WOOD RIVER JCT. — For Nick Russo the path to his first high school head coaching job has been a bit different.
The new Chariho High football coach does not have an extensive playing career to list on his résumé. Instead, Russo knew from his high school days that he simply wanted to be a coach.
"Growing up in Johnston, I fell in love with the game at a young age and played touch football in their youth program," the 22-year-old Russo said. "But I had a horseshoe kidney. Instead of having two kidneys, I have one giant kidney that connects right up against the spine. My doctors would not let me sign up to play contact football."
During his freshman year at Bishop Hendricken, Russo discovered a protective pad that would allow him to play. But it was too restrictive.
"I was essentially playing in a cast. It was very limiting. So I stopped and decided to get into coaching," Russo said.
During his first two years as a student at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., Russo landed an internship in the football program at nearby Shepherd Hill Regional High.
Chris Lindstrom, who played in the NFL for three years for several teams, was the school's head coach.
Russo worked with linebackers and tight ends during his time there.
During his final two years at Nichols, Russo was an intern at Brown University, working with the offense. He worked with the team's quarterbacks last season. Phil Estes, who stepped down at the end of last season, was the Brown coach.
"Coach Lindstrom and coach Estes gave me an opportunity," Russo said. "I'm not your typical high school coach."
Russo still lives in Johnston. He was interested in the Chariho job for several reasons.
"I wanted to remain close to home and get back into high school football and Rhode Island football," Russo said.
Russo replaces Rick Martin, who coached for two seasons and compiled a record of 11-18-1.
Russo said 40-plus players have been turning out for volunteer workouts during the summer.
"In regards to offense, defense and special teams, what we'll strive for is balance," Russo said. "Offensively, we are really going to do just a little bit of everything. We are going to do what we do best every given week.
"Defensively, we added some stuff to be more balanced in terms of coverage and stunts up front. I don't really have any season's goals, just take it day by day."
Todd Kenney will return to the staff as the defensive coordinator and also work with cornerbacks and wide receivers.
Jamie Caprarella, a former assistant coach at Nipmuc Regional High in Upton, Mass., will be the offensive coordinator and work with linemen on both sides of the ball.
Jason Payne, a former South Kingstown assistant, will work with running backs and linebackers.
Josh Silva, who has coached in the Westerly Peewee program, will work with tight ends and safeties.
"I'm football through and through," Russo said. "I really want to bring in a staff that teaches football, but also teaches life lessons."
Practice for the season starts Aug. 19.