HAVERHILL — He comes with the celebrity you might expect of a former New England Patriots player.
But Garin Veris, who was named the new athletics director for Haverhill High School yesterday, said his career in the National Football League does not define him as a person.
"What I do away from that persona is what counts," said Veris of Atkinson, N.H. "The NFL is past history and my message to kids now is how I got there and what it took to get there."
That message is rooted in his experiences playing high-school and college sports, playing in the NFL, and the knowledge he gained being coached and working with coaches at every level, including Olympic coaches, he said.
"Although I may not know every rule about field hockey or lacrosse, I know how coaches coach," he said. "I want to know a coach's philosophy of dealing with kids, and if they have the ability to maximize the talent we have."
Veris, 46, replaces retiring Athletics Director Peter Shanahan of Haverhill, who oversaw the program for nearly 10 years. Veris, a former Patriots defensive end, was on the first Patriots team that went to a Super Bowl, in January 1986, but lost.
School Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan said an interview committee that included two high-school students, Haverhill High Principal Bernie Nangle and others recommended Veris over finalists Bill Kaste, a longtime Haverhill High School physical education teacher and boys and girls volleyball coach, and Guy Prescott, athletics director for Georgetown schools.
"All of the candidates were extremely capable people and I could have worked with any one of them," Buchanan said. "But Veris had the broader background with experience in fundraising, his connections with outside resources, and because he is a multi-sport person."
Veris has a three-year contract and will be paid $85,000 to $90,000 a year, Buchanan said.
At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 265 pounds, Veris said he "might" stick out a bit when walking the halls of the high school.
"I want kids to know and care about who their AD is," he said. "And I want them to know they'll be getting good coaching while having fun."
Veris said he cares about all of the sports offered at the high school, not just football, and that academics are an integral part of it.
"We are not going to allow kids to be out there if they can't make the grade," said Veris, who earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford University and a law degree from Boston College.
"There will be rules to follow but my door will be open. If there are issues with grades, I want to be involved in that."
Veris is a native of Chillicothe, Ohio. His musical tastes range from jazz to alternative.
His favorite foods include Italian, seafood, Chinese and sushi, and his iPod contains more than 9,000 songs.
"He's a very down-to-earth gentleman and I think he's going to be wonderful for the city," Shanahan said.
"He has a lot of contacts and this could work out to be a win-win for everyone."
Buchanan said Veris does not have his state certification for the job, but after speaking with state education officials, he anticipates Veris being issued a waiver that would be good for at least one year.
"We are also applying for an alternative certification based on his extensive background," Buchanan said.
Parent Brendan Burke, a member of the committee that interviewed applicants for the job, said Veris impressed him with his qualifications, and with how well prepared he was for the interview.
"For a guy coming in from the outside, he was really able to home in on answers about sports user fees and our sports program," Burke said. "I think he is going to be very good for the high school."
Since Haverhill High implemented sports user fees in 2002, Shanahan has been spending much of his time raising money to help student-athletes pay the fees.
The fees are set at $275 per sport, with a $550 individual maximum and an $850 maximum per family.
During the last school year, donations from businesses, individuals, organizations and booster club fundraisers brought in $30,000, which helped pay the fees for many players who otherwise would not have been able to play and reduced fees for many other athletes. The athletes' parents had to come up with $170,000 in total.
Veris has experience in raising millions of dollars for sports programs at the University of New Hampshire, and Stanford and Marquette universities. From 2005 to 2006 he served as the recreation director in Boston, where he oversaw programs at 33 community centers.
"With our high sports user fees, one of the main things I want to do is bring in the community to help support our program," he said. "Once people see our kids performing at a high level on the field and in the classroom, I think it will show the community that it is a program they will want to be involved in and support, and that it is something they can be proud of."
For nearly two years and up until last September, Veris was codirector of athletics fundraising at the University of New Hampshire.
He said a growing desire to work with student-athletes at the high-school level led him to apply for the job in Haverhill.
"This is the first time I've been an AD, but all my life I've been speaking to young athletes and visiting with high-school teams to share my experiences," he said.
"I'm a history buff and I want to know about the city, from Archie Comics to its shoe factories to Carlos Pena,'' he said. "You need to know about your community, know about its successes in the past and how we can incorporate that into what we're doing now."
Earlier this week and before he was told he had the job, Veris was at Haverhill Stadium talking to youngsters attending a football camp.
"I told them to envision those stands full of people," he said, as he looked to the future of Haverhill High's sports program.
Veris said he hopes to move to Haverhill, and possibly to downtown.
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Meet Garin Veris
New England Patriots player on 1986 Super Bowl team
Former director of recreation in Boston
Raised millions of dollars for sports at University of New Hampshire and Stanford and Marquette universities
Three-year contract with Haverhill, paid $85,000 to $90,000 annually