Dick Collins may have coached more great players than any football coach in area history.
His players excelled at Michigan, Florida, Boston College, Maryland, Duke, UMass, Holy Cross, UNH, Brown, Harvard and on and on.
When asked who was the best, Collins would invariably discuss various Farnhams and Perrys and Marinaros and Jerry Stabile and Erik Greenstein and say it was just too tough to single out one player.
But he’d invariably say, usually off the record, it was Glenn Verrette.
In three glorious years in the mid-’70s, Verrette lost only once ... and that was in the Eastern Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl his sophomore year. The other two years Andover won Super Bowls, with Verrette catching the winning TD pass in overtime one year and with 1:25 left in the other.
“More than the team accomplishments, it was the camaraderie,” said Verrette, who still lives in Andover. “I knew kids since the first and second grade and to accomplish something really special with them, it’s just always a part of you.”
They are still close.
“We just went on our 34th golf trip,” said Verrette, who is senior managing director for Cassidy Turley commercial real estate in Boston. “It was (ex-teammates) John McDonald, Jeff Winters, Steve Fabiani, Duncan Black, T.J. Stamas and Steve Tassinari.”
Verrette’s father, Ernie, attended Central Catholic and his mother, Joan, was a nurse at Phillips Academy so he gave those schools a look. Albeit briefly.
“Just growing up in Andover, you wanted to play for Dick Collins,” he said. “That was a big thing for me.”
That first Super Bowl win, an incredulous Verrette recalled screaming at teammate Black, who he thought was coming in to replace him — on fourth down in overtime.
“I started screaming at him to get off the field,” Verrette recalled.
Turned out that Black wasn’t telling him to come out, but to move to slot receiver.
“Mark Farnham and I did a crossing route,” said Verrette, who had 110 receptions in his Hall of Fame career at Andover. “Billy Alexander just brought it in perfectly. It was a great call.”
Verrette’s second TD grab of the game made it 20-20 and Peter Reilly booted the game-winning PAT.
Senior year was another thriller. Plymouth-Carver led 3-0. Verrette was supposed to run a curl pattern but he broke it off and he and Alexander were on the same page.
“We both had so much experience together,” said Verrette, who also was a standout in basketball and baseball. “We both read the situation. We scored and won the game.”
The 14-yard TD came with 1:25 left. The big play of the drive was a 32-yard flea-flicker from Verrette to Farnham.
Verrette was the All-Scholastic with the best hands in the state, but he stressed that there was an eye-popping amount of talent. Farnham was All-Ivy at Brown, McDonald helped lead UMass to the 1-AA national title game and Jerry Stabile starred at BC.
“We had better coaching, too,” said Verrette, citing Collins and his top assistants, Bill Vickers and Dick Bourdelais.
Although Verrette was just 5-11, 165 pounds with good, not great, speed, the college coaches could see the magic. BC, Holy Cross and Brown were at the top of his list.
Holy Cross, where his brother, Bob, was entering his senior year, eventually won out.
Bob is quite a story, too. He graduated from Holy Cross despite being blind.
“He was a big inspiration,” said Verrette, who was an assistant under Ken Maglio for six years at Andover. “On the one hand, he’s my brother. We’d horse around, shoot baskets. On the other hand, at times, you’d reflect on his situation. That he couldn’t do things that I could because he didn’t have sight. He probably swung the vote. In the back of my mind, it was just a good situation to spend the year together.”
At the time, Holy Cross played a rugged schedule. During Verrette’s career, the Crusaders played BC, Air Force, Army and Rutgers.
Any concerns he could make the jump were allayed almost as soon as he stepped foot on campus. He settled in at defensive back and was a captain, four-year starter, first-team All-East honoree and O’Melia Award winner as the MVP of the BC game. Verrette, who was inducted into the Holy Cross Hall of Fame in 1988, intercepted 15 career passes and also was a star on the baseball team.
Following BC, the New York Giants brought him in as an undrafted free agent but a nagging hamstring injury ended his NFL hopes.
“I didn’t pass the physical,” said Verrette, who is married with three children, ages 24, 21 and 16.
“That was frustrating. It would have been nice to compete. But there aren’t a lot of jobs in that league. I was ready to move on and start my business career.”