From helmet to headset — six-year football player returns as member of the coaching staff

After six years as a Rhode Island football player, Fire will return for a seventh season as a member of the coaching staff. PHOTO CREDIT:

Jake Fire is certainly accustomed to the ways of the Rhode Island football locker room. After spending six years in pads for the Rams, Fire finished his football career earning All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) second team honors in 2022. 

Now, Fire is back in the locker room for the 2023 season, but he has traded in his pads for a clipboard.

Fire was one of six newcomers to the coaching staff named by head coach Jim Flemming on April 10. He will be joined by Chris Bergeski, Austin Cordova, John Fils-Aime, Marcell Lazard and Eddy Morrissey.

Bergeski will take over as the wide receiver coach. The former wide receiver coach at Southern Connecticut State University from 2009-2013, he served as the Owls’ Offensive Coordinator in the final eight seasons of his 14 year residency in New Haven.

Cordova will take over as a defensive backs assistant and the video coordinator. Cordova held a similar position with Austin Peay University, where he was a part of defensive quality control, while also assisting the defensive back unit. Cordova also had two previous stints with Ohio Northern from 2020-21, and the College of Wooster from 2018-2020.

Lazard comes to Kingston after serving as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Nebraska for two seasons. While there, he coached the linebackers and the defensive line.

New offensive line coach Morrissey comes to URI directly from Marshall University, where he also coached the front five. However, the Thundering Herd were just the latest stop on his storied journey in collegiate coaching. Morrissey also held prior positions at Austin Peay, Mississippi State, Bryant, Princeton, Fordham and the University of Oregon.

Fils-Aime was a scouting assistant at Boston College in 2022. He will serve as offensive quality control for the Keaney Blue Rams in 2023.

However, even with all the new additions, Fire is the only new member with experience playing at Meade Stadium. Fire came to the Rams as a walk-on linebacker in 2017 and worked his way up to a four-year starting linebacker by the end of his tenure in Keaney Blue.

Fire’s main adjustment so far into his stint on the coaching staff has been his title shifting from Jake, to something a tad more formal.

“It’s Coach Fire, that’s been the biggest adjustment,” Fire said. “All the guys that I’ve played with, now they call me Coach Fire and I’m like ‘Hey guys, I was just your teammate, I was your teammate for six years.’”

Fleming, like the rest of the coaching staff, saw the switch for Fire coming.

“I think we’ve all known that Jake is a very talented guy in many different areas,” Fleming said. “[Jake has] talked to me and [Jack] Coop[er] for a long time about what coaching is like and he made a decision going into the season that he wanted to get into coaching and go that route. So it was certainly one that he talked to his defensive coaches about and also talked to me. As soon as he indicated that’s what he wanted to do, we offered him the opportunity to come in here and start the coaching business.”

Fleming also preached that coaching at the collegiate level is not a part time side hustle. Rather, it is a full time profession that requires dedication and passion. He identified that Fire has both of these qualities.

“An old guy told me once, and I’ve passed on to all the younger coaches,” Fleming said. “You don’t coach unless you can’t live without it, and I think when you look at Jake, that’s the kind of guy he is. He was always a guy that loved the game, he was always a great locker room guy, and those are very similar characteristics that most of us in coaching carried when we were younger… I think [Jake] will be extremely successful as he goes forward in this business.”

Fire agreed with this sentiment. He believes that he is a man built for the game of football, even if his body cannot go through the daily grind of the line of scrimmage anymore.

“A couple years back I decided that football was my passion and that was something that I always wanted to pursue,” Fire said. “Whether that was playing or coaching, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the game in one way or another…It was January, and I was like ‘yeah I’m done being a player, my body is pretty beat up. So I’m not gonna do a pro day or anything like that, I just want to get this ball rolling and start coaching and get my feet wet’, and [Jack Cooper] was like ‘yeah alright, come on in’.”

The 2023 season will serve as Fire’s first with a headset rather than a helmet, and he has goals in mind for the future of this Rhode Island football program.

“I’m a big Rhody guy,” Fire said. “I love this school, I love this program so I just want to continue to put this program on the right path in any way that I can. So the ultimate goal is just to continue to be successful and to continue to create ‘Rams for Life’… I just want to pay it forward and give back to whatever players I can and I help this team continue to be a winning program.”

Fleming, Fire and the rest of the coaching staff will lead the Rams into the 2023 season, which kicks off at Georgia State on Aug. 31.