NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A former Rutgers University athlete and New Brunswick High School (NBHS) alum, Nathaniel “Putt” Harris, has been named the NBHS football coach, ending Don Sofilkanich’s four-year tenure at the position.
On February 20, the New Brunswick Board of Education approved the appointment of the former Zebra and NBHS Athletic Hall of Fame member to the head coaching job.
Harris has been a school district employee since 2012 and earns a $82,320 salary as a coach in the “Play It Smart” program. The Board of Education approved an additional $10,169 stipend for him to serve as head football coach and $1,478 to serve as a “weight room trainer” during the winter.
Harris’ appointment brings with it high hopes that he’ll bring the same kind of success as a coach that he brought as a player—having helped lead NBHS to a 33-2 record and a sectional title before graduating in 2004.
Athletic Director Craig Lowery—an assistant coach during Harris’ playing days as a standout defensive lineman—heaped lavish praise upon Harris, describing the appointment to the media as a “no brainer.”
Lowery went on to say that Harris was a “tremendously hard worker,” “very intelligent” and a “tremendous asset.” The Athletic Director was also quoted as saying that Harris would bring “a lot of grit and toughness” to the program.
The appointment came approximately three months after Sofilkanich formally stepped down from the position in order to spend more time with his wife and three children. He continues to teach in the school district, where he has worked since 2002.
The outbound Sofilkanich, who posted an 18-23 record as head coach, including a 9-2 run & postseason appearance in 2015, brought NBHS out of a slump that spanned five seasons—during which the Zebras had gone 2-36-1 and posted a 26-game losing streak.
He was quoted by MyCentralJersey.com as saying, “I think we got it turned around, but I don’t think we got it where I wanted it, obviously. I think we made improvement, and that’s what you kind of look for, and that’s what we kind of strive to keep doing.”
Sofilkanich had also said at the time that it was a good opportunity for some to take over the Zebras’ program and be successful.
With his appointment, Harris became one of at least four former Scarlet Knights currently holding head football coaching positions at New Jersey high schools. He joins Elizabeth coach Jamil Jackson, Millville’s Dennis Thomas, and former teammate Mike Teel, who coaches at Don Bosco Prep.
Harris is set to inherit a promising young Zebra team that is aiming to build its fortunes under his stewardship and coming off a tough 2-8 season.
With running back, team veteran and offensive stalwart Dylan Johnson set to return for his senior season, Harris will have at least one notable component to build around.