baptist Church in Winter Park, Florida. He has since served as a Pastor all throughout Florida, including churches in Miami, Tallahasee, Gainesville, and and Wachula. Ken currently serves as a Bible teacher and Speaker wherever he is needed.
Outside of his ministry work, Ken is a member of the National Board of Trustees for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Ken was formerly the team Chaplain for Florida State University, University of South Carolina, Mississippi State and MSU. Additionally, he is the author of several books, including Lessons From the Top.
Chris Snyder is the director of coaching and coach education for the United States Olympic Committee. In his current role, Mr. Snyder and the coaching department support the USOC sport performance department by working in coach education, coaching development and coach recognition for all Olympic and Pan-American Sports, as well as, working as an advisor for US Paralympic sport on coaching. The coaching department has created various resources that aid the National Governing Bodies of sport from a mobile application system for sharing coaching resources, to a formal long term athlete development system called the American Development Model (ADM). The coaching department also operates several high performance coaching programs to grow the level of quality coaching by national team level coaches that lead Team USA into the Olympic, Paralympic and Pan-American Games. Mr. Snyder also represents the USOC in a leadership role with project play 2020, where the USOC is helping to impact the U.S. through youth coaching and ADM programming that can grow great coaching in America.
Previously, Mr. Snyder served as the manager of coaching education and training for U.S. Lacrosse in Baltimore. He has also coached competitive sports for over 15 years at the collegiate, high school and competitive club levels.
Coach Steve Specht is currently the head coach at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, where he’s been coaching since 2004. Known for his leadership and coaching philosophy, Specht’s success is recognized throughout the country. Specht has been named the NFL High School Coach of the Year, an Ohio Coach of the Year twice, and recognized as one of the top 10 high school coaches in America by Athlon. Also a USA Football board member, Specht has coached in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Coach Jeff Steinberg was named the Head Football Coach at Beaumont High in March of 2018. Known for his organization & program building experience, Jeff has been successful at 5 high schools in Southern California while winninig 2 CIF Southern Section Championships and amassing over 155 wins entering the 2018 season. Coach Steinberg and his wife Jocelyn reside in Beaumont, CA with their 4 children.
Follow Coach on Twitter: @CoachSteiny
Steve Trivisonno had a goal when he graduated from Mentor in 1981.“I knew when I left that someday I wanted to come back and help make this a great football program,” Trivisonno said. Thirty-five years later, he is still striving to keep the scarlet and gray among the elite of all programs in the state of Ohio. Along with success, innovation and consistency, Trivisonno has been a shining example of longevity in a business that does not always show patience. The man in charge of Mentor’s consistent and successful football program led his team onto the field for this year’s season opener for the 21st time. In his 21st season as head coach at his alma mater, Trivisonno is as passionate about the game as when he played in the late 70’s and early 80’s at Mentor, and when he was a young up-and-coming assistant with the Cardinals in the 90’s. He has three Division I state runner-up finishes, has coached two Mr. Football winners in the state of Ohio and has seen several of his players go on to earn D-I college scholarships. A state title remains the goal and is always motivation, but Trivisonno says it does not define the program or his legacy.