When they first met as coaches for the North All-Stars at the 2013 Shriners Classic, Tewksbury’s Brian Aylward and Concord-Carlisle’s Mike Robichaud discovered they had a great deal in common.
Aylward and Robichaud each played for legendary coaches, who just so happened to be their fathers. Both were in the process of building their own legacies, while passing on football and life lessons to their own sons.
“We shared some stories about what it’s like to try to fill the shoes of guys that were basically legendary coaches within their respective communities,” said Aylward. “We had a lot of similar experiences, early on, in coaching.”
Robichaud’s father, Al, coached C-C from 1972-1990 and led the program to its first Super Bowl title in 1978. His older brother, Dave, played on the ‘78 squad and Robichaud went on to play for his father for four years before graduating in 1982.
Taking over as coach in 2009, Mike Robichaud steered the Patriots to a Super Bowl berth in 2010 with his son, Jibrail, leading the way. The following year, C-C broke through with a D3 EMass title, and Robichaud’s son, Luke, was a sophomore defensive back for the Patriots.
Playing alongside his brother, Rob, for their father, Bob, Brian Aylward helped Tewksbury to the 1985 D2 Super Bowl title. When Bob retired in 1996 on the heels of another championship, Aylward took the reins as head coach.
While consistently successful, Aylward wouldn’t experience the same joy as Robichaud until later in 2013 when his son, Johnny, quarterbacked Tewksbury to an undefeated campaign and a D3 Super Bowl title.
Still, the football lifers had plenty to share at the annual Shriners game that spring and afterward, when Robichaud met Aylward’s father and brother over a beer.
“There’s just a great connection that family has around football,” Robichaud said of the Aylwards. “Which is something that felt very comfortable for me, because my family is the same way.”
Over the past six seasons, Aylward has steered Tewksbury to four sectional titles and a state championship.
After experiencing immediate success, Robichaud’s teams have struggled a bit in recent years, but the third-seeded Patriots (8-0) head into Saturday’s D3 North semifinal at second-seeded Tewksbury (7-1) with plenty of momentum.
Concord-Carlisle has rallied for victories in five of its eight wins this year, thrice erasing deficits of 14 points or more. The Patriots have been led by quarterback Christian Gemelli wide receiver Tyler Jameau, and running back Tim Hays, while Robichaud’s nephew, Charlie, is the latest in the family to contribute on the gridiron.
“The demographics have changed in Concord since I started coaching,” said Robichaud. “Even though that makes multi-generational families more rare, Concord [football] has a great history and there’s still plenty of people in the community that attach themselves to that with pride.”
The tradition of football is also alive and well for the Aylwards; Bob continues to offer advice in his retirement, and Johnny is now an offensive quality control coach with the Houston Texans.
Brian’s middle son, Shane, broke the program’s long-standing receiving records while leading Tewksbury to the D3 Super Bowl last season. Shane is questionable to play Saturday with shoulder and leg injuries, which have kept him out of part or all of the Redmen’s past five wins.
But for Brian Aylward, coaching is about teaching life lessons to his players, a lesson he learned from his father.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that the best coaches are great teachers,” said Aylward. “My dad always used to say that kids are kids. Society around them changes, and there’s different things pulling at them, but for the most part it’s about developing strong relationships with them and getting ready to execute football.
“The most valuable life lessons you learn through football 30 years ago are still just as valuable, if not more, today. Those characteristics permeate through different generations.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.