St. John’s product Nardo climbing coaching ladder

Bryan Nardo is continuing his coaching ascension.

The St. John Central product is beginning his second season on the Emporia State football staff. After serving as the Hornets’ linebackers’ coach a year ago, Nardo enters the current campaign carrying the tag of co-defensive coordinator.

Emporia State is a highly regarded Division II program in Kansas. The Hornets are coming off a 10-2 season, including a 45-38 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville in the Kanza Bowl. It is one of three Division II bowl games for teams that don’t make the playoffs.

They are members of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.

Prior to landing in Kansas, Nardo served as special teams coordinator and linebacker coach at Missouri Science & Technology, members of the Great Lakes Football Conference.

“It’s a great feeling that they trust me enough to name me co-defensive coordinator. Coach (Garin) Higgin is a great coach to work for,” Nardo said in a Friday night phone interview. “I was able to call defense last year due to the health issues of one of our coaches. This year I will have a chance to put my stamp on how we do things defensively.

“Now we do not have to answer to anybody or step on anyone’s toes. On game days, I will make the call,” he added. ” Mike LoPorto is the other co-defensive coordinator and we have a great relationship. We work well together.”

Nardo will be rebuilding a defense that lost eight starters, including an All-American linebacker. But things are not all gloom and doom.

“We are very talented, just inexperienced. The defense has a chance to be extremely good,” he continued. “Our middle linebacker is a Texas Longhorn transfer and one outside linebacker is a transfer from North Dakota State, which won the national title a year ago.”

Although he is a long way from home, Nardo enjoys live in America’s heartland.

“Emporia has 30,000 residents and they are very supportive of the university. We average 6,000 fans for our home games. It is a great atmosphere. I am very happy here. I love my job.” Nardo said. “We lost to two playoff teams last year. I think we can with the national title this year.”

The Shadyside native harbors hopes of coaching on the Division I football level. His most recent promotion is another step toward realizing that goal. Nardo is only 27 years of age but has a well-stocked grid-coaching resume.

After his playing days at SJC, Nardo opted to continue his education at Ohio University. While not possessing D-I physical talent, he did want to stay part of the game. Thus, he became a four-year volunteer grid aide, focusing on defense.

After collecting his Ohio U. diploma, Nardo landed a position as running backs coach at Southwest Minnesota State. His stay in the Land of 10,000 Lakes was a short one, securing a three-year graduate assistant’s job at Ohio U. in June of 2008.

In his first season back in Athens, he broke down film, scripted game plans and did some work with linebackers. Nardo gained a promotion in his second year at Ohio U., running the scout team and being hands on with the linebackers. His third year as a GA yielded Nardo the opportunity to run his own meetings as a full-time position coach – outside linebackers and nickel backs.

Those three years as a Bobcats’ GA proved beneficial, enabling him to land the Missouri S&T assistant’s job as well as earning a master’s degree in coaching education. He previously garnered a B.A. in OU’s prestigious sports administration program.

Nardo’s voluminous experience at such a tender age all works well into his realizing his coaching dream.

“I want to get back to Ohio U. I want to coach the Bobcats,” Nardo said. “I will be back and once I am there, they will have to kick me out.”

Kapral may be reached at