Former Nauset Teacher, Coach Gordon Fulfills Dream Of Coaching Football In Italy

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: Chatham , Football , Nauset Regional High School

Former Nauset teacher and coach Jerry Gordon is currently living out his dream of coaching football overseas while serving as the defensive coordinator for Aquile Ferrara in Ferrara, Italy. It has allowed Gordon and his wife Carol to explore Italy before they return to open their business, Nantucket House of Chatham Bed & Breakfast, for the summer. COURTESY PHOTOS

For decades, Jerry Gordon built his reputation as a defensive virtuoso on the gridiron. His passion for coaching football led him from the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern and Yale campuses to the high school ranks, where he taught and coached at high schools in Virginia, Sandwich, and most recently at Nauset.

Although teaching and coaching throughout the East Coast provided Gordon with many memorable moments, the South Chatham resident, who owns and runs the Nantucket House of Chatham bed and breakfast with his wife, Carol, has long carried the dream of creating football memories abroad.

Gordon is currently fulfilling that dream while working as the defensive coordinator for Aquile Ferrara, an American football team based in Ferrara, Italy, a Northern Italy city located between Venice and Florence.

“I’ve always wanted to coach overseas,” said the 62-year-old Gordon, who in June retired from teaching at Nauset Regional High School. “When I knew my retirement was coming up, I started getting serious about it.”

Gordon weighed his coaching options in France, Spain, Norway and Poland before settling on Aquile Ferrara, which plays in the second division of the Italian Federation of American Football.

The league plays American football using NCAA college rules. American players are allowed to play in the first division, though the second division is only allowed American coaches, not players. Gordon is serving as the defensive coordinator under Aquile Ferrara head coach Mike Faragalli, a fellow American, on a coaching staff comprised of mostly Italians.

“The Italian coaches on the team have been very accepting of me,” Gordon said. “They go out of their way to help me. I’ve been able to have dinner with a couple of the coaches and meet their family, which has been very nice.”

The team improved to 2-0 over the weekend after cruising to a 56-14 win over the Romanga Roosters. Gordon’s defense came up big in the season opener, when Aquile Ferrara rolled to a 35-0 shutout victory against Hogs Reggio Emilia.

“We practiced hard and I felt like we were going to do OK, but having never played in this league and not knowing the other teams or having any experience with football here in Italy, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Gordon.

Gordon has implemented the same “under front” defense that he’s mastered over the past 20 years. The Italian players are learning the same blitz and coverage schemes that the coach taught Nauset players on the Cape.

Still, there are plenty of differences between American football in the states and American football in Italy. Aquile Ferrara is considered a club team unassociated with any school, and the team’s players range from 16 years old to their late 30s.

“We practice at 8:30 at night because a lot of these guys have families and have to work all day,” Gordon said. “They’ll work all day, go home and be with their family and have some dinner and then they come to practice and we’ll get out around 10:45 or 11 o’clock at night.”

Although the players and coaches experience long days, sports don’t dominate the Italians’ way of life like Gordon grew accustomed to while coaching in the US.

“One of the things about being a coach in Italy is you have to be very flexible because in America, high school kids, unless they are sick, they’ll never miss a practice,” Gordon said. “Here, since it’s a club, we might have 10 or 15 or 20 percent absent each practice.

“One of our players drives a taxi in Bologna and Bologna was having a big fashion festival or something and he had to work or he would’ve lost too much money. It’s taught me to be flexible and patient.”

Gordon was surprised to see some of the other cultural differences, including players enjoying cigarettes right after practice and spectators refraining from criticizing officials, coaches and players from the stands. Outside of football, he noted that milk comes in a box — not bottles — and it isn’t kept refrigerated at stores.

The former Nauset teacher and coach has also been surprised to see how well Italians speak English. He said the players appreciate him teaching football concepts in English, while others around Italy are excited to practice the language when they discover he’s American.

“Whenever I’ve asked people how they’ve learned English so well, they’ve said they learned by watching Netflix movies that were subtitled,” he said.

The trip has been especially enjoyable because Gordon has been able to enjoy it with Carol, who arrived this month and will stay for about two months before returning to Chatham in May so she can open the couple’s bed and breakfast before Gordon returns in early July.

The team arranged for the couple to stay in an apartment in a walkable part of Ferrara, allowing them to explore the city and its many restaurants, shops and bars. They have also visited Venice, Milan, Modena, Ravenna, Bologna and Rovigo, and have plans to visit Florence and possibly Rome.

Although Gordon is already beginning to think about his next football coaching adventure — he’d love to coach in France, or perhaps a season in Texas, San Diego or Montana — the longtime coach is thrilled to finally be exploring his passion abroad with his wife.

“It’s been everything I thought it was going to be and more,” Gordon said. “The hardest part was the time difference, when Carol was at home and I’d have to wait until 1 or 2 until I could talk to anyone. Having my wife here really completes the picture. I’m really appreciative of my opportunity here and the coaches and players. It’s been really humbling.”


Email Brad Joyal at

Twitter: @BradJoyal