Charlie Stevenson addresses the Hawks football team at the 2015 Thanksgiving game at Fenway Stadium.
Now, after a more than five-decade history as a member of the Xaverian community, next fall will be the first in 20 years without Charlie Stevenson at the helm of Xaverian athletics. He has announced his plans to retire as athletic director.
According to Brother Daniel Skala, C.F.X., Headmaster, “Since 1965 when Charlie Stevenson came to Xaverian as a freshman, he has been a loyal friend, colleague, leader, coach, and athletic director, who consistently demonstrates his commitment to Xaverian’s core values. His mark is seen in every aspect of our athletic program and his legacy is a tangible part of our history. Thus it is with sadness, but also deep gratitude for his service and contribution, that we acknowledge his wish to retire at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year, after 33 years as a faculty member, 24 years as head coach of varsity football, and 20 years as director of athletics.”
Stevenson’s legacy is one of grit, determination, inspiration, hard work, and as David Nelson, former Xaverian football player, Class of 2002, puts it, love.
“There is a strong ethos that runs through the Xaverian football program and for lack of a better word, I call it ‘love’,” says Nelson. “That’s how Xaverian wins. That’s how they’ve been able to create this glue that bonds the guys together. And love exuded from Coach Stevenson. Love of the whole process of high school football. Love of the impact of a team. Of passion. Of winning. Of competitiveness. Of all those things that make young men thrive and what has made Xaverian so successful. It’s a very real thing within the Xaverian football program and that started with Coach Stevenson.”
Stevenson firmly believed and instilled in his players that “hard work beats talent, any day of the week.” He had an innate understanding for how far to push his athletes to get them beyond what they felt they could achieve. His passionate speeches at critical game-time moments (with ample historical references due to his background as a history teacher), provided motivation for the team to rally to the cause. With 206 wins, 14 Catholic Conference Championships, four Division-I South Championships, 10 State Championship appearances, seven State Championship victories, and recognition by the State Legislature, you might expect Stevenson to take credit for the Hawks winning record during his tenure as head coach. You’d be wrong.
“The most important thing is to make sure that everyone knows that it was about the players, not about the coach. The players win. The players make plays. The players are the guys out on the field of battle doing the job. I was really just a small piece of all that,” he says. He uses Dave Nelson as an example.
“In a 2001 game against Brockton, we were down 26-20 in the 4th, and I called Nelson over after he missed the first down with just minutes left in the game,” says Stevenson.
Nelson, who had already carried the ball 26 times, gaining 188 yards for the Hawks, says, “I was so tired, my joints hurt. I was wearing someone else’s helmet because mine had broken in an earlier play. And I look up and see Coach Stevenson calling me over, yelling, ‘Nellie! Get over here right now! Are you tired? Do you want me to take you out of the game?’ And I said, ‘No, no Coach.’ ‘Well then let’s put the ball in the end zone!,’ he yelled.”
“I really was dog tired, but I found that I had that extra strength I didn’t know I had. I found it by Coach seeing it in me, being like, ‘I see that you’re beat up but I know you have the strength,’ and I did. I ripped off a 51-yard carry for a game winning touchdown.”
Still, Stevenson insists that it’s not his coaching, it’s his players who deserve the credit. “No one has the right to have the kind of unbelievable players that I was given the opportunity to coach.” From the Hasselbecks, to J.P. Comella, to Derrick Knight, and Mo Hurst, Stevenson brought along phenomenal talent on the Xaverian football field.
His own football career began as a Xaverian student in the late 1960s. He was only a few years into college when he got his first job coaching. It was 1971 and he was back on the gridiron as a coach for the Hawks’ freshmen team. Partway through his first season, he was promoted to a varsity position. He coached five years at Xaverian followed by five years at Malden Catholic, then Medford High School, and then back at Xaverian as a full-time teacher and Assistant Coach to George McCabe. After 22 years in the assistant coach role, he took over as head coach in 1993. In 1997 he was named athletic director and has since overseen exceptional growth in Xaverian’s athletic program and facility.
“When I first became AD, we didn’t have any turf fields. We had one gymnasium and a weight room that was part of an old art room. Now, we have three turf fields, an additional grass field, and a 32,500 square foot wellness center. The expansion of our athletic infrastructure has been unbelievable for me to watch, as someone who was here for the beginning in the 60s.”
“The evolution of Xaverian’s athletic program under Charlie’s leadership over the last two decades is astounding,” says Brother Daniel, “especially when we consider the many excellent programs and facilities that help make Xaverian an exceptional school today. Charlie's reach extends well beyond Clapboardtree Street, from his affiliations with state and local athletic associations (including his commitment to Massachusetts State Football Committee), to his extensive collegiate network which has helped to promote generations of student-athletes. As such, it is with mixed emotions that we acknowledge his wish to retire. He embodies the true meaning of our school motto, ’veritatem fratribus testari,’ or ‘to bear witness to the truth in brotherhood.’”
As he makes his plans for retirement, Stevenson reflects on his time at Xaverian with gratitude and a touch of humor:
“I remember having my father drive me up Clapboardtree Street and drop me off at the front of Xaverian in 1965. As he was pushing me out the car door, I said to him ‘What did I do to make you hate me?’ However, the good news was that from almost as soon as I walked in the front door, the many, many years associated with Xaverian and the Xaverian Brothers have provided me with tremendous opportunities and experiences, the likes of which no one is entitled. I would like to express my immense gratitude to all of the people with whom I have had the chance to share these opportunities and experiences, including classmates, teammates, coaches, faculty, staff, the administration, the Board of Trustees, the players, the Xaverian families, and my own family. I trust as I go that Xaverian’s golden age is not behind us, but in front of us, and that whoever follows me will help usher us to it.”