NEW BRUNSWICK - A star defensive linemen for New Brunswick High School has been named the new head football coach at his alma mater.

The New Brunswick Board of Education unanimously approved Nate Harris for the job Tuesday night. Harris was among the best defensive linemen in New Brunswick Zebras history and graduated in 2004 in the top 10 of his high school class. He went on to earn an academic scholarship to Rutgers University, where he was a member of three bowl-winning teams.

New Brunswick athletics director Craig Lowery was a Zebras assistant coach when Harris helped lead the school to a 33-2 record and a sectional title. "It was a no-brainer to hire Nate," Lowery said, according to published reports. “Nate is a tremendously hard worker. He’s very intelligent. As a football player, he was intense and one of our team captains. He brings a lot of grit and toughness, and he’s also one of our Play It Smart academic counselors."

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Harris is one of at least four former Rutgers players who are currently head high school football coaches in New Jersey, joining Jamil Jackson (Elizabeth), Dennis Thomas (Millville) and Mike Teel (Don Bosco Prep). Many other former Scarlet Knights are assistant coaches in state.

Harris will replace Don Sofilkanich, who stepped down in November to spend more time with his wife and three daughters. Sofilkanich engineered a remarkable turnaround at New Brunswick, taking over a struggling program in 2014 that posted a 2-36-1 record during the five seasons prior to his arrival, including a 26-game losing streak.

Five New Brunswick football players earned Division I football scholarships under Sofilkanich’s tutelage, the most prominent of which is 2015 Home News Tribune Offensive Player of the Year Maurice Ffrench, now a running back at the University of Pittsburgh.

Harris inherits a sophomore-laden New Brunswick team that finished with a 2-7 record last year, during which junior running back Dylan Johnson established himself as one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top players, rushing for 1,427 yards and 11 touchdowns on 179 carries. He played at New Brunswick under John Quinn, who compiled a 68-17 record, including three sectional championships, while grooming 16 Division I scholarship players, including future NFL stars Jonathan Casillas and Dwayne Jarret, during a nine-year run that ended in 2010.

“Nate's from New Brunswick, he knows the county,” Lowery said. “He’s going to be a tremendous asset to our program.”