ATLANTIC CITY — Anthony Sarao hasn’t given up on his football dreams.
But this fall, he’s helping make gridiron dreams come true for others.
The former Holy Spirit High School and University of Southern California standout is Atlantic City High School’s defensive coordinator. Sarao’s brother, Corey Yeoman, plays quarterback and linebacker for the Vikings.
Atlantic City opened this season with a 21-13 win over Egg Harbor Township last Friday. The Vikings play 6 p.m. Friday at Vineland (0-1), No. 10 in The Press Elite 11.
“It’s definitely different,” Sarao said of coaching. “You see the game from a different perspective. I just try to give them the knowledge and let them run with it.”
There’s nothing better than seeing local players come back to where they grew up and make an impact on youth and high school sports.
Sarao, 26, was a two-time first-team Press All Star linebacker at Holy Spirit. He led the Spartans to a 12-0 record and a state Non-Public Group III championship during his senior year in 2010.
Although at 6-foot and 216 pounds he was undersized, Sarao was a three-year starter at USC, playing on national television and before big crowds at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
He was in preseason camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 before playing two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
Sarao last played this past winter and spring with the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football, but that league folded in April.
Since then, he’s been working out and waiting for the revived XFL to begin this winter after the NFL season ends.
“I had no idea I was going to coach,” Sarao said. “I was just coming around. Most of the kids I’ve known since they were little.”
Sarao was training with Yeoman and several other Vikings. Finally, Atlantic City head coach Leo Hamlett convinced Sarao to join the coaching staff.
Hamlett was a Spartans assistant when Sarao played at Spirit.
Yeoman said Sarao brings a different vibe to the Vikings.
“You have to make sure your kids are playing fast,” Sarao said.
Atlantic City finished 0-10 last season. That’s a big reason why last Friday’s victory over EHT was so rewarding.
“That was big time,” Sarao said. “It was good to see the kids happy. They can believe that hard work really works.”
Yeoman showed the ability to be one of South Jersey’s top players in the victory. He ran for a touchdown, threw for a score and made 15 tackles.
“We do what he tells us to do,” Yeoman said of his brother. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts. We just do what he tells us to do.”
Yeoman gets not special treatment from Sarao.
“He acts like he’s not my brother on the field,” Yeoman said. “He yells at me. He just wants everybody to be right.”
But there’s no doubt this will be a special season for Yeoman and Sarao.
“After practice, we go home, eat, get to the gym. It’s different,” Yeoman said with a big smile. “It’s my brother. I love him.”
Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.